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In this Jan. 2, 1998, file photo, Nebraska coach Tom Osborne holds the Orange Bowl trophy after defeating Tennessee at Pro Player Stadium in Miami.

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Pets receive blessing at St. Joseph

Some of them quaked, some of them yelped and some of them tried to drink the holy water.

On Wednesday, Father Robert Barnhill of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Beatrice blessed about a half dozen pets that belonged to members of his congregation. In honor of the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, Barnhill said a quick prayer before placing drops of holy water on the heads of several dogs and one rabbit.

Animals play a large part in the Bible as a symbolic reminder of God’s gifts, Barnhill said. For instance, animals were saved from the great flood, and there are references to the lamb of God and the ravens who brought bread to Elijah.

“The animals of God's creation inhabit sky, earth and sea,” Barnhill said. “They share the fortunes of human existence and are part of human life. God confers gifts on all living things.”

After the prayer, Barnhill blessed the animals from smallest to largest.

Lily, a Chihuahua-mix was second smallest after Radar, the rabbit.

“I'm the grandmother,” said Judy Kovar, who was holding the trembling Lily. “She's fine. She's just so excited.”

Kovar brought Lily for her daughter, Niki Hinkle, who got Lily from an animal shelter in Lincoln.

“She went to get a bulldog,” Kovar said, “but ended up with this.”

This is the first year that Father Barnhill has performed the animal blessing on St. Francis's feast day, Kovar said, though she said that the bishop in Lincoln does it as well.

Pat and Jim Creglow had never heard of the blessing before, but though it sounded like a good idea to bring Buddy, their terrier-mix, to be blessed.

The Creglows got Buddy as a stray more than a year ago, after their daughter spotted him on Facebook. They tried to find his original owner, Pat said, but they didn’t have much luck.

“Nobody would claim him,” she said. “So, we ended up with him and he's been a joy.”

“Oh, lucky us,” Jim joked.

After giving a quick blessing to each of the animals, from the skittish rabbit to a very excited black lab, Barnhill had to head off in a hurry.

“I'm teaching the confirmation class,” Barnhill said, “So I've got to run.”

The Holy Cross Lutheran Church at 19th and Garfield streets in Beatrice will be holding another community blessing of animals this upcoming Sunday at 2 p.m. in the front church yard.

Attendees are asked to bring leashed or crated animals, though if a pet is aggressive or nervous, a picture will do instead.

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Filley Harvest Festival starts Saturday

It had officially been autumn for nearly two weeks, but Wednesday was the first time it really felt like fall.

Fourth graders visiting the Filley Stone Barn for Pioneer Days could see their breath, but the crisp weather and intermittent rain storms wouldn’t stop them from seeing what things were like for homesteader Elijah Filley and his family in 1867.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, fourth grade students from area schools visited the Filley Stone Barn, located just a few miles south of Filley on Highway 4.

The Filley Stone Barn will be holding its annual Harvest Festival this Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and it will feature food vendors, a blacksmith, a marble maker, antique corn shellers, husking pegs and tractor-drawn wagon rides.

While much of this week was chilly and rainy for the students visiting, Saturday should be a lot more comfortable, with temperatures in the mid 70s.

“It's how it goes, once in a while,” Judy Leners said. “Can't predict the weather, we're just going to have fun.”

Leners' husband, Larry Leners, is the vice president of the Blue Valley Antique Collectors Association, which is sponsoring and hosting the event, in conjunction with the Gage County Historical Society.

The festival will include a display of vintage and antique tractors, courtesy of the collectors association, Larry said, and there will be a meal provided by the Filley Lutheran Church.

One of the highlights of the students' visits was the marble maker. Chris Witulski held globs of glass over a bright flame and shaped them into spheres as kids from Fairbury and Lewiston schools watched.

Next to the barn, blacksmith Eric Klaus heated iron in a forge with a hand-cranked blower. He pounded the tip of the metal bar into a leaf shape with a hammer, causing sparks to fly.

The students got to see a sneak peak for Saturday, Leners said. At the main event, there will be a sock maker, a spinning wheel, flea market sales and plowing demonstrations.

For the past 10 years or so, Larry said Pioneer Days has been pulling in fourth grade students from all over, and it’s built up quite a following from area schools.

