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2020 - a year to remember
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2020 - a year to remember

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Year in Review

January - June

ASHLAND – Many have called 2020 a year to remember, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the presidential election and so many other events filling the 365-day period.

While these events affected the Ashland area, many other local events had just as great an impact. Here’s what happened in the first half of 2020 in The Ashland Gazette’s coverage area.

January

At the first Ashland City Council meeting of the new year, council members learned their ranks would decrease by one. City Council President Paul Gossin announced his resignation because of increased time obligations with his job at First Data in Omaha.

According to Greenwood Village Clerk Cheris Cadwell building permits for 2019 show that growth in Greenwood remains unchanged. Records show that two residential permits were obtained last year; one by Gateway Homes and the other by Greenlight Reality.

Ashland-Greenwood senior Bryce Kitrell has committed to play football alongside his older brother Brett at the University of Ohio in the fall of 2020. Kitrell, a 6-foot, 190-pound running back received the offer from Coach Frank Solich and the Ohio University coaching staff in June and made the commitment in early December.

A young black Labrador retriever named Axel is one lucky dog. Axel fell through the ice at Memphis State Lake on Jan. 8 trying to retrieve a goose his owner had shot. After an attempt to save Axel with a small boat failed, Ashland firefighters were called to the scene. Stan Smith, Chase Barten Caleb Alcorn and Brad Dill were able to pull Axel back to dry land.

The Ashland-Greenwood Bluejay wrestling team finished fifth while competing in front of the home fans at the annual Jack Murray Invitational on Jan. 10. The Bluejays were led by first place performances by Blaine Christo and Jacob Ludwig.

The Ashland-Greenwood Speech Team hosted their annual Oxbow Invitational Speech meet. Last year, winter weather forced the meet to be cancelled and this year with winter weather causing problems several teams decided not to travel to Ashland. Thirteen teams attended the meet this year and the Ashland-Greenwood Speech team took third place.

Sophomore Cale Jacobsen scored 30 points and added nine rebounds in the Bluejays’ 63-56 overtime win over Platteview on Jan. 14 at home.

Something other than a fire caught the attention of firefighters as they fought a blaze in an Ashland home. On Jan. 22, the Ashland Volunteer Fire Department was called at 4:49 a.m. to a house fire at 1442 Boyd Street. While fighting the fire, firefighters found a marijuana growing operation in the house. Ashland Fire Chief Mike Meyer said plants were found in the basement and in a makeshift closet on the first floor.

Ashland area nurse Debra Zobel founded the Nebraska Nurses Honor Guard with assistance from Melinda Pike and Phyllis Behrens, nurses that are also from Ashland. The nonprofit organization will bestow an official tribute at the time of a nurse’s death.

Jacob Ludwig was crowned conference champ in the 220-pound weight division at the Capitol Conference Tournament on Jan. 25 in Wahoo. Blaine Christo took runner-up at 106 pounds.

The Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce announced the theme of the 2020 Stir-Up during its annual banquet on Jan. 30. The theme will focus on the alien abduction reported by an Ashland police officer in 1967. A “little green alien” helped Stir-Up Co-chair Shelly Pfeiffer make the announcement.

Thirty residential and two commercial building permits were issued in Ashland in 2019. The new Whitetail Estates subdivision had 14 permits for new homes, while Sabre Heights tallied eight and Iron Horse had three. Greystone Estates and Mahoney Estates had two each and the east side of Ashland saw one new home built.

February

The Ashland-Greenwood boys’ basketball team fell to Wahoo 72-52 in the Capitol Conference Championship game in Arlington on Feb. 1.

The Shrine Bowl of Nebraska Board of Directors released the rosters for the 62nd Annual Nebraska Shrine Bowl Game. Ashland-Greenwood’s Ryan Thompson will lead the North Team. At his side will be Nate Tonjes, also of Ashland-Greenwood, who was chosen as an assistant coach. Area players chosen include Jacob Ludwig and Bryce Kitrell, both of Ashland-Greenwood.

Fifty-seven quarantined individuals were quarantined at Camp Ashland starting Feb. 7. The individuals been in Wuhan, China, ground zero for the novel coronavirus outbreak, but had not shown any symptoms and were checked multiple times as they traveled to Nebraska. As of Feb. 10, there were 12 people who tested positive for the virus in the U.S., according to the CDC. None are located in Nebraska. The closest states are Illinois and Michigan.

