The time has come to fill in the oval and let your voice be heard. Election day is Tuesday in Hamilton County and throughout Nebraska, though many area voters may have already done their civic duty with early voting and mail-in ballots now a popular option. Regardless of how or when you vote, the most important thing is that you do cast your ballot, participating in an election process that lies at the core of our democratic form of government. There are some interesting races in the 2014 General Election, though it’s not nearly as full a slate as a presidential election year. The last two months have been relatively void of the negative campaign ads and media blitz we have become accustomed to, which was a refreshing change.
The betterhalf and I headed to Texas to visit the grandkids this past week. Naturally, we both tried to find some one-on-one time to spoil them. That time came on a Sunday afternoon when we suggested going to a movie of their choice and emphasized it must be a movie that was appropriate for a couple of boys ages 9 and 11. When making the movie suggestion we had in mind a Disney flick, a comedy, or an animated film. Two of three themes were eliminated immediately when no Disney shows, or animated films were available. Subject matter number three -- a comedy -- proved not appropriate in our estimation for our young viewers.
Hamilton County’s rich history in ag-based innovation and record-breaking production was on display again last week with the grand re-opening of Syngenta’s new $63 million expansion project. Though the facility was essentially completed in time for last year’s harvest, the company took some extra time to celebrate the finished product, which is indeed a shining star for Hamilton County. This is a success story that continues to evolve, and will for generations to come. On a site that has been producing seed corn since 1943, Syngenta continues to build on a legacy of success. What started with a 2-acre field named Prairie Valley Farm by the Heuermann family has since grown to a sprawling 60 acre complex with some of the most cutting-edge technology on the planet. Fittingly, Keith Heuermann was in attendance last week, as were many of the growers who have dedicated their land to growing seed for many years.
Over the past few weeks I’ve made some observations. Noting that the world is changing you are welcome to take what those observations are worth. I was always thankful that I felt the Midwest was exempt from the troubles of the metro areas of the East and West Coasts. Apparently those troubles have entered our Midwest. The Omaha Public Schools budgeted $1.1 million for its share of Omaha police officer employment on OPS sites based on a 50-50 cost split with the law enforcement agency. The Omaha Police Department counted 844 arrests at OPS middle and high schools this past year – 42 felony arrests and 802 misdemeanor arrests. *** Now for other observations how our world is changing: It takes someone older than most people now living to remember why 10-cent stores were so named. But, wait a minute! We still have those stores. Counting inflation factors they are now called “Dollar General Stores.” ***
Quality health care facilities are an essential ingredient to a strong and stable community, something Aurora’s forefathers figured out more than 50 years ago. The vision and perseverance of a handful of men and women who had the community’s health and well being at heart is worth celebrating in this golden anniversary year. It is simply impossible to place a value on what a hospital means to a town and its residents, but we know for a fact that Aurora wouldn’t be the place it is today without Memorial Hospital and the MCHI health care umbrella. Marking the hospital’s 50th anniversary has been a year-long celebration, beginning with an open house in January. Another event is planned in December, and the News-Register devoted some well-deserved front page space today to a story that deserves to be told, retold and remembered.
My Kansas City Royals are winning, again, in the postseason. What a concept. As a lifelong Royals fan, I’m enjoying the heck out of the playoffs this year, reliving emotions and pitch-by-pitch reactions I haven’t felt for almost 30 years. It’s been a long, long time for my boys in blue. What’s not to like about these Kansas City Royals? These guys are good. They are fast, fun to watch and there’s a hometown hero on the roster in former Husker Alex Gordon. That’s a bonus giving Husker fans something to cheer about six other days of the week this fall. I was ecstatic after the dramatic 12th-inning wildcard win last week over Oakland, thinking they at least made the playoffs. All of September felt like the playoffs due to the wildcard format, which is good for the game, the players and especially the fans.
When the month of October rolls around, even at our age, it’s hard not to relate to that big date of the year, Oct. 31, or best known as Halloween. Of course the viewpoint of Halloween is relative to the age of the viewer. The younguns relate to Halloween and candy handouts, or treats. The teenagers have visions of a few tricks and thankfully those seemed to have mellowed over the years. And speaking of mellowing, we oldsters figure it’s time to turn out the house lights by 9:30 p.m.; put away the candy dish by the doorway; and hope the trick and treaters didn’t grab all the Milky Way candy bars (Don’t we always buy our favorite candies for Halloween hoping only a few Halloween’ers grace our doorway?).
What makes a community? That question could draw thousands of different answers if asked here in Hamilton County, though we would suggest one common denominator is the sense of belonging and ultimately the connection to people who live here. Providing that connection, sharing stories and strengthening ties that bind is the mission of the Aurora News-Register, something we proudly celebrate during National Newspaper Week. To be sure, our industry has changed dramatically in the last decade or more. We are no longer simply a weekly printed product, though some loyal, longtime readers may still see the News-Register in that light. I do see anxious readers standing by the news racks on Tuesday afternoon when fresh weekly copies of the paper are delivered, but more accurately, these days, our core business can be defined as gathering and sharing local information in whatever format our readers prefer.
Lifestyles are supposed to change when those retirement years come around. I was led to believe retirement would be, “Doing what you want when you want to.” With that vision in mind, I’ve found after 13 years of retirement I have been deceived. “What are you doing in your spare time?” That was generally the first question directed at me during my early years of retirement. Next came, “I’m looking for volunteers and since you’re retired, could you help me?” However the biggest lesson came from the betterhalf addressing me how my retirement years would unfold. She was quick to point out that I may be retired, but she wasn’t. There would be certain days she played bridge and my lunch could be found in the fridge. She also explained Monday was wash day and if I needed a certain garment for end of the week wearing, I better have that garment in the clothes hamper by early Monday morn.
The view, and the vision, are amazing. For more than 20 years now Bill and Jan Whitney have been working hard to preserve, explore and share the diversity of nature through their efforts with the Prairie Plains Resource Institute. Those efforts have helped create the wildly successful Summer Orientation About Rivers (SOAR) program, as well as the Charles Whitney Education Center, both of which are feathers in the cap of Hamilton County. Not far from Aurora, people of all ages, backgrounds and interests can gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Platte River and the Midwest’s soils, plant and animal life. There is something very special, and grounding, about spending time on the Griffith Prairie, for example, which helps any and all who experience such scenic beauty realize the importance of preserving our natural resources.