If you haven't seen the photos or watched the videos of Gothenburg's All-American City presentation and award acceptance in Denver over the weekend, you're missing out. (And where have you been, by the way?)
The hours of preparation for the application and presentation, the teamwork used to craft just the right message and the time, energy and effort that each member of our delegation put in has paid off in a big, BIG way. This national stamp of approval is sure to affect Gothenburg not just in 2019 but certainly in the years to come.
I would be lying if I said earning an All-American City Award was easy. Gothenburg was up against cities many, many times larger than we are. For instance, the Lancaster, Texas, delegation had more people than Gothenburg High School's 2019 graduating class, and they all wore matching T-shirts, a different color each day of the three-day conference. Talk about intimidating. Edinburg, Texas, brought a full mariachi band with dancers, along with costumed participants representing their various cultural celebrations. We wore plain red polo shirts and quietly carried black and white posters.
In the end, though, it wasn't about the song and dance or drum line or elaborate dress. It wasn't about the size of the delegation or the size of the city. It was about the message and the accomplishments and the way the projects fit the theme, "Creating Healthy Communities Through Inclusive Civic Engagement."
The judges referred to Gothenburg as "small but mighty." Fellow participants in round-table discussions seemed amazed at what Gothenburg has accomplished with such a small population. The judge who presented our award called Gothenburg a "small community that reaches big goals." If they only knew ...
The new YMCA at Gothenburg Health, the food access initiatives and the Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition are just the tip of the iceberg of the collaborative, community-minded work going on in our city every day. Young people, old people, retired residents, working mothers, high school students, wealthy homeowners, new parents struggling to survive — they all come to the table and they all get heard. Everyone is important and everyone matters, no matter what the cause. All means all. It's "The Gothenburg Way."
I encourage everyone to take advantage of this All-American City Award. Use it when you're promoting your business or organization. Tell your friends and family about it when they ask why you choose to live in our small town. Talk about it to folks who might be looking to move their family or business here.
Defined by Miriam-Webster, All-American means "selected as one of the best in the U.S. in a particular category at a particular time."
Gothenburg IS an All-American City. Now the rest of the nation knows it too.
Click HERE the presentation video.
Click HERE to see the crowd reaction when Gothenburg's award was announced.
Click HERE to read the National Civic League's press release about winners.
Well, here we go!
Most of the 22-member delegation for the All-American City competition will leave Gothenburg today headed for Denver. Gothenburg joins 19 other cities in the running for an All-American City Award from the National Civic League. But what does that mean?
Back in March, a committee from the Gothenburg Improvement Company (GIC) board of directors submitted an application to the National Civic League for the All-American City Award under the theme, "Creating Healthy Communities Through Inclusive Civic Engagement." Isn't that what Gothenburg does all the time? We chose three local projects to highlight how Gothenburg comes together for the good of all: The Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition, local food initiatives such as the BackPack Program and Lunch Buddies, and the YMCA at Gothenburg Health with hospital expansion. All three of those have taken the support from the entire community to accomplish.
We know Gothenburg is awesome. But being a tiny town in central Nebraska, we didn't have huge hopes of making it to the finalist round. After all, we were up against some of the biggest cities in the nation. But the call came just before 5 pm on a Friday afternoon that Gothenburg had been chosen as one of 20 finalists! Today, the GIC committee and a group of community folks are cruising to Denver to strut our stuff!
The first question most people ask me is, "What do you get out of it?"
Being selected as one of the Finalists indicates that the National Civic League recognizes our community as a model for the rest of the country. Gothenburg obviously works collaboratively with stakeholders and has demonstrated an ability to overcome challenges. The All-American City Award is similar to a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. It is the most prestigious civic award in the country and proves leadership, stability and drive.
So ... what do we get?
We get nationwide publicity for our city. We get a chance to showcase our community to businesses across the country. We get to use that "seal of approval" when applying for grants. We could see a rise in the number of tourists and new residents.
But above all, we get a sense of accomplishment, teamwork and pride knowing Gothenburg is one of the top 20 cities in the U.S. when it comes to collaboratively and inclusively meeting challenges head-on.
