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'Beauty and the Beast' opens Saturday at Hevelone

A tale as old as time and a song as old as rhyme, “Beauty and the Beast” is set to open this Saturday at the Hevelone Center.

The musical is a production of the Beatrice High School Concert Choir, and will begin on Saturday at 3 p.m., with additional showings on Sunday at 2 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m.

The production features costumes that might best be described as remarkable. Designed and built by Lesley Gould of Nebraska City, the elaborate costumes—enough for 85 actors on stage—sparkle and shine as students dance across the stage.

The song “Be Our Guest” features dancing and singing dinner plates, salt and pepper shakers, teapots, candles, forks, spoons and knives, with a stage packed with intricate costumes.

“Beauty and the Beast” is the story of an arrogant prince who is unkind to an enchantress who then turns him into a beast and his castle staff into an army of inanimate objects. The main character is Belle, a young woman who lives in the nearby village who is imprisoned inside the beast’s castle.

Directed by concert choir instructor Kelly Meyer, the show is the culmination of a quarter’s worth of hard work, he said. It started with auditions for the lead roles at the end of the last school year, but as soon as August came around, they hit the ground running.

“That's our project,” Meyer said. “So we learn all the music, the staging, the acting, the timing and everything that has to go with that and then we try to get it ready for the stage and run a weekend of performances.”

Usually, they have eight weeks to get everything done, he said, which is just enough time. This year, they had an extra week, which was helpful to smooth out a few wrinkles.

There are nearly 90 students involved with the show, Meyer said, with 85 on stage and a handful working backstage and on the light and sound boards. Being able to get that many students involved is no easy feat, considering all the other activities going on at the high school.

For example, Whitley Kleveland, a senior who plays the role of Belle, just qualified for all-state chorus for the third year in a row and has both school and extra-curricular activities she has to plan her days around.

“I teach piano,” Kleveland said. “So I set up my piano students on Wednesdays when we don't have rehearsals so that every other day after school I am available.”

This is the third musical at BHS she’s been a part of, though it’s the first time she’s had a main role, having served her time in the chorus of other shows, she said.

Along with the student involvement, Meyer said, parents and other teachers have been instrumental in getting the show ready for opening night.

BHS Band Director Andrew Johnson designed the set, which features a village spreading past the wings and the elaborate stone castle behind the curtain. Once it was all designed, parents were brought in to start the building process.

They began in mid-September, Meyer said, meeting on Monday nights to build and paint, and the set was finished just this week.

“We've had great help from parents in the community that have kids or have had kids in the program,” Meyer said. “I had a couple of parents that had a kid in the program but don't have any now, but they still love doing this.”

The costumes, made by hand by Gould and her mother, fit perfectly and look great under the lights, Meyer said.

Seeing everything come together to work on everything from set construction, painting, artwork, costume organization, acting, staging and getting everything fine-tuned for opening night is very satisfying, he said.

“It's really been a community effort,” Meyer said. “We've been very fortunate that we have good help out there. Because I couldn't do all of this by myself.”

Tickets are available at the high school on the days of the show and cost $10 for adults and $5 for students in preschool through high school.


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Last homesteader’s tractor nearly ready

Its plowing days are long gone, but a dormant tractor rescued from the Alaskan wilderness will live on in Beatrice at Homestead National Monument of America.

But this isn’t just any Allis Chalmers Model C tractor.

There were around four million claims for free land filed under the Homestead Act of 1862 in 123 years. This tractor belonged to the man who was the final homesteader.

Ken Deardorff bought the tractor when he moved to his homestead in the Alaskan wilderness in 1974.

Last year, the Friends of Homestead started an online fundraising campaign to bring the tractor to Nebraska, where University of Nebraska students have been preparing it for display.

Josh Bauer, president of UNL’s tractor restoration club, said the project has been a unique and challenging one..

When the club typically receives a decaying tractor, it’s completely stripped down, sand blasted, repainted and comes out looking brand new. There was a different plan for the last homesteader’s tractor.

