Carving pumpkins is an easy way to get into the Halloween spirit, but, for the eighth graders and their foster grandparents in the basement of the Kensington, things got a little spooky Monday afternoon.
As part of the collaboration between Beatrice Middle School and residents of the Kensington, a group of eighth grader students made the trip up the street to carve pumpkins with their foster grandparents on Monday. About 15 minutes into the carving, the power went out and plunged the basement into darkness while students and seniors were carving and painting their Halloween pumpkins.
Pumpkin carving has been a yearly tradition for the foster grandparents and the students for the past seven years. Seniors at the Kensington went to Korner Pumpkin Patch just outside of Beatrice to pick out a perfect jack-o-lantern pumpkin and bring it back to carve with their eighth graders.
At a table toward the door, Brookelynn Bahnsen was jamming a knife into the top of a long pumpkin, getting ready to remove the stem and take the seeds out with help from classmate, Fatima Lopez, and foster grandmother, Wanda Ivan.
“It’s going to be a cat,” Brookelynn said, pulling the knife from the pumpkin.
At a table in the corner, Loretta Smith and her foster grandchildren, Clare Miller-Petznick, Carlee Kelch and Taylor Oblinger, were scraping the seeds onto an old newspaper. Carlee ran her fingers through the orange and white pile on the table, telling the group that pumpkin guts feel weird.
The group waited for Smith before coming up with a design. Their plan is to carve something scary into the pumpkin, but they weren’t sure exactly what that would be quite yet.
Smith, who was elbow-deep with a metal spoon in the group’s pumpkin said she’d been a part of the foster grandparents program for a few years.
“It’s really fun,” she said, gathering a spoonful of seeds onto the pile.
Mike Policky, the eighth grade social studies teacher at Beatrice Middle School, said the foster grandparents program is a great way for kids to learn about the past by talking to people who were there.
For instance, on Sept. 11, the eighth grade students spoke with their foster grandparents about the 9/11 attacks, which happened before they were born.
Now, every two weeks, the students walk two blocks over to the Kensington to spend time and chat with their foster grandparents.
It’s a great way to learn about history, Policky said, but even more so, a lot of kids and the foster grandparents end up making lifelong friends.
“They come back year after year,” Policky said. “Sometimes, the residents have family on the East Coast or the West Coast, and the kids become like an extended family on Christmas or Thanksgiving.”
This year, Policky will be bringing the class back to the Kensington before the holidays and has plans to dress up like Santa Claus, which has become his yearly tradition.
Trudy Spicer, the program coordinator at the Kensington, said that the pumpkin carving brings back a lot of memories for the kids and their foster grandparents. While a lot of the Kensington residents probably never carved pumpkins as kids, she said, their children almost certainly did, which makes it a lot of fun for both groups.
After the pumpkins are carved, they’ll be on display in the lobby where residents will vote on their favorites before they are put outside for the Night of the Great Pumpkin on Oct. 26.
The winner gets a big prize, she said, and though she was not at liberty to divulge what it will be, it’s going to be pretty exciting.
As kids and their foster grandparents put the final touches on their pumpkins, the lights went out and the 40 or so people gathered in the basement fell silent as the room was lit only by spooky red exit signs.
“You know,” Spicer told the group when the room went dark and the kids started making ghost noises. “Everybody might want to put their knife down for a minute.”
Three heavy hitters in Christian pop music are heading to Beatrice for a concert on Wednesday.
On Oct. 25, the band Big Daddy Weave will headline a show at Christ Community Church in Beatrice that also features the Irish band We Are Messengers and singer Micah Tyler. Tickets for the 7 p.m. concert are already sold out, but a few may be left from online retailers.
Big Daddy Weave is on a nationwide tour to promote their album, “Beautiful Offerings,” which hit number four on the U.S. Christian Albums chart and even made the Billboard 200 chart. The band is coming off a string of industry wins, including a 2016 Dove Award from the Gospel Music Association for their song “My Story” and the 2017 K-Love Worship Song of the Year Award for their song “The Lion and the Lamb.”
Pulling in big-name acts in the Christian music scene means the 900-seat church sanctuary is doing exactly what they’d hoped it would when they built it, said Senior Pastor Dan Martin. Christ Community Church has a much larger stage than a lot of local churches in the area, and the first-floor load-in area means semi trucks can unload directly next to the stage without having to lug heavy equipment up several flights of stairs, he said.
