For most of us, November and December are a joyful time filled with family and friends, goodies and gifts. We put daily entries on our calendars to make sure we can attend all of the fun holiday parties, open house events and Christmas sales. We plan meals, we buy presents, we put up Christmas decorations. We celebrate!
But while you're rockin' around the Christmas tree this holiday season, there's a single mom out there wondering if she can afford the additional electricity it would take to put lights on her tree, not to mention buying her two young children the small gifts they write to Santa about. There are families struggling to put food on the table after job layoffs and major medical bills. They can't begin to think about a big turkey dinner with pumpkin pie or prime rib and cheesy potatoes. And don't forget about the elderly living alone who have no one to share the holidays with.
Our community has always taken care of each other. Surely, this year will be no different. But the various sharing programs don't just happen. They need YOU to participate. Whether you choose one or donate to them all, please consider giving just a little of your own holiday cheer to lighten the load another family. Here's just a sample:
These are just a small sample of giving opportunities here in Gothenburg. There are churches and school groups and other civic organizations that also hope to spread holiday happiness. So maybe instead of buying one more gift to put under your own Christmas tree this year, you could donate to a local drive and help a neighbor in need. You won't regret it!
Get out there and support your local businesses this holiday season. And while you're at it, register to win up to $500 in Swede Bucks to put right back into the Gothenburg economy. Each of the 20 businesses contributed to the total amount of Swede Bucks because they believe in supporting each other and our own Gothenburg residents.
This is a great way to keep it local!
Few words today. I'll just let you watch this amazing video produced by Brock Massin at Massin Studios here in Gothenburg. Drop a comment below and tell us what you think.
It's another big weekend here in Gothenburg as the Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee hosts the 2019 Nebraska & National Hand Cornhusking Championships at Hecox Farms. It's no small feat to organize an event of this magnitude and it doesn't just happen overnight. It takes a lot of foresight, a lot of planning, a lot of volunteer hours.
So to anyone who played a part, large or small, thank you in advance.
Whether you're a sponsor, vendor, volunteer or participant, you've contributed to one of the best attempts at keeping our ag history alive. Maybe you're on the front lines driving a team pulling a wagon. Or you might be gleaning corn behind contestants. Or you're the person picking up trash. From the most visible to the least, we need you.
The reason Gothenburg gets such positive feedback from events where we host folks from other parts of the state — or nation — is because of the people. We pull together, we work hard and we always, always, always do a great job. It's The Gothenburg Way.
I have no doubts this weekend will be more of the same.
And if you're one of the few who have not volunteered in some way to help with the Nebraska & National Hand Cornhusking Championships but you'd kind of like to see what it's all about, come on out to Hecox Farms on Saturday or Sunday (or both): one mile south of the interstate and 2.5 miles west. I think you'll be pleasantly impressed with what's going on. Don't wait too long and think you'll catch it next time, though. Next year, the state contest is in Holdrege and the national competition will be in Kansas.
Click HERE if you want to be part of history and volunteer for a couple of hours.
Click HERE to go to our Cornhusking website.
There are national recognition days every single day of the year. In October alone there is National Black Dog Day, National Taco Day, National Noodle Day, Be Bald and Be Free Day, Boss's Day, Reptile Awareness Day and National Mincemeat Day, just to name a few.
Here's a really important October day we'll be celebrating at 10th and Lake next week: Wednesday, Oct. 16, is National Support Your Local Chamber of Commerce Day.
Celebrated annually on the third Wednesday of October, Support Your Local Chamber of Commerce Day reminds us that local Chambers of Commerce create a stronger community, and the special day offers an opportunity to say thanks to an organization that strives to support local business.
Do you know who runs your Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce? Well there's me, of course, and you likely know me or you wouldn't have somehow found your way to this blog. But the Chamber is actually governed by a board of directors that represent a cross-section of the community. They are:
PRESIDENT — Dr. Kim Johnson, Gothenburg Eyecare & Optical
PAST PRESIDENT — Ty Schurr, Flatwater Bank
PRESIDENT-ELECT — Ben Kamschnieder, Frito-Lay/PepsiCo
TREASURER — Travis Anderson, 1st State Bank
Heather Combs Platter, Gothenburg Discount Pharmacy
Allison Jonas, Gothenburg Public Schools
Trenton Long, Parker Hannifin
Matt Olsen, Edward Jones Investments
Janell Rossen, Country Partners Cooperative
Lindsey Tederman, Charm Boutique
GIC REPRESENTATIVE — Helen Cool, 1st State Bank
CITY REPRESENTATIVE — Bruce Clymer, City Administrator
Another good question: Do you know what your Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce does in your community? Here's a sample:
So what can you do to show your appreciation on National Support Your Local Chamber of Commerce Day?
