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Beatrice grain elevator brought down in smashing fashion

The grain elevator that sits just south of downtown Beatrice is slowly being brought to the ground.

On Monday, crews from Lottman Excavating in Beatrice started swinging the wrecking ball that will eventually mean the end of the 80-foot bin that was constructed in 1950.

Dull thuds could be heard and felt throughout downtown Beatrice on Monday as a crane swung a heavy, forged-steel wrecking ball into the reinforced concrete sides of the elevator. Chunks of cement and debris hit the ground below as cars continued along Highway 77.

A large group of onlookers gathered near the Chief Standing Bear Trail as the wrecking ball smashed through the walls of the six-chambered grain elevator, sending columns of white dust into the air.

The winds were strong on Monday, and even stronger on Tuesday and gnarled, 15-foot sections of rebar could be heard swaying against the concrete sides of the structure. Even with winds speeds around 25 miles an hour on Tuesday, crews were still working to bring down the structure.

“We’re hoping to be done by the end of the week,” said Tim Lottman of Lottman Excavating.  

As of Tuesday, the headhouse at the top of the elevator and about 20 feet of grain bins had been brought down.

To see a video of the grain elevator’s demolition, visit the Daily Sun’s Facebook page.

Night of the Great Pumpkin coming Thursday

More than a thousand ghosts, goblins and even a Donald Trump or two will flock to downtown Thursday for an evening of Halloween fun.

The annual Night of the Great Pumpkin event will be held Thursday from 5-7 p.m. in downtown Beatrice.

Officials will close Court Street through the downtown area for the event, during which families can trick or treat at downtown businesses.

Main Street Beatrice director Michael Sothan said the event is an annual favorite, and that businesses support it to the extent that the event is almost self-sustaining.

“As always, this is one of those big community events,” Sothan said. “It’s one that’s talked about weeks in advance and it really has gotten to the point where it runs itself. People expect and know it. The downtown businesses really deliver on it year after year. It really makes it an event for community.”

The event typically draws around 1,300 children, and more than 3,000 total people to the downtown district for the evening.

Children 10 and under get free pumpkins at the event, and there are games throughout the area.

Additionally, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” will be show five times at the theater, at 5:15, 6, 6:45, 7:30 and 8:15 p.m. Tickets are free for kids, with the purchase of a $1 adult ticket.

Sothan said the showings were a hit when introduced last year.

“One of the fun things that we did last year, too, is special movie showings,” Sothan said. “Beatrice Movies is offering free movies to the kids as long as there’s an adult with them. It was really well received last year and people wanting to see that again.”

While the event draws crowds to the downtown area, Sothan added that most businesses participate for the fun, rather than drawing customers.

“They have a chance to get out in front of large crowds,” Sothan said. “Several businesses talk about how business picks up in the weeks following the event. Obviously, that’s not the primary goal. It’s a fun, safe night and the kids really enjoy themselves, but always great to see people reciprocate that and have a great night in downtown by supporting businesses.”

Man accused of faking kidnapping

Beatrice police arrested a man accused of faking his own kidnapping in hope of collecting a ransom.

Police were called by 30-year-old Andrew Lichtenberg’s parents, who said their son had been kidnapped and was being held ransom for $5,000 to be wired to Lichtenberg's account.

They allowed officers to listen to phone calls, where a masked voice threatened to kill Lichtenberg if they didn't meet the demands within five minutes.

The calls came from Lichtenberg’s girlfriend’s phone number, and police were able to detect its location.

The general location of the calls turned out to be Lichtenberg's Beatrice home, where police observed him through a window.

Court documents state he was seen holding two cell phones and a silver handgun, which was pointed at one of the phones.

When officers approached the door Lichtenberg blocked it and refused to allow police inside.

Officers forced entry inside, and Lichtenberg continued to refuse to comply with orders to take his hands out of his pockets. He was placed under arrest with minor resistance.

The reporting party called the number the demands were being made from, and a phone in the house with Lichtenberg rang. Police found a microphone on the floor of the residence and marijuana, as well as a pipe, on a coffee table.

The handgun police saw through the window turned out to be a CO2 powered BB gun.

Lichtenberg was arrested before 7 a.m. Tuesday for attempted extortion, obstructing government operations, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Bond was set at $5,000 with a 10 percent deposit. His next hearing is set for Nov. 14.

Dogs Against Domestic Violence raises awareness and gets tails wagging

The Beatrice Humane Society and Hope Crisis Center teamed up for the Dogs Against Domestic Violence event on Tuesday evening at the Gage County Fairgrounds to raise awareness for two month-long observances.

Both Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Adopt a Shelter Pet Month fall in October, so Carman Hinman, the executive director of Hope Crisis Center, got in touch with the Beatrice Humane Society to combine their efforts toward a single goal.

“We thought it was a perfect opportunity for us to partner with the Humane Society and do an event together this year to bring awareness to the correlation of violence and pet abuse,” Hinman said. “This is the first year that we're doing it.”

With visitors wearing bright purple shirts and dogs trotting around, it would be easy to think the event was a light-hearted affair. However, red, wooden cutouts of women, children and animals served as a reminder of the purpose of the event.

The cutouts are dedicated to the memory of victims killed by domestic violence and abuse. Each of the silhouettes represents a Nebraskan person or dog who was killed by domestic violence, including Beatrice resident Connie Eacret, who was murdered by her boyfriend in November of 2007.

Many times, domestic violence and animal abuse go hand in hand, Hinman said.

An attacker will often also abuse the victim’s pet as well, said Kathy Keylon, who works for the Beatrice Humane Society. The love people have for their animals is one of the reasons it’s so hard to run, she said.

“A lot of people stay in situations because there's not a lot of places that take in abused women and children with animals,” she said. “There just really isn't, so we're doing Dogs Against Domestic Violence.”

During the event, there were vendors selling clothes, toys and pet accessories, and the proceeds from the purchases will help the two organizations. There was also a selfie booth for animal owners to take a photo with their pet—hopefully posting it with the #dogsagainstdomesticviolence hashtag—cupcakes and even a face painting booth.

Morgan Tunink was painting faces at the event and had worked with Hope Crisis Center’s events before. Tunink grew up with an abusive father, she said, so being able to participate is important to her.

“It helps me feel like I'm giving back and helping people,” Tunink said. “They do really good work. And, if I could adopt a dog, I totally would. I really want a dog.”

The Dogs Against Domestic Violence event was originally supposed to take place at Charles Park, but a shift in the weather, including heavy wind gusts and chilly temperatures meant staying inside might be a better plan.

It was a last minute shift to the 4-H building at the Gage County Fairgrounds, Beatrice Humane Society Shelter Manager Bryce Caulk said. An email sent by Hope Crisis Center secured the building on Tuesday morning and they were able to move the entire operation indoors.

The move meant one original vendor couldn’t make it, but a business stepped in to fill the hole, Caulk said.

“It was a very last minute thing,” Caulk said. “We were originally going to have Julie's Hot Dogs out. She couldn't come out here, so Exmark actually donated all the pizzas so that we could have food here for people to give out for free. That was very cool of Exmark.”