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Looking back as 2020 comes to end
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Looking back as 2020 comes to end

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Year in Review Part 2

WAHOO – There are many words that could be considered “words of the year” for 2020 – COVID-19, pandemic, cancelled. But there are many others that can be included in this list. Resilient, courageous and steadfast. Because that is what the people of our area have become as they withstand the trials and tribulations set forth by the pandemic, and continue life as normal as possible.

Examples of this can be found in the news that the Wahoo Newspaper reported in 2020. We continue our look at the year we just finished with the second half of 2020.

July

On July 1 the Saunders County Agricultural Society made the final decision that the Saunders County Fair would be held in 2020, but in a modified format because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wahoo State Bank Reds senior Legion baseball team earned their first win of the season on July 2 in Seward.

A group of nature enthusiasts and amateur horticulturists attended an open house at the Knott Tallgrass Prairie just north of Yutan on July 5. Tim Knott, the namesake of the prairie, hosted the event, which included tours of the property and educational information.

Former beautician Bernice Wiese celebrated her 100th birthday quietly on July 7 at her residence at Saunders House with lunch and birthday cake with her daughter, Donna Johnson of Lincoln.

During the July 9 meeting, the Wahoo City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance setting regulations for food trucks and mobile food vendors and declared a dog potentially dangerous after it bit a teenager but did not cause injury that required medical attention.

Raymond Central FFA is working with the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District on a garden project located near the school shop.

Judge Andrew Lange denied bond for Kolten Barnes during a hearing July 20 in Saunders County Court. Barnes has been charged with first degree murder in the killing of his fiancé, Kayla Matulka, on July 15, at their home in Malmo.

College students and best friends Seth Varner and Austin Schneider of Wahoo wrapped up their summer quest to visit all 531 towns in Nebraska with a parade in their hometown on July 17. The pair embarked on their “Visit 531 Nebraska” journey on April 22. They put nearly 9,000 miles on their cars as they stopped at every incorporated village and city in the state.

Members of the Raymond Central High School Class of 2020 celebrated their graduation on July 18 in an outdoor ceremony.

Jeff and Jan Lewis have opened A-Maze-ing Flowers and Studio at their rural home near Prague.

Wahoo High School held its graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 on July 19 in the school gym, with social distancing protocols in place. Yutan also held a graduation ceremony the day before at the school’s football field.

Immanuel Lutheran Church in Ceresco hosted a drive-through Vacation Bible School on July 23. Families drove around the community to different locations where stories of the bible came to life.

The Saunders County Fair got underway on July 26 with the Demolition Derby and various 4-H events.

Raymond Central soccer player Kassidy Johnson ended her prep career by helping the away team win the match at the Nebraska High School Soccer Senior Showcase on July 24 in Omaha.

No. 1 seed and defending champion Lauren Thiele of Wahoo was defeated in the tournament semifinals of the 97th Nebraska Women’s Match Play Championship in Kearney.

August

Bishop Neumann High School held commencement exercises on Aug. 1 for the Class of 2020. The ceremony was originally scheduled for May 9 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Saunders County Fair wrapped up on Aug. 1. Assistant Saunders County Extension Educator Cole Meador said 518 youth showed animals or brought exhibits to the fair, which is about average. Attendance at non-4-H events was down because of the pandemic, but that was because they were complying with the state’s Directed Health Measures by spacing out crowds and participants, said Saunders County Agricultural Society President Kris Kavan.

The families of Jim Kellner, Anton Rezac and Louis Vanek Sr. received the Aksarben Foundation Pioneer Farm Family Award on Aug. 1 during the Saunders County Fair.

Saunders Medical Center began daily COVID-19 testing on Aug. 3.

Richard Evans took over the Bishop Neumann football team.

The Wahoo Police Department received permission from the Wahoo City Council on Aug. 13 to begin fundraising for a canine drug unit.

School started across the area in August with student and teachers wearing masks and learning to practice social distancing on the first day.

Kolten Barnes entered a plea of not guilty in Saunders County District Court on Aug. 17 to charges of first degree murder, child abuse and cruelty to animals. The next day, Judge Christina Marroquin set bond for Barnes at $5 million.

Dozens of antique and vintage tractors rolled out from Weston onto the country roads of Saunders County on Aug. 23 for the Vintage Tractor Ride sponsored by the Weston American Legion and organized by Eugene Kremlacek.

