Last week we finished out 2020 by taking a look back at some of the stories that made headlines in the Leader during the first half of the year. This week we bid farewell to 2020 for good, by reviewing the last half of the year’s headlines.

While we are all very aware that the summer and fall of last year was unlike others we have seen, we did still have lots of opportunities to enjoy life with friends and family. The swimming pool did open, the community held its annual fireworks display, golf was played at Wild Horse Golf Club, water fights were had and a limited state fair took place to round out the summer.

We experienced special events like a “luau”, poker run and kids in costume. And our community experienced some changes and growth - with one particular bright spot being the completion of the Sun Theatre renovation project. Here is a brief look at some of the highlights of July - December 2020.


The community joined in celebration with the Leader for the first anniversary of business, allowing the paper to be recognized as a “legal” publication by the postal service and newspaper association.

Area festivities kicked off on Friday, July 3, with fireworks displays at both Johnson Lake near Lexington and Jeffrey Lake near Brady. Of course, the grand finale of the holiday weekend was the City of Gothenburg fireworks display at Lake Helen, put on by the GVFD and Gothenburg Rotary.

A severe storm trekked through Dawson County on Thursday, July 9 leaving yards and streets in Gothenburg littered with branches, twigs and leaves stripped from trees. Along with reports of pea to marble size hail in the area, strong straight line winds damaged trees and the unprotected crops.

Gothenburg Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Rhodes made it clear from early on that he and his administrative team would do all within their power to make sure the Class of 2020 had a graduation ceremony. For Gothenburg seniors that is set to take place on Saturday, Aug. 1 at the high school football stadium beginning at 7 p.m.

However, a week later that plan changed and it was announced that the decision had been made to cancel the graduation ceremony. It was a sad end to a tumultuous school year, and not at all what the GHS administration was hoping for.


For more than 100 years, Gothenburg’s Harvest Festival has been a large community celebration that brings current and former residents and friends together for a weekend in September. However, following a majority vote on Friday, July 31 by the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Harvest Festival has been canceled for 2020.

Aug. 13 was the first day of classes for the 2020-21 school year at Gothenburg Public Schools, and at the Aug. 10 meeting of the Board of Education a couple of parents expressed concerns about masks and not having the option of distance learning. School administrators clearly outlined their plans and did their best to reassure parents that all measures would be taken to protect the students.

On Saturday, Aug. 15, Camp Comeca hosted a celebratory cookout for the camp’s 70th anniversary. The cookout is a traditional event that has been held every year of the camp’s existence as a fundraiser.

A limited state fair opened to the public on Aug. 28, with the main focus of showcasing 4-H and FFA competitions and exhibitions. Several Gothenburg youth participated in the fair, and as usual earned plenty of awards.

The Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition (GECLC) and Dawson County Family Partners and Families First Partnership came together to distribute Community CARES Grant funds to households financially affected by Covid-19.


Dawson County Fair Board President Scott Russman and fair/office manager Ann Johnson addressed the County Board of Commissioners Tuesday morning Sept. 1 to discuss the possibility of building an event center at the fairgrounds. Russman said preliminary plans are for a building somewhere around 90,000 square feet which could accommodate about 500 people.

For more than 50 years, Norm and Colleen Geiken have been in the buy, sell, and trucking business in the Gothenburg area. In late August, the official papers were signed for the sale of the Geiken family business, Nebraska Salt & Grain, to Instar Holdings.

In a public hearing conducted by the Gothenburg City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 15, the proposed budget for the City for 2020-21 in the amount of $25,544,581 was approved. The final tax request for $820,613 was also approved and the levy was set at .3434.

Nearly 25 motorcycles met at Horizon Ag Sept. 19 for the 4th Why Not Poker Run, then hit the road - and the weather could not have been more perfect for a ride. The beneficiary for this year’s ride was the Chemo Comfort Totes program founded by Mary Harbur and Lyndi Miller.


The theatre hosted a grand re-opening event to proudly show the community the newly “revitalized Sun”. Along with the funds raised at community events, the theater also received a $10,000 grant from the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee, an anonymous $20,000 grant and $20,000 pledges each from Flatwater Bank and First State Bank for the renovation project.