If you're not a member, it's a prime time to join. If you care about promoting and supporting local businesses, joining the Chamber is the best way to do that. And if you're already a member, you could volunteer on a committee, link your business website to the Chamber's site or recruit a new member. And by all means, if you have something good to say about your Chamber organization, say it! Write a letter to the editor, call the office, email your Chamber board members or share a little something on your social media.
The people in this All-America City know we're stronger when we work together. Your Chamber of Commerce aims to keep it that way.
It's no surprise to those of us who love this town that Gothenburg finds itself in the spotlight now and then. We know we're a great community and it's nice to get a little positive affirmation once in awhile.
You know it's about to happen again, right?
In just a little over two weeks, Gothenburg will host the Nebraska & National Hand Cornhusking Championships. Maybe you think that's no big deal since Gothenburg has hosted the state competition for the past three years and several times prior to that. Or maybe you're not directly involved in the agriculture industry, so you believe this event is not for you. You would be wrong on both counts.
The National Hand Cornhusking Championships have been going on for quite some time. A fun little video on the cornhusking page of this website is a news account from 1937 when the national contest was in Missouri. It was bitter cold and rainy that November day and still, thousands turned out to watch men from across the country pick, husk and toss corn against the bang board of a horse- or mule-drawn wagon. Despite the cold, a couple of guys competed without their shirts on because clothing can tend to get in the way.
This cornhusking thing has always been serious business. First, it was how corn was harvested before tractors and combines came along. It gives pickers and spectators a chance to relive the old days and see first-hand what kind of mental and physical toughness it took to get corn out of the fields. In that old video, the commentator calls the pickers "corn field gladiators" and compares the contest to football and baseball, saying it's the "agricultural World Series."
"There's no athletic contest in the world more grueling," he says. Well, there's no timeout, no calling for the water boy, no media breaks.
We wouldn't have gotten to where we are in modern agriculture had it not been for our ancestors who picked the ears by hand, cleaned the husks off and threw the corn in a wagon. The hand cornhusking contest mimics what would have been important to corn farmers back in the old days: picking corn fast and keeping it clean.
Folks from nine states conduct hand cornhusking competitions: Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, South Dakota and Nebraska. The best of the best will be in Gothenburg Oct. 19-20 to face off against each other. If you think that's not a big deal, I double-dog dare you to say so in front of one of the men competing in the old timers division (75 years or older).
There's more to the weekend than picking corn, so if corn and ag history don't interest you, don't bypass this event just yet. We will also have a solid slate of food vendors and a building full booths selling crafts and other items. Plus, there will be a kids pedal tractor pull and other fun family activities to take in at Hecox Farms.
Don't sit at home wishing there was a Husker football game to watch. (There is not). Get out to the farm where all your friends an neighbors will be. You won't regret the experience.
I want to say thank you to the many, many people who made the 2019 All-American Harvest Festival such a huge success. But the two little words — "thank you" — seem far too inadequate.
Harvest Festival has, for years, been a Chamber of Commerce endeavor. So planning the weekend's events, gathering materials, enlisting volunteers and all of the other details fall on the Chamber. It's a big undertaking. That's why we can't do it alone.
This year, a special events committee was formed with a couple of Chamber board members and four other community volunteers. With the exception of one board member, none of these committee members had previously been involved in planning the Harvest Festival. But each one of them jumped in wholeheartedly to put together a weekend of fun events for the entire family. To say they succeeded is putting it mildly. Members of that committee (in case you want to thank them personally) are Dr. Kim Johnson and Trenton Long from the Chamber board of directors, Roxanne Converse-Whiting, Mary Bell, Casey Madsen and Kimberlyn Vontz. (Round of applause, please!)