Raymond Central Public Schools hosted an online kickoff party for their new STEM transformation program on Aug. 26. The webinar introduced the public to the program, which will integrate science, technology, engineering and math into all parts of the curriculum.

Jeffrey Ehrlich was found guilty on six counts in Saunders County District Court on Aug. 27 in connection to a 2019 incident where he used a semi and a baseball bat to attack law enforcement officers. He was found guilty of third degree assault on an officer, terroristic threats, use of a deadly weapon to commit terrorist threats and child abuse.

September

Despite the Saunders County Planning Commission’s recommendation to deny approval, the Saunders County Board of Supervisors approved an application for a preliminary plat for Whispering Ridge subdivision near Leshara during the county board meeting on Sept. 1.

Stop signs were installed for east and westbound traffic at 15th and Chestnut Streets on Sept. 8. The Wahoo City Council passed a resolution authorizing placement of the signs in August.

Dale Woita of Weston was sentenced to six to eight years in prison for writing three bad checks and one to two years in jail for theft by deception and forgery. Saunders County Attorney Joe Dobesh said the two terms will be served back-to-back.

There were 259 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Saunders County as of Sept. 14, with 94 cases reported in the previous two weeks. Many of the new cases were attributed to a large gathering of people held locally.

The tax rate for the City of Wahoo dropped slightly to $0.553 per $100 of valuation as the Wahoo City Council adopted the 2020-21 budget on Sept. 10.

The family of Rosemary Komenda donated books to the Wahoo Elementary School and St. Wenceslaus Elementary School libraries in honor of their grandmother and great-grandmother, who loved baking and science.

Wahoo High School hosted the Wahoo Cross Country Invitational at Lake Wanahoo on Sept. 10.

A drive-by birthday celebration was held on Sept. 13 at South Haven in Wahoo for Florence Wenninghoff, who turned 100 the day before.

The Saunders County Board of Supervisors approved the 2020-21 budget during the Sept. 15 meeting. The tax request, $10,139,562.69, is the same amount as the year before.

Steve Epp of Tulsa, Okla. carried a huge cross from Fremont to Wahoo, stopping in the Saunders County seat on Sept. 17. He started the project seven years ago, walking along major highways across the country to spread the message of his organization called “The Wall Tulsa.”

On Sept. 18, Manny Brazil of Wahoo was honored during Truck Driver Appreciation Week. Brazil works as a driver for Otte Oil and Propane.

The Wahoo Board of Education talked about a more restrictive mask mandate during the Sept. 21 meeting.

Becky Lacey, restaurant general manager of Pizza Hut in Wahoo, received the Folino Life Unboxed Award from Pizza Hut on Sept. 21 for her work as a manager and as a leader in the community and for her impact on customers and employees.

Saunders County mourned the loss of a couple who were known for their community spirit and volunteerism. Saunders County Supervisor Larry Mach and his wife, Margaret “Marty” Mach, were killed in a car accident on Sept. 25 near Wahoo.

October

Jeffrey Ehrlich was sentenced to 11 to 13 years in jail during a sentencing hearing on Oct. 5.

An outbreak of COVID-19 in the Saunders County Clerk’s office closed the office from Oct. 5 to 13.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Oct. 8 to mark the completion of the Chestnut Street Project in Wahoo. Officials from the City of Wahoo, the Wahoo Chamber of Commerce and Greater Wahoo Development Foundation, JEO Consulting Group and M.E. Collins Contracting Company attended.

The Wahoo Police Chief will take over the task of declaring dogs potentially dangerous or dangerous after the Wahoo City Council passed an ordinance on Oct. 8 that authorizes them to do so.

The Bishop Neumann softball team qualified for the state tournament by winning a best-of-three series against the Highway 91 Wolverines in Wahoo on Oct. 9.

Yutan High School students Kendyl Egr and Laycee Josoff won the Pinnacle Award for Best Sports Story – Video from the Nebraska Broadcasters Association for a video story they did about their cousin, Oliver Egr, who has Batten’s Disease.

The Saunders County Board of Supervisors on Oct. 13 approved a change in county zoning regulations that do not allow campgrounds to be located in agricultural zoning districts.

Harlan Johnson was honored with a party at Ernie’s in Ceresco on Oct. 13 to mark his retirement from the company after 56 years of employment.

The Bishop Neumann softball team won the opening round game against Hastings St. Cecilia at the Class C State Tournament in Hastings. They also beat Malcolm before losing to Kearney Catholic and Guardian Angels Central Catholic.