“We get some pretty good-sized groups,” Leners said. “We had every bit as many yesterday. At least 100 kids today. We had maybe about 120 yesterday. That's every day. We go through a lot of kids.”

No charges in fairgrounds death of Norfolk country singer

HEBRON — The death of a Norfolk country singer at the Thayer County fairgrounds this summer was a "senseless" accident but won't result in criminal charges, the local prosecutor said Thursday.

Abby Uecker, known by her stage name, Abby Nicole, died after being pinned beneath a utility vehicle loaded with people on the fairgrounds in Deshler before sunrise July 23.

Nearly everything investigators have pieced together in the two months since has come from witnesses, most of whom were riding in the utility vehicle with her, Thayer County Attorney Daniel Werner told reporters Thursday at the county courthouse.

Uecker, 25, was apparently sitting in another passenger's lap as the utility vehicle — filled with five people, including driver Jason S. Lienemann of North Platte — circled the fairgrounds' dirt racetrack after 4 a.m.

Then someone's hat blew off.

Witnesses told investigators the driver made a "slow and controlled" turn so someone could pick up the fallen hat from the ground. The utility vehicle tipped, and Uecker became trapped beneath the roll bar.

Other riders helped lift the utility vehicle off her while a security person called 911, Werner said. Still, Uecker died from a head injury about an hour later at Thayer County Hospital.

But exactly what factors contributed to the accident is unclear.

Lienemann, 22, admitted to drinking five or six beers that evening, but told investigators he had stopped consuming alcohol hours before the crash.

Local law enforcement didn't immediately respond to the scene because it wasn't on a public road, and therefore they do not have an accurate measurement of anyone's blood-alcohol content, Werner said. While everyone involved remained at the scene, local cops didn't make contact with Lienemann until 12 hours later.

"It may be that the speed was higher than perceived," Werner said in a prepared statement. "The uneven distribution of weight of the passengers in the UTV and the slope of the track at the point where the turn was made may have contributed to the accident."

And, he said, "There may have been other factors causing the UTV to tip over."

Yet no evidence gathered by the Nebraska State Patrol, local law enforcement or Werner himself supported filing criminal charges, Werner said, and the crash has been deemed an accident.

Uecker's family understands and respects the decision, their own lawyer wrote in a statement read Thursday by Werner. The family said it would make no more comments.

"As we have discussed, the circumstances of Abby's death may be best dealt with in a context that does not involve criminal prosecution," wrote attorney Dave Domina of Omaha, who represents the Uecker family.

The utility vehicle belongs to a private business and was on loan to the fair at the time, Werner said. Lienemann, Uecker and the others weren't supposed to be riding in it.

The other passengers included a member of Uecker's band and two members of the fair pit crew.

Werner said a Thayer County fair board member was in the area at the time of the crash, but it isn't clear how much the board member knew about what was happening.

"Every accident is senseless," Werner said. "This one involved a hat. Certainly not important."

Uecker performed at the fair the two previous nights with her band, County Road.

The 2015 University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate had been a performer since age 4. She joined County Road in college and co-wrote songs with writers in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 2014, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor after experiencing severe headaches and underwent surgery. She returned to school in 2015 and started singing again.

She released her first single, "Cool," last year.

Woman accused of assaulting officer

A woman was arrested after allegedly assaulting a Beatrice police officer at Beatrice Community Hospital.

Julie Dobesh, 30, was arrested Tuesday for third-degree assault on an officer and assault on an officer with bodily fluids.

Police responded to Beatrice Community Hospital Monday night for a report of a female who had a hand injury following a dispute.

Hospital staff were concerned the suspect would become violent and noted she was very agitated.

Dobesh told police the injury occurred after she got mad and punched a door and allegedly made suicidal comments.

She was placed in emergency protective custody and started punching the rail of her hospital bed.

When an officer attempted to restrain her, Dobesh allegedly pulled the officer's hair and and she was placed in handcuffs. While being restrained, she dug her nails into the officer's wrist, leaving three red marks and broken skin. She then allegedly spit in the officer's face and in the face of a nurse.

Dobesh was transported to the crisis center in Lincoln and taken into custody.

Her bond was set at $5,000, with a 10 percent deposit. Her next hearing is set for Oct. 19.