Eleven works of art produced by Ashland-Greenwood High School art students received recognition in the 2020 Scholastic State Art Awards show, presented by Omaha Public Schools. Ashland’s state art winners included Cleo Wills, Josetta Ward, Tori Holt, Trinity Rowley, Malyssa Cool, Zandi Kern, Darby Walsh, Jayden Basa, and Emily Kwarcinski.

The Ashland-Greenwood Board of Education approved the hiring of five new teachers for the 2020-2021 school year on Feb. 17. Elsie Busenitz, Brandy Drueke, Lindsay Kellams, Nick Kaiser and Logan Morris were hired.

Ashland-Greenwood wrestlers Blaine Christo and Jacob Ludwig capped their seasons by competing in the Nebraska State Wrestling Championships in Omaha at the CHI Health Center on Feb. 20 to 22. Christo finished with a record of 2-2 in Omaha. Ludwig was upset in his opening round match against James Hernandez of Lexington. Ludwig bounced back with a pinfall victory over Martin Carillo of Wayne and a 3-1 sudden victory over Jacob Krauter of Waverly. His tournament ended on Friday when he dropped a 14-5 major decision at the hands of Blake Davis of Hastings in the third round of consolations.

At the Feb. 20 Ashland City Council meeting, the council voted to lower the speed limit on 30th Street from 35 to 25 miles per hour.

The Lady Jays ended the 2019-2020 basketball season during subdistrict play in Waverly. On Feb. 18, Ashland-Greenwood beat Conestoga 61-16 in the opening round. Junior Saige Craven led the team with 12 points while junior Kiara Libal had 11 points and seven rebounds. Two nights later, the Jays’ were bested by Louisville 51-36 to end their season. Libal led the Jays with 15 points.

On Feb. 27 representatives from the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) and Olsson, the prime contractor for the project, held meetings with stakeholders and the public in Ashland, Lincoln and Omaha to discuss updates to a study the NDOT started last July as part of its Mobility Management Project to determine if a bus service between Lincoln and Omaha would be feasible.

At the public open house in Ashland, Corinne Donahue, senior planner with Olsson, said if funding is secured and bids opened on time, the buses could be running in about 18 months.

March

Last year’s devastating flooding proved to the Ashland Volunteer Fire Department that they needed to obtain equipment geared toward rescue in such situations. Fire Captain Mike Meyer said the department has started gathering such equipment, including a Zodiac inflatable boat, ropes and other gear that will help with water rescues.

The Ashland-Greenwood speech team earned third place at a meet in Waverly on March 6 just before the NSAA cancelled all district and state speech contests due to the pandemic.

Several youth wrestlers from Ashland-Greenwood were participating in a tournament in Fremont on March 7 when the event was suspended in the middle of action after it was revealed the state’s first COVID-19 patient was in Fremont days earlier. None of the local youth were exposed to the virus.

The Ashland-Greenwood Bluejay boys basketball team gave top-rated, undefeated Auburn all they wanted in the opening round of the Class C-1 Boys State Basketball Tournament in Lincoln on March 12. The Bluejays led most of the first half, but Auburn was able to wrestle away the lead at the half and converted at the free throw line late in the game to secure a 54-48 win. The game was played in front of a sparse crowd made up of only family members due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were no fans, bands or cheerleaders allowed to attend.

On March 15, Superintendent Jason Libal issued a statement via social media and the school website notifying the public that Ashland-Greenwood Public Schools will remain closed until at least March 27 due to COVID-19. Three Rivers Health Department, which serves Dodge, Washington and Saunders counties, reported that as of March 13 there were 19 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in the state. There were no reported cases in the area served by Three Rivers. Twelve individuals have been tested and all were negative, the health department said. All activities and sports are also put on hold for the time being.

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The Ashland Public Library closed to the public on March 16, making the announcement just minutes after the school district suspended classes and activities.

Azria Health Ashland (formerly Ashland Care Center) began restricting visitors on March 7. On March 15, Oxbow Living Center announced that they would not be allowing guests into the facility.

The Greenwood Village Board of Trustees held an emergency meeting March 16 to discuss temporary closures of the village office, library and community building and possibly waiving late fees and disconnections in March for utilities.

On March 18, the Saunders County Board of Supervisors held an emergency meeting to approve closing all county buildings to the public.

The administration of Ashland-Greenwood Public Schools, on advice from the state education commissioner, announced March 24 that students and teachers would continue remote learning for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.

On March 24 Saunders County reported its first case of COVID-19. The second cases was reported a day later, according to Three Rivers Public Health Department.

Just as Trevor and Jen Haschenburger were getting used to owning and operating their own restaurant, the dining room of Breadeaux Pizza was declared off limits by the growing threat from COVID-19. The couple took over the restaurant in February.