Human remains thought to be a missing local man were found in a tree line near Wahoo on Oct. 20. A few weeks later, Sheriff Kevin Stukenholtz confirmed the body was that of Nathan Fujan, who was reported missing in July.

Friends and family united to help the family of the late Jerry Ostransky finish harvest for the season. On Oct. 21, they completed harvest at Ostransky’s rented ground near Yutan. Ostransky died in a tractor accident near the property in July.

Cedar Bluffs Public Schools announced its first positive COVID-19 cases within the school on Oct. 22.

Raymond Central’s Sophia Schultz and Wahoo High School runner Josh Graber competed at the Nebraska State Cross Country Championships in Kearney on Oct. 23.

A South Dakota fugitive was arrested near Yutan on Oct. 27 after leading law enforcement on a chase that started in Valparaiso. Michael White left a gas station in Valparaiso without paying for gas. A deputy recognized the vehicle and began pursuit. White jumped out of his vehicle while stopped for a train on Highway 92 near Yutan and ran into a field nearby. Later, he was seen in the Dollar General Store, where police took him into custody.

The Mead Raider volleyball team qualified for the state tournament while competing in the D1-2 subdistrict tournament in Fremont on Oct. 26 and 27.

November

A record number of Saunders County voters participated in the Nov. 3 General Election. Saunders County Election Commissioner Patti Lindgren said there was a 7% increase in voter turnout, which was 81%, the highest the county has ever seen.

Scott Sukstorf was elected to his sixth term on the Saunders County Board, defeating write-in candidate Rob Thiessen. Tom Hrdlicka was elected to serve as the District 6 representative. He beat Kyle Morgan in the election.

Alex Shada, Renae Wotipka Feilmeier and Mike Hancock won the election for Wahoo Public School Board of Education.

Incumbent Bruce Bostelman defeated challenger Helen Raikes to win re-election to the District 23 seat in the Nebraska Legislature.

Ryan Ideus ran unopposed in Ward 1, as did Chris Rappl in Ward 2 for the Wahoo City Council. Both won their races handily. Johanna Peterson was re-elected to serve on the Yutan City Council for the West Ward. Declared write-in Mike Kelly won the East Ward seat.

Wahoo won the Class C-1 State Volleyball Championship on Nov. 7 by defeating St. Paul in five sets. The win capped an undefeated season for the Warriors and resulted in the school’s third title in four years.

The Mead Raider volleyball team finished the Class C-1 state tournament with a win in the consolation game over South Platte in three sets on Nov. 7. The victory gave the team the third place trophy.

The Calvary Robotics team has officially partnered with Wahoo Public Schools, which helped the team grow to 33 members. The club received a $10,000 donation from Wahoo Public Schools Foundation for start-up funding.

Representatives from the Wahoo Chamber of Commerce, the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce, the Saunders County Board of Supervisors, Saunders Medical Center and Three Rivers Public Health Department met via Zoom on Nov. 12 to discuss the rapidly evolving state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the county.

Larry Mach was honored posthumously as the Saunders County Veteran of the Month by the Saunders County Board of Supervisors at the board’s Nov. 10 meeting.

A spectacular season came to an end when the Yutan football team fell to Fremont Bergan 21-7 in the Class C-2 state football playoffs on Nov. 13.

Elle Glock signed a letter of intent to play volleyball for the University of Southern California Trojans.

Organizers announced that the annual Christmas

on the Prairie festivities would be cut back drastically due to the pandemic. Instead of a weekend full of events and activities at the Saunders County Museum, there were three static displays at the museum that were available by appointment only from Nov. 15 to Dec. 5.

The Wahoo All-Area softball first team includes Aja Henderson, Autumn Iverson, Harper Hancock, Kharissa Eddie (Wahoo), Mary Chvatal, Avery Mayberry, Hattie Bohac and Macy Sabatka (Bishop Neumann) and Kaelyn Fischer and Kiara Libal (Ashland-Greenwood) on the First Team.

The US Army Corps of Engineers held a virtual open house Nov. 18 to update the public on the ongoing efforts to mitigate the groundwater contamination created by the former Nebraska Ordinance Plant near Mead. Officials noted that containment goals were met for 2020.

The Visit 531 Nebraska duo of Seth Varner and Austin Schneider published a book about their adventure, which launched on Nov. 24.