Then, each one of these committee members enlisted co-workers, friends, relatives and, in a couple of cases, even strangers. (Well they're not strangers anymore.) These folks rounded up tables and chairs and microphones and white boards and coolers and fence panels ... you get the idea. There are a lot of moving parts when you start to put together events that cover four days. I can't begin to list all of the people who had a hand in the Harvest Festival activities, because I'd surely leave someone out. But there were lots and their time and commitment didn't go unnoticed.
And then there are the participants — the people who left the sidelines to get involved, to do the activities, to have the real fun in all of this. I don't know all of the numbers. I leave most of that to the individuals running events. But I can tell you we had 69 parade entries decked out in red, white and blue cruising down Lake Avenue in front of literally thousands of spectators. There were also 48 vendors at Arts in the Park, 10 teams in the bed races, 42 cornhole teams (and a whole lot more wishing they would have registered), 125 vehicles of all kinds in the car show and nine co-ed softball teams disappointed because rain Saturday night left the fields unplayable.
It was amazing, to say the least.
And guess what ... we're already throwing around some fabulous ideas for next year. Want to be a part of that? Let me know. Have some thoughts on how the things we did in 2019 might work better in 2020? Let us know. We can't make the changes you wish for if we don't know about them and we can't implement new activities you want if we don't know you want them. Feedback is a beautiful thing. We learn from both the positive and the negative, but especially from the constructive. It just takes a minute to pick up the phone (308-537-3505) or send an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Believe me when I say we'll consider it all.
So again, it seems quite insignificant, but THANK YOU for making Harvest Festival 2019 such a tremendous success.
I seem to be struggling today to keep my mind on the many, many Harvest Festival tasks at hand. Normally, I can multi-task with the best of 'em and whittle away even a long to-do list. But today, my focus is poor and I don't seem to be accomplishing all I had hoped.
My mind keeps replaying pictures. My stomach and my heart are recalling the deep despair. Social media threads share repetitive messages: "Where were you?" "We will never forget."
I know I will never forget.
I had just walked my boys, then second and fifth grades, into their elementary school. The morning news was on the television that hung from the ceiling in the commons area and a couple of staff members were standing beneath it, attention unwavering. Like a magnet to steel, I was drawn toward the TV when another mom came through the double doors in a panic. "Did you see it?"
The news coverage was difficult to follow at first, mostly because the commentators were still unsure exactly what was happening. School children kept filing by while the group of adults caught in a gaze continued to grow. I don't know how much time passed while I stared at the television. I don't know exactly how many other parents were paralyzed there with me. I do know, though, that my heart hurt and I was confident my safe little world would never be the same, even in central Nebraska.
I can't un-see the images of men and women in business suits running away from the clouds of ash. Or the firemen and first responders risking their own safety, their own lives, while moving in to perhaps save another. I can't erase the video clips of spouses in utter despair, police officers comforting witnesses, rescue dogs sniffing debris. Then there were the recordings of final phone messages and radio transmissions. It's all fresh, right there in the confines of my memory, as if I were reliving it again 18 years later.
I suppose folks in the generations older than me have similar recollections of Dec. 7, 1941. The country's shock following the bombings at Pearl Harbor have often been compared to 9/11, but the transmission of information and images was not even close to instantaneous.
Like many from the Pearl Harbor era do in December, I pause on this September anniversary date every year to remember the tragedy and honor the lives lost. I don't know why this particular year it seems to be capturing such a large portion of my attention, but it does. So, I've decided to give myself a little grace.
And on Sept. 12, I will make a concerted effort to recall the America I experienced "the day after." When politics and status and color didn't divide us. When the mantra was "united we stand." When we used our manners, hugged a little tighter and remembered our prayers.
I will never forget.
Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.
— Marjorie Moore
The first time I saw this quote, my instant reaction was, "oh yeah!" Look around ... Why is Gothenburg used as an example for many across the state, even the country? (i.e. All-America City) Because there are a whole host of residents willing to volunteer, willing to sacrifice their personal time to ensure the quality of life in Gothenburg sets the trend for others.
In the Chamber of Commerce world, we work with volunteers every day. Folks who serve on the board of directors give their time. Committee members give their time. People freely volunteer to help set up events, work during events and we never have to wonder if there will be enough people to clean up. Obviously, the Chamber is not unique in this.