On March 26, the Ashland community held a Social Distancing Cruise Night with over 100 vehicles participating in the old-fashioned parade of cards down main street.

April

The Ashland-Greenwood High School FBLA chapter had a record six teams and 15 students qualify for the national conference during the recent FBLA State Leadership Conference, according to Advisor Amber Dutcher. The state conference was to be held from March 30 and April 1 in Kearney. While students were not allowed to attend due to COVID-19, the events were still judged with the following results from the Ashland-Greenwood High School FBLA chapter.

On April 3, the City of Ashland closed its playgrounds by order of the Board of Health. The playgrounds at Wiggenhorn Park, the Kiddy Korner Park at Jack Anderson Ball Park, the Euclid Street Park and the East Side Park are roped off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, said City Administrator Jessica Quady.

Alicia Bohlen and Blake Kobs were named king and queen of the 2020 Ashland-Greenwood prom, but it was without the usual pomp and circumstance. The pandemic postponed prom “indefinitely” but the pair were crowned on April 3, the original date prom was to be held.

During the Ashland City Council meeting on April 16, City Administrator Jessica Quady told the council that the city is facing a decrease in revenue due to a potential decline in sales tax receipts, keno income and property tax proceeds.

At its April 20 meeting, the Ashland-Greenwood Board of Education heard from administrators what they termed “the new normal,” which includes remote learning, distributing food to students, keeping employees on the payroll and planning for the future.

Jeanette Morley was pronounced dead after a fire in her apartment in the Ashland Heights apartment complex on April 28.

At its April meeting, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved the naming of the Warren G. Sanger Conference Center, to be located in the new home of the Munroe-Meyer Institute for Genetics and Rehabilitation, which is scheduled to open in 2021.

This naming, on behalf of the late Warren Sanger, Ph.D., formerly of Ashland, honors his commitment to educating future generations, along with his vigorous pursuit of cutting-edge discovery through research and collaborative efforts and his status as a pioneer in human genetics.

May

On May 8, Three Rivers Public Health Department announced that a man in his 70s from Saunders County who had underlying health conditions died earlier in the week from COVID-19. It was the first death reported in Saunders County from the virus.

Bob and Christy Luebbe opened the Ashland RV Campground on May 15. The 30-site campground is located near the Salt Creek bridge over Silver Street. The former trusses for the bridge frame the exit for the campground. Luebbe salvaged them when the new bridge was installed.

The majority of the summer activities planned for the community were cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, including Stir-Up in July. The Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce announced the decision May 15. This is only the fourth time since 1935 that the community celebration will not be held.

Saunders County hosted the first mass COVID-19 testing event on May 18 at the Saunders County Fairgrounds in Wahoo. Nearly 200 tests were administrated in the drive-through process.

The Ashland City Council held its first in-person meeting in more than a month on May 21, where the subject of a planned storage unit was discussed.

The courthouse was closed to all business on May 21 for deep cleaning and sanitization after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. Another two employees received positive test results a few days later. The facility reopened to the public briefly on May 26, the same day the Cass County Board of Commissioners met in an emergency meeting to discuss the situation. It was decided by a unanimous vote to close the courthouse until May 29, and reopen on June 1 by appointment only.

June

Joseph Greise, Caleb Kasper, Gracie Hofmeister and Cael Smith, middle school students from Ashland-Greenwood Public Schools, qualified for the Nebraska Junior Academy of Science State Science Fair Competition, which was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A virtual science fair was held in June.

The Ashland-Greenwood weight room opened to Bluejay athletes on June 4.

Parts of Mahoney State Park reopened the public the first week of June after closing in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While areas like the water park, butterfly pavilion and the Peter Kiewit Lodge remained closed, all playgrounds and campsites opened on June 4. All cabins remained closed.

June 4 also marked the day the City of Ashland reopened its parks and splash pad to the public. The city pool remained closed.

The COVID-19 pandemic canceled summer camp at Carol Joy Holling Camp, the summer camp near Ashland operated by Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries.

The Saunders County Board of Supervisors voted on June 2 to reopen the courthouse to the public.

The highly-anticipated Chautauqua festival planned for late summer has been postponed by the pandemic. Officials from Humanities Nebraska made the announcement in June that the event, which was to follow a theme of the 1950s in Nebraska, would be rescheduled for 2021.

Over 40 peaceful protestors marched through the streets of Ashland in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on June 13. Isaiah McVay organized the march with the help of Dene’ Oglesby after witnessing the protests taking across the country following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

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