It seems the older we get the faster the years fly by. However, if you’re like me you may often find that when you look back at the year you are reminded of things that happened that you may have forgotten about. That is one reason we do a recap at the end of the year. We will be featuring the Year in Review over the next two weeks, beginning this week with a look back at January through June.
When recapping 2020, it would be impossible to not acknowledge Covid-19 as the top story of the year. It was certainly quite a way to usher in a new decade! The spread of the virus worldwide prompted the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control to issue a pandemic status to the situation, which resulted in travel restrictions, health guidelines, and in some cases closures. For many individuals and business owners, 2020 has been a catastrophic year.
But perhaps it would benefit us to remember that there were good things that happened this year too. Lots of them. It is easy for the positive to get lost in the mounting pile of negative - and 2020 was most certainly a year for both! Let’s look back at some of the headlines that appeared in The Leader during the first half of the year.
2019 went out with a bang, as the final weekend of the year brought a nasty snow storm. By mid-morning Sunday, Dec. 29, nearly a foot of heavy snow blanketed the Gothenburg area. Increasing winds to nearly 50 mph at times created drifting and visibility issues, prompting the cancellation of church services and the closing of businesses. By Sunday night into Monday morning, blowing and drifting snow prompted the Nebraska State Patrol to close Interstate 80 in both directions between Lexington and Grand Island. Nebraska State Highway 30 was also closed between Lexington and Grand Island, as were numerous county roads and highways across central Nebraska.
The year also started off with a frenzy surrounding a host of reported sightings of mystery drones from one end of the state to the other. In fact, there was so much activity that the State of Nebraska developed a website devoted specifically to recording sightings. The new website, Suspicious Activity Reporting, was unveiled Jan. 8, and within just the first few days had recorded more than 250 drone sightings.
Gothenburg Health finally welcomed the first baby of 2020 born at the facility on Monday, Jan. 20. Elias Clyde Schweitzer entered the world at 5:54 p.m. Paige and Richard Schweitzer of Arnold joyfully welcomed their third son. Elias weighed in at 6 pounds at birth and measured 14.5 inches in length. He was joined at home by two big brothers, Uriah and Zakeeus.
The Gothenburg High School cafeteria buzzed like a beehive Wednesday evening, Jan. 22, as nearly 300 people swarmed in to answer the call for help for Rise Against Hunger. Donned in hairnets and latex gloves, individuals from Gothenburg and surrounding communities - of all ages and walks of life - joined together to fill bags of food destined for other parts of the world.
It was announced that JC Smith and Justin Strasburg are the proud new owners of the Sod House Museum in Gothenburg. The two have developed a plan called Exit 21 1, which calls for the revitalization of the area that serves as the corridor between Interstate 80 and downtown Gothenburg.
The Sod House Museum was not the only newsworthy sale this month. According to deeds filed with the Dawson County Register of Deeds office, the Gothenburg Improvement Company (GIC) purchased the former Shopko building. It has also been confirmed that GIC, in turn, sold the building to Steve and Ligia Peterson for the same amount they purchased it for.
About 50 community-minded individuals voluntarily gave up the better part of a day to review data and discuss ideas for improving the status of children and families in Gothenburg and Dawson County. Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition (GECLC) hosted the first of three such meetings in the county, with Cozad and Lexington both following suit. Representatives from the city, school and hospital - as well as private preschool providers and concerned citizens - participated in the conversation.
Gothenburg’s newest industry, Curbtender, Inc., came full circle the final week of February, when the first completed refuse collection vehicle came off the line for production. The milestone was achieved less than 120 days after the facility began a retrofit process to accommodate Curbtender’s operation. The factory’s first unit built was a Quantum rear loader for a customer in Toronto, Canada.
Donning ball gowns, suits and masquerade masks, a sold out crowd gathered at the Crop Tech Solutions building south of Gothenburg on Saturday, Feb. 29, for the annual Gothenburg Health Foundation Gala. And the community once again showed their generous spirit, by not only achieving the fundraising goal set for the event - you topped it! The foundation had set a goal of $50,000 for the Gala, and at the conclusion of the live auction Wendell Brott announced they had tallied $58,000.
With confirmed cases of Coronavirus now in Nebraska, many school districts across the state were putting a plan in place. At the March 9 school board meeting, Dr. Rhodes shared that three school districts in Nebraska have closed due to possible exposure. “I don’t think it’s a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” said Rhodes.