Look at our theatre, our senior center, even our school system. We wouldn't have nearly the programs, events, rock-solid civic institutions that we enjoy in Gothenburg without the people here who are willing to give and give and give. Basically, we've built a culture, an expectation of volunteerism.
Of course there are those who seem to get called upon over and over. They are recognized for their generosity of time and they've proven they can get things done. There are others who are a bit more conservative taking on commitments, but still highly trustworthy.
Each of us has a responsibility to preserve the spirit of volunteering. The Gothenburg school system has made a conscious effort to teach our kids the value of doing something for others with no expectation of getting anything in return. But let's not leave this mission entirely to our educators. Ask your neighbor to come along when you're volunteering at church. Talk to the new guy at work about joining your favorite civic group. Get involved and help the rookies in town jump in feet first as well.
You can't always control your taxes, the people who move into your neighborhood or where you get to park at the grocery store, but you can control where you spend your spare time. You might as well make your community a better place.
Is anyone else looking forward to Harvest Festival 2019?
We're three weeks out from the 105th annual community celebration. The Chamber's special events committee has put together a fun lineup of All-American activities that run from Thursday evening, Sept. 19, through Sunday, Sept. 22. It's certainly going to be different this year with Ehmen Park back as the center of attention. I hope that has stirred some excitement.
The old standards take their traditional place in the event list: Dog-N-Jog on Thursday, parade on Saturday followed by lunch at the First United Methodist Church. And because it's been so popular the last couple of years, we're bringing back the Party in the Park from 5-7 pm on Friday. There's no school that day, so we're hoping to attract a bunch of kids and families to the park for games and food and fun. A new twist to Party in the Park is a couple of activities that are being hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in cooperation with the Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition. "Not a Box" and "Block Party" are designed to get kids using their imagination. GECLC has been collecting boxes and tubes of all shapes and sizes for kids to create with. If you're wanting to participate as a business or organization and you haven't been contacted yet, give Casey Madsen a call at Learning Adventures Child Care Center, 537-5194.
We're also bringing back some ever-popular activities from years past. Arts in the Park will fill Ehmen Park on Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm. There is already a long list of vendors of all kinds, and they are still coming in. There will be plenty to see, along with food, music and performances by Gymnastic West and Dance Centre students. We're also giving bed races a try again. This was hilarious fun back in the mid-2000's. This time around, we're supplying the beds to make it easier to get involved. We just need teams of three to make the beds and then push them the length of the block. Themes, fun team names and costumes are encouraged. We'll give prizes for the fastest finish and the Best of Show. Pick up registration forms at the Chamber or download them online.
The Lions Club will serve breakfast in the park on Sunday and the Harvest Festival car show will also return, filling Ehmen Park from 11 am to 3 pm. We're expecting 100 vehicles or more, so there's surely something of interest for everyone. We'll have food in the park and live music by Rascal Martinez from noon to 2 pm. Bring the family and your lawn chairs for the day.
In addition to the familiar activities, we've also added a few new ones. The Gothenburg MOPS group will serve breakfast burritos on wheels before the parade. They'll be peddling their wares up and down Lake Avenue as well as in the park. At 1 pm on Saturday, Stone Hearth Estates is hosting Golden Games in the park. This will be a variety of activities that older folks can participate in, but I'm sure they'll let people of any age join. There's no pre-registration, just show up and have a good time.
After the bed races, head down to 10th Street in front of the Sun Theatre. There will be a cornhole tournament to benefit the Gothenburg Legion Baseball program, a beer garden, food and music beginning at 4 pm. Cornhole is drawing a lot of interest. Get your registration forms at the Chamber office or the Sun Theatre.
And one more new activity is the YMCA co-ed softball tournament at the Four-Plext on Sunday afternoon. Get a group of friends or co-workers who may or may not be athletically inclined and make a day of it. There are plenty of laughs during slow-pitch softball and the more teams we have, the more fun it will be.
The Chamber of Commerce is the hub of information for Harvest Festival. If you've got a question or a suggestion (or even a complaint), give us a call at 537-3505.
See you in the park!
Click HERE to get more information on individual events or to download event registration forms.
is the Executive Director of the Community Development Office, which encompasses the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce and the Gothenburg Improvement Company.