A public hearing was held in the Gothenburg City Council chambers on Tuesday, Oct. 6, after which the one and six year road plan for the City was approved as presented. The council also approved a request by the GECLC (Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition) for street closure for the annual Munchkin Masquerade, set for Friday, Oct. 30.

Dudley Elementary School may be getting a facelift in the near future. Gothenburg Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Rhodes shared some information with the Board of Education Monday at the October monthly meeting regarding a proposed project. There is a portion of the elementary building that was built in 1954 that has had very little attention over the years, and the committee feels that area needs to be addressed.

On both Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30 and 31, the theatre showed a double feature of the Horror film classics, “IT” and “IT - Chapter 2”. One low admission price of $5 would get you into both movies.


Pandemic or not, Americans were determined to make their voices heard and turned out in record numbers across the nation for Tuesday’s general election. Due to the large volume of mail-in ballots, it was nearly 2 a.m. when Dawson County Clerk Karla Zlatkovsky and her team finished counting and were able to release local results. A total of 9,284 of the county’s 13,796 registered voters participated in the 2020 election. That equates to a 67.29% voter turnout.

Due to the pandemic, the FFA blood drive was a little different this time in that community donations were not taken. The drive was held at the school and the donor pool was made up entirely of students. A total of 31 pints were collected at the Nov. 9 drive.

While most Veterans Day events were canceled this year due to Covid, the Gothenburg Color Guard and Stone Hearth Estates came together to celebrate the day and honor their veterans. Several of the Stone Hearth residents took a seat outside on the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 11, to participate in a short Veterans Day program.

For many years Gothenburg’s Sun Theatre has hosted a Tour of Homes as a fundraiser event, either during the fall or at Christmas time. While the event has always featured the interior of local homes, this year due to Covid the focus has moved to the exterior of the homes. “Our goal was to get creative so we thought, what about people who decorate their homes on the outside? It can still feature a tour and give people something to do that’s festive and still provide funds for the theatre,” said theatre director Roxanne Converse-Whiting.


After swearing in newcomer J Buddenberg and incumbent Jeff Kennedy for their terms on the City Council, the new council convened to elect a president and voted to retain Kennedy in that role. Approval was given on the final reading of an ordinance to set the new utility rates, which will go into effect in January.

After conducting a search for the right individual to fill the role, Mayor Joyce Hudson announced on Dec. 4 that a new Parks Director has been hired to serve the city of Gothenburg. Noah Dea will be relocating with his family from Waverly to begin his new job in Gothenburg on Jan. 28.

Dec. 10, marked the 33rd anniversary of the last day that Christi Jo (Williams) Nichols of Gothenburg was ever seen. The past three decades have been filled with unanswered questions, heartache and frustration for her family. To this day, what happened to Christi remains a mystery. Christi’s mother, Connie Stanley, believes someone, somewhere, knows what happened to her daughter that cold Nebraska night - and is hopeful that sooner or later their conscience will force them to come forward.

Due to the hot button topic of masks and the anticipated large crowd, the meeting of the Gothenburg City Council was relocated from council chambers to the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at Gothenburg High School. The audience included residents both in favor of and opposed to a city mask ordinance. After hearing from all who wished to share, council president Jeff Kennedy made a motion proposing a resolution strongly urging businesses to require masks and all individuals to wear them in public. The motion was unanimously approved.

The goal for fundraising for this year’s Gothenburg Shares was $6,000 - and at the Dec. 21 meeting Rotarian Will Rahjes joyfully reported that goal had been met and then some. Thanks to the extreme generosity of this community a total of $7,306 had been brought in. On Saturday, Dec. 19, local Rotarians delivered 74 meal boxes in and around Gothenburg thanks to those donations.

December 22 saw the first round of Covid vaccine being given to frontline healthcare workers in Gothenburg. The vaccine will be distributed first to all healthcare workers as well as long-term care staff and residents.

Contact Ellen Mortensen at or call 308.537.9498