“We didn’t want to alter the paint in any way,” Bauer said. “We didn’t want to alter any of the looks of the tractor in any way. We’re used to doing full-on restorations where it’s a complete tear down. Doing a preservation rather than a restoration was kind of a new challenge for us.”

The tractor was cleaned with mineral spirits and denatured alcohol to kill bacteria and black mold.

The rotting wood seat was put back together and period-correct spark plug wires were added to replace those that were missing.

The tractor will not be brought to running condition. Bauer said this is partially because it will end up at Homestead, where displays can’t have fluids like gas or oil. Even if it was allowed, he said the tractor has deep mechanical problems, including a cracked engine block, that would make it impossible, or extremely expensive, to get the tractor running again.

One of the biggest additions to the tractor was new medal stands on casters. This allows the display to be easily moved, and also takes weight of the tractor’s own wheels and tires.

The last homesteader was a 29-year-old Vietnam veteran from California. The Homestead Act was still two years away from being repealed—though the Alaskan repeal was 10 years away, due to its late addition to the United States. Dearsdorff staked a claim and settled on 80 acres about 200 miles from Anchorage and nearly 50 miles from the nearest town.

Using his tractor, Deardorff cleared a forest to grow his crops—mostly hays and grasses, as those were the only things that would grow in the climate. The tractor was his most important tool.

When he left the Alaskan homestead ten years after starting it, the tractor was left sitting outside for the next 30 years. Officials from Homestead Monument learned about the tractor and were determined to bring it to Beatrice.

Doug Koozer, who oversees the tractor restoration club, was one of five people who went to Alaska to get the tractor.

It was extensively photographed before being moved to a clearing. They called in a helicopter to lift the tractor to Big Lake, Alaska, where a crate was custom built for it. It was put on a barge to Anchorage, then onto a ship to Seattle before being trucked to Beatrice.

It was a lot of work to put in for a 72-year-old tractor that had been abandoned in the wilderness, but the experience was worth every second for Koozer.

“Until you hear the story about what it is and the historical significance, it’s just an old tractor,” he said. “You can see 50 of them around here, but when you start throwing the history to it as to what it is, where it’s been and what they did with it, then it’s a whole different story. I would guess most of these kids in this generation have no idea what the Homestead Act is. They’re all now aware of what it is because of that tractor.”

Mark Engler, Homestead park superintendent, said the preservation is nearly complete and a public unveiling is planned for Monday, Nov. 20. He said excitement at Homestead has been building, and both staff and visitors are eager to see the tractor and what it represents.

“This represents the end of an era,” Engler said. “When people think about homesteading it’s easy for them to think about single bottom plows being pulled by horses. Something that not often comes to mind is the use of tractors. This makes the story for many people more relevant.”


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Beatrice Police give tips on staying safe on Halloween

Whether they’re going as ghosts, witches or Chase from “Paw Patrol,” the best thing kids can be on Halloween is safe.

It’s the spookiest time of the year when cobwebs, jack-o-lanterns and various inflatable Frankensteins decorate yards across Beatrice, but staying safe while trick or treating means kids can make it home to enjoy their candy.

Beatrice Police Department Captain Gerald Lamkin said that one of the best ways to stay safe while gathering candy bars is being properly dressed.

Whether it’s dressing warmly for cold weather, making sure your costume isn’t loose enough to get caught on anything or taking off your mask between houses to see better, costume safety is a key to staying safe. It is also important to remember that it’s not summer anymore.

“It's getting darker earlier,” Lamkin said. “So appropriate lighting would really be proper.”

Reflective tape helps passing vehicles see trick or treaters more easily, he said, and it doesn’t have to clash with your costume. Many retailers carry reflective tape in various colors and some that doesn’t even show until light hits it.

Traveling in well-populated areas might be a good idea, too, Lamkin said, though knowing which houses to visit in search of candy is a must.

“You look for the welcome homes, the ones that have lights on, the ones that are welcoming to the kids,” Lamkin said. “Those are the ones that you want to focus on. Travel in safe groups, if you do live in an isolated area, go into a more populated one.”

