Dancing Christmas trees, Santa Claus, the Grinch, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and even Cousin Eddie from “Christmas Vacation” made their way down Fifth Street in Beatrice on Saturday night.
It was the third annual Lighted Christmas Parade in Beatrice and you’d have been hard-pressed to find a nicer night for it. With temperatures hovering in the high 50s, 29 floats lit with Christmas lights and flanked by revelers throwing candy to kids watching the show, slowly traversed Fifth Street to bring a little holiday cheer to Beatrice residents.
The day kicked off at 1 p.m., when kids and families could climb aboard a horse-drawn trolley with Santa Claus for some pre-parade excitement put on by Main Street Beatrice.
During each trip through downtown Beatrice, Santa got a good idea of what each of the children would like for Christmas this year. Visitors also got to enjoy a helping of hot chocolate and cookies until about 3 p.m.
In the hours before the parade, downtown businesses were bustling with holiday shoppers getting a head-start on Christmas. The antique and thrift shops were hopping, as were restaurants and retail outlets.
Residents staked out the best spots along Fifth Street, setting out lawn chairs before grabbing a bite to eat. Residents of the Kensington were able to find a spot to sit inside Hill Home Furnishings and were able to stay warm while watching the parade, which was presented by the Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce.
At 5:30, just as the sun had set and the super moon was shining brightly overhead, the first floats started coming down Fifth Street from the Country Cookin’ Cafe parking lot.
Elaborate lighting and costumes were the big draw as the parade winded its way through town. Floats from schools and area businesses stopped to wave and toss candy.
Movies like “A Christmas Story”, “Polar Express” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” were all represented, and as dancing lawnmower-powered Christmas trees.
Finally, Santa Claus arrived in the last float, sitting on the convertible boot of a 1966 Ford Mustang. He smiled and laughed, and greeted kids along the street.
The floats made their way to the parking lot next to Charles Park where parade-goers could enjoy some hot chocolate, cookies and popcorn while they lined up to get their pictures with Santa. There were even two live reindeer on hand for the event.
Marilyn Bruer, manager at the Beatrice McDonalds, was volunteering in the Carnegie Building, handing out activity books and candy canes while encouraging people to vote for their favorite Christmas tree.
She’s a newcomer to Beatrice, having just moved here about a month ago. She got a chance to watch the parade and said it reminded her of the one they had in Cody, Wyo. where she used to live.
“I was glad that they did one here,” Bruer said. “It was very neat and the weather was perfect.”
One of St. Nick’s helpers was in Beatrice on Saturday night and brought with him a few of Santa’s famous reindeer.
Rod Gross—who runs Gross’ Belgians out of Lincoln—was on hand during the Lighted Christmas Parade in Beatrice on Saturday with two live reindeer, Dancer and Prancer.
“That's who Santa told me to bring tonight,” Gross said.
The two reindeer, brought to town with the help of Beatrice Community Hospital, spent the time enclosed in a pen, happily chewing on reindeer feed as kids and families posed for photos aboard the sleigh placed behind them.
Gross and his reindeer have been a part of the parade for the past three years it has been held. For the last two years, the reindeer took part in the parade, but this year, they were just available for photos in the Charles Park parking lot.
For their size, reindeer have pretty big antlers, sticking up into the air about two feet, with a portion of the antler covering their face and eyes. There’s a good reason for that, Gross said, other than just looking photogenic.
“In the wild, they're running through trees and brush,” Gross said. “They stick their nose up in the air and they put their antlers around their body. That protects their body and their eyes.”
Back at their home base in Lincoln, Gross said, they’ve got six reindeer, in addition to several horses. Reindeer, which are hard to come by, can run upward of $10,000.
There’s another thing about reindeer that might surprise you, he said, as soon as the fuzzy antler velvet comes off for the winter, their antlers are done growing for the season.
“The males lose their antlers before Christmas,” Gross said. “That's why all of Santa's reindeer are girls. And the girls hang onto their antlers until April or May, when they're ready to calf and they'll lose their antlers.”
If you’re coming to see the reindeer, Gross said, remember that the ropes around the pens are there for a reason. Kids are pretty good about not reaching over or climbing under to pet the reindeer, it’s the grownups you have to watch out for.
