The Beatrice Sertoma Club puts up American flags for a variety of events throughout the year, but on Thursday morning, they were out posting flags to celebrate their own history.
Beatrice Sertoma—Sertoma is short for “service to mankind”—celebrated its 60th year by flying the stars and stripes alongside specially-made flags commemorating the group's founding in 1957. On Thursday, the group placed 250 flags around Beatrice.
Just as the sun was rising on Thursday, Bob Dye was inside a shed behind the American Legion hall in Beatrice, getting the stacks of flags on wooden poles ready for display. Every few minutes, pickups driven by Sertoma members would arrive, load up their beds and head off to place the flags.
The club has been putting up flags longer than Dye has been a member. He joined in 1989 and has worked alongside club members as they put them out on holidays, celebrations and other special occasions, usually about 10 times each year, he said.
“We put them up up and down Sixth Street and Highway 136 and several downtown,” Dye said. “Put them up at Neapco, I do Casper's Construction, which is kind of out of the way, but all the main business routes around downtown, we'll put them up down there.”
The flags will also serve as a fundraiser for the Sertoma Club, and the group offers to fly flags in front of local businesses in exchange for $25.
Nationwide, the Sertoma Club got its start in 1912 and gained the Beatrice Chapter in 1957. There are dozens of active members in the Beatrice club, which focuses most of its efforts on helping the deaf and hearing impaired.
The club is currently working on an to install a t-loop, or induction coil, that boosts sound for people with hearing aids in the Hevelone Center at Beatrice High School.
A handful of Sertoma anniversary flags will be flying around town, including in front of the Indian Creek Mall, Risky’s and the West Court Street Casey’s, said Richard Kunde, who has helped hang the flags since he joined Sertoma in 1980.
The Sertoma Club used to fly the flags in conjunction with the American Legion, he said, but now they just buy their flags from the organization and store them in their outbuilding.
Now, the club is aiming to gain new members, Kunde said, as well as retain the members they have.
“We only have one member left that's an original,” Kunde said. “John Bauer. He's the only 1957 member that's still here.”
With Halloween just around the corner, Beatrice residents took to the streets Thursday to get a head start on candy collection.
Beatrice businesses opened their doors to trick-or-treaters from 5-7 p.m. on Oct. 26, during which time a portion of Court Street was blocked off.
Michael Sothan, director of Main Street Beatrice, estimated that around 3,000 people participate each year, and about half of those participants are children. Though a lot of work goes into preparing for the event, many downtown business owners take part just for the fun of it.
“A lot of businesses do it on their own,” Sothan said. “They really get involved.”
Despite the weather, crowds of trick-or-treaters marched up and down Court Street collecting candy and playing games.
Trick-or-treaters wore a variety of creative costumes, which included a Donald Trump prison costume, a Thing Two (although Thing One was nowhere to be seen) and a “crazy cat lady” costume.
Monica, Whisper and Chacho Feldhausen and Brook Kiffen braved the wind and cold weather for the third year to take part in Night of the Great Pumpkin. Although Kiffen said her favorite part of the event was candy, Monica said that supporting downtown Beatrice was what kept her coming back each year.
Beyond the candy and games, participants were also able to catch special showings of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”
Children were also able to take home free pumpkins, provided by Main Street Beatrice and Korner Pumpkin Patch. Main Street Beatrice bought 400 pumpkins from Korner Pumpkin Patch, said Lynette Jurgens a co-owner of Korner Pumpkin Patch. The pumpkin patch also donated another 200 pumpkins for children who participated in Night of the Great Pumpkin.
The annual event often brings participants back year after year. Jill Sedlachek said that she looks forward to the Night of the Great Pumpkin each October, and has participated for the past 20 years. Though dealing with the cold weather was a challenge this year, Sedlachek didn’t let it ruin the evening.
“It’s cold,” she said, “but we’re having fun.”
It's been 50 days since the beginning of school and the kindergarten students at Paddock Lane Elementary in Beatrice put on their best poodle skirts and greaser outfits to dance around to Elvis and other 1950s hits on Thursday afternoon.
In addition to the sock hop, the kids also got treated to their very own soda fountain, complete with root beer floats and popcorn and had hula hooping contests.
Two grants were awarded to the Gage County Historical Society this week to enhance the facility and hopefully increase attendance.
The County Board on Wednesday approved two separate visitor improvement grants totaling $39,363.
One of the grants was for $12,530 for an electronic sign outside the museum. The remaining $26,833 is for brick work, which Lora Young, director of the Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce, said will restore the facility to its former glory.
“The brick project is for enhancing and taking back the original facade to how it was in 1915,” Young said. “We will take it back and it will make it historically correct. It will add some cement driveway to make it more handicapped accessible.”
The brick work will be for the sidewalk and driveway areas near the building and is not part of the ongoing Second Street brick project.
Leigh Coffin, who is also providing funds for the project, said the improvements will ultimately enhance tourism in the area.
“It’s going to bring back the building with the original sidewalks coming around and bring this back to what it really looked like in 1915,” he said. “I think the whole area is going to be enhanced with the trail going through. We have plans to put up bike racks and do additional things that sort of take advantage of the tourism and people taking advantage of that trail system once it’s completed and all the way through Beatrice.”
He added the society is responsible for $52,000, which is 20 percent of the total project cost.
The county’s visitor fund had $218,000 available as of July, and Young said there are no other upcoming projects.
Attorney Jim Nelson also spoke on behalf of the project, detailing the slow process of making changes to a building of historical significance. He said the work being done is not maintenance, but rather a needed upgrade to a tourism site in Gage County.
“Perhaps I’m over-passionate about it, but this is returning it to a historical significance,” he said. “It’s not maintenance. The historical society and museum is a tourism site and is very much, in my humble view, under utilized and under recognized. How can we change that in this community and this county and area of the state? You’ve got to put dollars into it.”
The other grant approved will help fund a 38 by 63-inch electronic sign.
Board member Gary Lytle questioned this purchase, saying it wouldn’t attract new visitors to the area.
“My concern is that we’re spending this money and it’s not, I believe, going to be what draws people in to this,” he said. “I don’t know that putting a sign out there is worth the money that’s going to be spent on it, personally.”