At the Nov. 24 Wahoo City Council meeting, the council affirmed a mask mandate order established by the City of Wahoo Board of Health in a 4-3 vote that required the mayor to break the tie.

The new Beef Boosters program established by Saunders County Catholic Schools was originally spearheaded by the late Larry Mach. Nancy and Larry Chapek were the first livestock farm to donate a cow to the program, which uses the beef to feed students.

A jury trial was originally scheduled for Nov. 16 for Kolten Barnes, but he waived his right to a speedy trial during a hearing on Nov. 23 in Saunders County District Court. A status/pretrial hearing was set for Jan. 25, 2021.

December

The Wahoo All-Area volleyball first team includes Mya Larson, Kelsie Sears, Elle Glock and Lauren Kavan (Wahoo), Kali Jurgensmeier (Bishop Neumann), Emily Quinn (Mead) and Saige Craven (Ashland-Greenwood).

Players on the Wahoo All-Area football offense first team are Brady Timm, Caden Egr, Sam Petersen, Tyler Pinkelman (Yutan), Colin Ludvik, Brody Specht (Wahoo), Matthew Schuster, Lane Zimmerman, Cale Jacobsen (Ashland-Greenwood), Sam Vrana, Boston Pentico (Bishop Neumann), Brody Ptomey (Cedar Bluffs), Cade Mongan (Mead) and Conner Kreikemeier (Raymond Central).

The Wahoo All-Area football defense first team is made up of the following players: Carson Lavaley, Grant Kolterman, Cooper Hancock (Wahoo), Nick Laughlin, AJ Carritt (Mead), Gavin Kube, Isaiah Daniell (Yutan), Trevin Brecka (East Butler), Trent Barry (Bishop Neumann), Michael Potter (Raymond Central), Logan Sobota (Ashland-Greenwood).

The Saunders County Board of Supervisors approved members of the county planning commission on Dec. 1, replacing current commission chairperson Norm Nelson with Dean Curtis of Ashland and reappointing Pat McEvoy of Leshara.

John Smaus of Prague was appointed Dec. 2 to fill the

District 5 seat on the Saunders County Board of Supervisors that was vacated by the death of Larry Mach.

Paige Maly impersonated Cindy Lou Who for the Wahoo Chamber of Commerce’s “Shop Wahooville” campaign.

Wahoo hosted a scaled down version of Hometown Holidays on Dec. 2 that included a drive-by meeting with Santa, a visit with the Grinch and a “static” lighted parade, where floats and vehicles were parked in front of businesses.

Mitch Polacek was appointed Saunders County Zoning Administrator at the Dec. 8 county board meeting. He succeeded George Borreson, who retired.

The public voiced their opposition to the Wahoo mask mandate at the city council meeting on Dec. 10. Despite the opposition, the council approved the second reading of an ordinance to reaffirm the board of health order. Also during the meeting, Ryan Ideus, Chris Rappl and Patrick Nagle were sworn in as city council members.

Christina Whitney and Wes Waltermire have purchased the Wahoo Bakery. They are the seventh in a line of owners who have made the business one of the area’s most influential.

The Yutan Board of Education reopened the district to option enrollment students during the Dec. 14 meeting. The district had closed enrollment to students outside of the district at the beginning of the school year because of the pandemic.

Members of the Mead School Board got an in-depth look at the plans for the new gymnasium, weight room and locker room addition at the Dec. 14 meeting.

The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled Ceresco Days and put a stop to plans for a Christmas celebration in the village. Ceresco Days committee members had planned to have Santa visits, carolers and other activities on the weekend before Christmas until the pandemic changed their plans.

Volunteers with the VFW Christmas Drive delivered food and toys to 125 families, including 220 kids, on Dec. 19. A total of $24,090 was donated during the drive.

The Valparaiso Village Board discussed issues with the village’s public library during a Dec. 8 meeting.

Three Rivers Public Health Department announced Dec. 21 that the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine should arrive in the era by the end of the week.

The Wahoo City Council reversed its previous decision and voided the mask mandate during a meeting on Dec. 22. A group of opponents to the mask mandate attended the meeting via Zoom, along with officials from SMC and Three Rivers Public Health Department, who spoke in favor of the mandate.

The cross on the steeple of Bethlehem Lutheran Church was illuminated for the first time on Dec. 15 after a project funded by memorials to the late Warren Kennedy, a longtime member.

Wahoo native Sydney Abbott has joined the Lower Platte Natural Resources District as education coordinator.

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