Gross said he had to remind a father about not going beyond the ropes. There’s a lot Gross can deal with, he said, but crossing the rope mystifies him.
If you missed the reindeer during the parade, you’ll still have a chance to see Gross’ reindeer this coming Saturday in Lincoln in the Haymarket at a Breakfast with Santa event, or at Hy-Vee in Lincoln at 40th and Old Cheney on Tuesday. For now, his schedule is booked pretty solid almost all the way up to Christmas.
“We started on Nov. 10,” Gross said. “And this is the first year we don't have anything booked yet for Christmas Eve.”
A Beatrice man will be sentenced next month in three cases after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors before a scheduled bench trail Monday morning.
Joshua R. Wilcox, 29, appeared in Gage County District Court to enter pleas Monday as part of the plea agreement.
In one case, Wilcox pleaded guilty to attempted distribution of methamphetamine, a class 2A felony that could result in up to 20 years in prison.
He pleaded no contest in a second case to third-degree assault, and admitted to violating his probation in a third case and will be resentcenced for the charge of third-degree domestic assault.
In the attempted distribution case, Wilcox was one of two people arrested last October for distribution, following controlled buys conducted by the Beatrice Police Department.
He was arrested following an August 2016 drug sale. According to the arrest warrant, Beatrice police were conducting a controlled buy of methamphetamine from Wilcox in the 300 block of North Seventh Street after a confidential informant gave word that Wilcox was going to sell the informant 1-1.5 grams of meth for $80.
The informant was given $80 by police and followed to Lincoln, where he was asked to pick Wilcox up.
Wilcox got into the vehicle and was followed to Beatrice. The informant contacted police to say he had made the purchase and gave officers a torn Walmart bag with a substance that tested positive for methamphetamine.
In the second case, Wilcox was arrested after an assault in June in Beatrice. Wilcox allegedly punched a man multiple times outside of a Beatrice residence. The victim was transported to a Lincoln hospital for his injuries and court documents indicate the man had a broken jaw and other injuries from the assault.
Wilcox was sentenced last November to probation in the third case, also for assault. He admitted to violating his probation Monday by disobeying laws and failing to abstain from drugs or alcohol.
His sentencing date is set for Jan. 18.
Area school districts are looking to recently-released state test results to determine how to best educate students moving forward.
Students in grades three through eight took the Nebraska State Accountability (NeSA) tests earlier this year. The results were released Friday, giving area school districts insight to how students are doing.
The tests were administered in three subjects, English learning arts, math and science.
Diller Odell Superintendent Mike Meyerle said he was pleased overall with the school’s results.
“We feel that our teachers and students have responded positively to the increased rigor and expectations,” he said. “From looking at the numbers, we excel in many areas. Our district has a higher percentage of students proficient than the state average in most areas at grade school levels. We feel we’ve met the college readiness benchmarks and are higher than the average.”
Administrators are also taking into account changes in how students are evaluated in the English language arts category. Previously, any student who met minimum standards was considered proficient. Beginning this year, students now must meet higher career and college readiness proficiency, a higher standard, making it difficult to compare this year’s scores to previous years.
“We feel we have really good teachers and if our scores do dip at some time, we’re not going to panic with quick adjustments,” Meyerle said. “We feel good about the scores and everybody is always looking to improve. We have some new textbook changes coming up to help with the rigor of English language arts.”
Another new feature is having students in 11th grade take the ACT, which Randy Schlueter, superintendent of Tri County Schools, said gives administrators additional insight into what areas need more attention.
“I thought the students performed extremely well on the ACT test,” he said. “We really focused in on our secondary with the ACT scores. We put some strategies in place for staff members and students. We’ve got 60 percent that hit the ACT benchmark in language arts, 45 percent hit the benchmark in math and 40 percent in science.
“We were above the state average in all areas on the ACT scores due to what our staff members did.”
While the district takes pride in the test results, Schlueter pointed out that many students required to take the test do not plan on going to a four-year college.
“It doesn’t mean they’re not quality students, but college is not (the) area they want to focus on," he said. "We have numerous students who go to SCC because they want to prepare for the agriculture industry, want to do work with mechanics. Yet, when I say that and think about how well-rounded our students are, we do quite well in educating all of our students for success.”
More information about the tests can be found online at www.education.ne.gov.