Every summer, the church hosts Esprit de Corps, a Lincoln-based youth choir, which nearly fills the sanctuary. This year, other performances were provided by the Blackwood Brothers, who headlined in July, as well as singers Ernie and Jason Couch who visited in September.
Big Daddy Weave is easily the most well-known group the church has hosted, Martin said, and they’re expecting a full sell-out.
The tour had some space in between shows in Aberdeen, S.D. and Davenport, Iowa, Martin said, and they were looking for a place around Omaha to perform. The church and the tour’s booking agency talked for a bit and Christ Community Church in Beatrice got picked over some of the bigger cities like Lincoln and Omaha.
“We give God the credit for it,” Martin said. “He does what he wants, so we just follow him.”
Also performing on the Christ Community stage are Irish Christian rockers, We Are Messengers. Originally from Monaghan, Ireland, the band is relatively new to the scene, after their first, self-titled album dropped in 2016. The album hit number 10 on the U.S. Christian charts.
Rounding out the concert, Micah Tyler is a Christian pop musician from Texas whose 2017 single “Never Been A Moment” peaked at number two on the U.S. Christian Airplay charts.
The tour date is a part of a bigger push to open up the church to the community by bringing in Christian artists for a wider audience, Martin said, and this is the first concert Christ Community has sold tickets to. That’s a trend he hopes the church continues.
“We're kind of in a growing stage with that,” Martin said. “But the tour and production company helps us with that, and they've been great to work with. Nearly selling it out, I guess, is a testament to that, that they did a good job teaching us what to do.”
A limited number of tickets, ranging from $35 to $75, are available at bigdaddyweave.com.
The new director of Gage County Emergency Management is on the job.
Lisa Wiegand was announced as the leader of the department in September, and on Monday addressed the County Board for the first time at a meeting since being hired.
In the short time since completing a training course to lead the department, Wiegand said she’s been primarily working to build relations with area departments, and has met with fire and rescue squads in the northern part of the county, including Cortland, Clatonia and Pickrell.
“That’s very important,” she said. “I think all the fire departments are appreciating to see the face behind what goes on. I plan on giving them an idea what we have for equipment, as far as resources and so forth, so that they know that towers are available should they need anything, and then updating credentials.”
The Emergency Management director assists emergency services in planning for operations during disasters, serves as liaison between emergency operations agencies and county-city executives and is responsible for updates to the Local Emergency Operations Plan.
The director is also responsible for maintaining the Emergency Operations Center, development and maintenance of the hazard warning system throughout Gage County, training severe weather spotters and coordinating storm watch operations.
Wiegand said she’s also continuing to build relationships between the city and county, ensuring they continue working together on things like an evacuation plan in the event of a flood.
“We discussed that plan and policy of evacuating and how everything takes place when the river fills and we have a surplus of water,” she said. “This is the city’s implementation, but we all know that most of the water comes from the northwest. It all comes through the county. They realize that we’re going to be the watchdogs out there by the DeWitt area and Turkey Creek.”
She added closing the two Beatrice bridges over the Big Blue River, the West Court and South Sixth street bridges, is a key part of that plan.
Wiegand said she has also started a variety of inspections throughout the county, including inspections of the sirens and storm shelters in the area.
A Beatrice man was cited for driving under the influence after a crash Saturday that left multiple people injured.
The crash occurred shortly after 3 p.m. at the intersection of north Seventh and Summit streets.
Beatrice Police Capt. Gerald Lamkin said that 25-year-old Matthew Aden, of Beatrice, was driving a GMC pickup north on Seventh Street when the vehicle collided with a Chevrolet SUV crossing Seventh Street.
“(The SUV) stopped at the stop sign and pulled out across Summit Street,” Lamkin said. “The pickup basically struck the Chevrolet utility vehicle in the passenger front door and shoved it a good 100 feet north, I would say.”
A 37-year-old male passenger in the pickup sustained minor injuries as well.
The driver of the sport utility vehicle and a passenger were both injured. The passenger was transported to Bryan Health in Lincoln for treatment.
Lamkin said witnesses observed the pickup to be speeding, with estimates ranging from 40-70 mph.
Aden was arrested for driving under the influence after a preliminary test revealed an alcohol level of .14.
The crash is under investigation and no additional citations were issued as of Monday.