After nearly 30 years of serving the community as City Administrator, Bruce Clymer retired. In a special meeting of the Gothenburg City Council on Friday, Feb. 28, unanimous approval was given for a contract naming Gary Greer as Clymer’s replacement. Greer and his wife, Cozy, relocated to Gothenburg from Texas to be closer to family.
While the school district has been able to provide educational opportunities at home for students thanks to the 1-1 initiative, the teachers were clearly missing their kids! On Thursday evening, March 26, the faculty of GPS organized a “Teacher Parade” as a way of saying hi to the kids while sharing encouragement and support. Many of the teachers decorated their cars with signs and balloons, and all rolled their windows down to wave and shout hello as the cars passed through residential neighborhoods all over town.
Gothenburg Superintendent Dr. Todd Rhodes announced that school would remain closed through the remainder of the school year. Dr. Rhodes said the district would continue to provide student meals during the closure.
Cressy Rossell and Blayre Miller came up with an idea for getting the community together while remaining at safe distances - a “Cruise Night”. Reminiscent of the Saturday night “cruising” that many of us used to do as teenagers, plans were made to invite the whole town to participate, and they did! The parade of cars proceeded south to Highway 30, west to Lake Avenue, then north on Lake Avenue past Lake Helen.
The Sun Theatre Board of Directors came up with a creative way to move forward with a previously scheduled fundraising event. On Friday, April 24 the theatre presented Rascal Martinez in a mobile concert. Martinez performed on a trailer while traveling around to various locations throughout the community of Gothenburg.
Gothenburg Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Rhodes announced that despite school being closed plans were being made for a graduation ceremony for the GHS class of 2020. Commencement was set to take place on Saturday, Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. on the football field.
The Gothenburg School Board approved a salary increase for the district’s administrative staff, as well as a temporary wage increase for all lunchroom staff. At the May 11 board meeting, approval was given to a recommendation from the personnel committee for an increase in compensation of 1.93% and total compensation of 0.5% for administrative staff. Administrative compensation is based upon comparisons with area schools of similar size.
The City Council approved a project to construct 66 new ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) ramps throughout the City of Gothenburg. The Council also approved a request from the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce tourism committee to update the covered sign in Ehmen Park, located just southeast of the Pony Express Station Museum. The entire cost of the project will be paid by the tourism committee.
A group of motorcycle enthusiasts took to the road in an effort to raise awareness for children’s mental health across Nebraska, and even a global pandemic or rainy weather could not stop them. This was the 13th consecutive year of the Pony Express Ride event, which always includes a stop at the Pony Express Station in Gothenburg and culminates on the steps of the state capitol in Lincoln. Due to health guidelines this year’s ride was limited to 10 participants.
On May 29 the City of Gothenburg employees cut the tape around the playground equipment at Ehmen Park that had been keeping kids out. Following the Governor’s announcement of loosened restrictions across the state beginning June 1, Gothenburg Mayor Joyce Hudson released a statement on May 26 outlining a plan to reopen parts of the City. Along with the playgrounds being reopened, Hudson announced that all council, planning and zoning, and other public meetings would be conducted live in the City Council Chambers. In addition, Lafayette Park would open to all campers beginning June 15, and the city’s outdoor pool would open to the public on June 16.
Dr. Anna Dalrymple confirmed during the June 4 virtual Town Hall meeting that Gothenburg Health now has rapid testing for Coronavirus available for patients. “I don’t believe anyone else in our area has that. Our lab personnel have done a great job to stay proactive with this,” said Dr. Dalrymple.
On Tuesday morning, June 16, Lt. Gov. Mike Foley mae a stop at the Pony Express Station Museum to have his passport stamped. The museum is one of the stops on the 2020 Nebraska Passport program. Matt Weiss, president and CEO of the Gothenburg Pony Express Association, explained some of the history of the station to the state dignitary.
After being delayed by Covid and a mechanical issue with the pump, the Gothenburg outdoor pool finally opened to the public on Wednesday, June 17 - and the kids were more than ready. With capacity limitations and extra cleaning precautions in place, patrons said they were just happy to be able to cool off with a swim.
The Sun Theatre in Gothenburg provided an opportunity for families to get out for an evening of fun, as they hosted a drive-in movie night June 19 and 20 in the Curbtender parking lot. Volunteers donned glow sticks and roller blades to deliver concession stand goodies to moviegoers who watched from their cars, the backs of pickups, tailgates and lawn chairs.