And when you do get home, Lamkin suggested checking your child's candy before they eat any to be sure it is safe.

There haven’t been reports of malicious tampering with Halloween candy in recent years, he said, but it’s better to check, just in case.

“I always did for my daughters,” Lamkin said. “I told them that I get first dibs, they didn't think that was fair since they worked for it, but you're just looking at it, making sure it's in a proper wrapper. I think this world, as far south as it's turned sometimes, you don't get that problem with the candy anymore. But don't take a chance, you want to be safe.”

Examine the candy, he said. Make sure it’s in the original wrapper and hasn’t been opened or tampered with. If there’s any question, throw it away.

Some houses will give out homemade treats, which are fine if you know the people handing them out, he said, but use your best judgment. Parents have the final say-so, he said.

Though it may not seem like it, Halloween is actually a fairly quiet holiday for the police, Lamkin said. The Beatrice Police will be out, but only in their regular numbers.

Thanksgiving, he said, is much more difficult holiday for police, due to out of control drinking. With students back home from college and only a short period of time to see old friends, people tend to overdo it, Lamkin said. That often leads to drunk driving arrests and an occasional fistfight.

This Halloween, the police haven’t seen many cases of smashed pumpkins, he said, or other cases of vandalism like toilet-papering or egging.

Lamkin cautions against it, but remembered a prank he used to pull when he was a kid on Halloween.

It was called “tick tack,” he said, and it involved gingerly tossing corn kernels at a window to make a rattling sound and said it wasn’t malicious, just a fun trick to play.

“You worked for a long time sneaking an old pillow case out of the house,” Lamkin said. “In the 60s, you had to sneak it out and you worked on filling that with corn. You shucked your own corn and grind it off the cob to fill it. That was a lot of work.”


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New Paddock Lane addition going out for bids in November

Bids for a new addition at Paddock Lane Elementary School will be going out in just a few weeks.

The Beatrice Public Schools Board of Education met Thursday to discuss the new building, which architects Michael Fakler, of Fakler Architects, and Pat Phelan, of DLR Group, teamed up to design. The new pre-engineered metal building project will go out for bids on Nov. 21.

The new building will include six classrooms that will replace four portable classrooms that are currently in use at Paddock Lane, with two additional classrooms to accommodate more students, as Beatrice Public Schools restructures after the transition of Cedar Elementary into a preschool-only facility.

The addition will be outfitted with traditional tile in the hallways, carpet in classrooms, and at least one window per classroom. LED lights will also be featured in each classroom.

The only item left to be completed is a soils report by Olsson Associates, Fakler said, but contractors will be able to put in a bid before it’s returned.

“We can go ahead and put the project out to bid and put the soils report out in an addendum later on,” he said. “At this point, we're ready to put the notice to contractors in the paper and to choose a bid date and a pre-bid conference date.”

The bidding notice, which will be run in the newspaper, has been completed, Fakler said, and is being reviewed by the school district’s attorney.

Board member Steve Winter asked if the building would be complete and usable by the next year, as was the original plan, and if the process would be affected by winter weather.

“I think we're far enough ahead here,” Phelan said. “Obviously, the weather's going to dictate whether they can get out of the ground yet this fall or not. Even if they don't, there is some lead time on a metal building.”

Fakler said that the contractors should be able to put the building’s footings into the ground before receiving the steel for the building itself. Then, if they’re able to get the shell on the building, they’ll be able to pour the concrete slab inside a controlled environment.

Board member Doris Martin asked why the soil report was taking so long. A lot of it has to do with the nature of the work, which includes drilling a core sample and having it returned to a lab in Lincoln for analysis before writing up the final report.

The biggest concern as far as the building goes, Phelan said, is finding enough electricians to get the job done.

“There are a lot of these big data centers going up in the metro area and they just consume massive amounts of electricians,” he said. “So, that'll be one of the things we focus on is trying to reach out to some of the local electrical contractors and make sure they're interested in bidding on the project.”