It's been a lot of work preparing for this finalist competition. This delegation of folks have given up work time and free time to pull this together "The Gothenburg Way." Want to see the competition? You can watch the Gothenburg presentation live streamed on the internet at https://www.nationalcivicleague.org/america-city-award/about-the-event/
One of our young delegates will also be competing for an All-American City Youth Award. Heath Keiser, a GHS junior, was selected by school leaders to represent Gothenburg in this competition because he exemplifies what the All-American City Award is all about: impact, inclusiveness, innovation, collaboration and civic engagement.
We're going to Denver with every intention of coming home Sunday night as one of the 10 winners with a youth award in tow. Cheer us on, please, and be sure to thank those involved for their time and efforts:
June & John Venteicher
Chiara & Ashlyn Richeson
Mayor Joyce Hudson
Abraham & Alexavia Mendez
When tragedy hits a small town in middle American, one of two things typically happens: Folks will either pull together for the good of all or they will divide themselves in anger. There's no question the route Gothenburg people have chosen to take following the heartbreaking death of our Officer Jill Larson McCandless.
There isn't a person in this community that hasn't been affected by Officer 071. Jill grew up here, she raised her children here, she worked here and she served here. She knew the kids and visited both Dudley Elementary and Gothenburg High School frequently. She new the adults and where everyone lives and works, calling nearly everyone she came in contact with by name. She knew the senior citizens, checking on those who live alone and never hesitating to offer a helping hand.
Whether you drove a little too quickly up Lake Avenue and had to chat with her in that professional capacity or you saw her in the grocery store aisle after a shift, Jill offered a smile, a hello and a huge heart.
Jill was highly respected as an officer, often referred to as one of the best Gothenburg has ever had. She also earned a tremendous amount of respect as a daughter, mother, grandmother and friend. She exemplified "The Gothenburg Way," and that shows through the number of lovely tributes that have been offered to her this week.
Jill's death leaves an incredible hole in our community. If there's one thing we can all do to honor Officer 071, it is to give each other the same kind of compassion and respect Jill modeled for us every day.
Rest in peace Officer 071.
Funeral services for Jill will be in the north gym at Gothenburg Public Schools at 10 am on Saturday, June 15.
The Chamber office got a dandy new piece of artwork last week. If you've driven downtown, you've likely seen the barn quilt in the south window of the building here on the corner.
The barn quilt movement began on an Ohio farm in the early 2000's as Donna Sue Groves painted the first block to celebrate her mother, Maxine. She didn't know her artwork would eventually lead to a cross-country adventure, but that's essentially what has happened. Barn quilts have become the fastest growing grassroots art movement across the U.S. and Canada. Dawson County jumped into the barn quilt craze about three years ago, building a tour right here in Central Nebraska. There are well over 100 barn quilts mapped on the Barn Quilts of Dawson County website and lots of folks from other states plan their back-roads trips to see them all.
Just like traditional fabric quilts, barn quilt blocks each have their own unique story. They tie to an individual's interests or family heritage and some represent the significance of a business or a location.
The barn quilt in the Chamber window has a story too. The basic pattern is called the Swedish Weathervane. The Swedish part of the name makes an obvious choice for a quilt block in Gothenburg. Our city's settlers and our far-off friends in our sister city in Sweden would surely appreciate the reference. As for the weathervane design, the half-square triangles are similar to the points on a compass. Each point in the weathervane block symbolizes a different direction, helping you always find your way. The Chamber office is kind of the same thing ... a central spot for visitors and residents, as well as the best connecting point to get you where you're going.
Our barn quilt was painted by retired Chamber director Anne Anderson, who still serves on the Chamber's Ambassadors and the tourism committee. She is working on others that will hang around town. If you're interested in having one of your own, she may be able to help you out. She can also point you toward some classes if you want to try your hand at painting one yourself. If you contact the Chamber office, I can put you in touch.
And don't forget to drop by the Barn Quilts of Dawson County website at barnquiltsdc.com. There are enough beautiful pieces right here in your back yard to plan a day trip checking them out!
is the Executive Director of the Community Development Office, which encompasses the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce and the Gothenburg Improvement Company.