Family was front and center at the 10th Annual Recovery in the Park barbecue event hosted by Horizon Recovery Tuesday night at Chautauqua Park.
An estimated 550 people turned out — many with young children in tow — to enjoy the festive atmosphere that this year included a petting zoo with goats, chickens, and rabbits hosted by Rural Ranchers, face painting, Kool-Aid Man, and a barbecue with plenty of sweets for dessert. Participating area agencies included The Bridge and Kiwanis Club of Hastings.
Horizon Executive Director Dan Rutt said the emphasis on family was one reason why there was no band performing at this year’s event. People gathered under the pavilion to visit, eat and listen to speakers Larry Mohlman of Hastings and Tim Hand from Grand Island deliver encouraging messages of hope and success to an audience that included several families commemorating stints of sobriety and recovery of loved ones.
“Addiction is not just a one-person illness,” Rutt said. “It’s a family illness, and we have to treat the family. That’s why we decided to go more family-oriented this year.
“It’s a two-fold event. First of all, we want to celebrate all the people who are in recovery and all the people who have overcome the demons they’ve fought, and a lot of those folks are here tonight. We just really want to let them know how proud we are of them and thankful they have a great life. The second piece is to give back to the community that supports us very well and make sure we thank them appropriately.”
Youngsters flocking to the petting zoo gravitated largely to the well-behaved goats, though the timid rabbits were instant favorites among the youngest of the young, said Dave Berens of Rural Ranchers.
Berens said he jumped at the chance to involve Rural Ranchers in the celebratory event after receiving an invite from Rutt, a longtime friend who once served as his student teacher during his teaching stint at Lincoln Elementary School.
“We love to celebrate with people,” Berens said. “I want Rural Ranchers to bring a feeling of community. If we can bring a feeling of community working together helping one another, gosh, we’ve accomplished a whole bunch.
“We don’t do this enough in our community. We don’t celebrate the good stuff. We always hear about the bad stuff. What a way to celebrate! Whether it’s six months, six years, or 12 years, it doesn’t matter. We need to celebrate that kind of stuff with these folks and we’re really glad that we can help do that.”
For Chelsea Johnson, 24, a nurse at Mary Lanning Healthcare, this year’s event marked her first exposure to Celebrate Recovery.
Attending with her father, two foster siblings and young son, she said she was glad to see the community coming together to encourage those battling addiction to fight on.
“It’s a great program for the community,” she said. “It involves everyone to get together and kind of encourage recovery for all sorts of different things. We need more acceptance in the community for people trying to get back out there in their recovery from substance abuse.”
Jestani Hillis, 14, of Hastings has been a regular in attendance at Celebrate Recovery events. Joined by her mother and five siblings, her plan was to make the rounds to all the various stations and visit with friends before joining her family for dinner.
“It’s pretty fun,” she said. “So far, I like the animals and face painting, but I haven’t gotten to face painting yet.
“It (the event) helps you get closer with your community. And Celebrate Recovery is a good cause.”
During his talk, Mohlman carried several hundred pounds of backpacks and suitcases around on stage to illustrate how the baggage of addiction weighs an addict down.
A one-time addict now 28 years sober, he battled “every kind of addition I can think of,” and shares his story with members in his support group ministry “Celebrate Recovery.” Volunteers from that group were among those helping grill meat for the event.
“Hopefully, people won’t take anything away with them tonight but leave their own baggage behind,” he said. “The Lord is using me to work with people who are addicted and in recovery, too.
“How do you do that? It all depends on Jesus to tell you the truth. That’s how we do it. We get to that point where the brokenness actually gets you to drop your bags.”
Mayor Corey Stutte turned out with his wife, Laura, and young daughter, Lila, to support an event he considers an asset to the community.
“Recovery in the Park is always a great event and I look forward to coming out to it every year,” he said. “It’s always fun to see all the kids running around, and more importantly, to learn about what Recovery in the Park is actually about, which is recovery.
“We’ve got a great community here in Hastings that’s very supportive of people who are in recovery. We’re lucky to have groups like Horizon Recovery here to help move those sorts of things along.”
Once again Hastings is hosting 13 teenagers and four master gardeners from its sister city halfway around the globe, Ozu, Japan.
Arriving Sunday, the Japanese teenagers, age 12-17, are staying until Aug. 4 and will tour Hastings and other nearby points of interest.
The master gardeners left Tuesday after working to fix and clean up the Ozu Friendship Garden next to the Hazelrigg Student Union on the Hastings College campus.
Residents from both cities have been taking turns visiting each other for the past 24 years. The trips are organized through the Hastings International Exchange Organization.
On Tuesday, the Ozu group took a trip to the Auten farm, owned by Greg and Ann Auten near Blue Hill, to learn about agriculture.
“Nebraska is a big agriculture community, so we thought this would be a fun thing to do,” said Jessica Henry, the activity coordinator of the visit.
As the Autens explained what each piece of farmer’s equipment does, the group was quickly surprised by the equipment’s size. To remember the moment, teenagers posed for photos from inside the combine harvester’s cabin and in front of tractor tires, that towered over their heads.
In Ozu, farms are smaller and divided into terraces — steps in fields or mountains to make the land flat and farmable. The Ozu farms mostly grow rice, but the area is also known for its sweet potatoes.
The group later visited a plot of field corn, where Greg explained the process of farming soybeans and corn. After explaining to the teenagers that the field corn was not the same corn people eat, he let them pick their own ear of corn for selfies and to keep.
Mitsunaru Sakamoto, a master gardener, said corn is not as common in Ozu, but more ranchers are growing corn to supplement their cattle feed; most still import the crop. Sakamoto is visiting Hastings for the sixth time.
The group then visited a grain storage bin. The Autens showed them how the crop moved from bin to truck and how a large scale weighs the trucks as they leave. Ann explained that two of the grain bins had recently been destroyed by a tornado.
Matt Sievert, translator and coordinator of international relations, translated Ann’s story; teenagers awed when he said “tatsumaki” — the Japanese word for tornado.
“It’s a lot of surprise,” Henry said.
Henry is also hosting two of the teenagers, Kureha Shioi and Aoi Tamanaga. She said this is the fourth time she has hosted people from Ozu.
Henry’s daughter, Kelyn, joined the group during their farm outing and spends evenings with Shioi and Tamanaga.
Kelyn said one of the biggest takeaways from spending time with the two is learning how polite Japanese culture is, saying “thank you” and “thank you very much” after small acts.
Kelyn said she was also surprised at how gift giving is a significant act in Japan; she wore a small pin that was given to her by a master gardener during the farm visit.
Earlier in the week, master gardeners worked on the Ozu Friendship garden. This included replacing the old bamboo fence and cleaning it up.
Seiichi Kamaura, one of the garden’s original designers, was part of the group this year.
In addition to the farm, the teenagers had a meeting with Hastings Mayor Corey Stutte, made jewelry at a local craft shop and swam at the Hastings Aquacourt Water Park.
Later this week, they will visit the Hastings Senior High School to see what American schools are like and then go shopping in Grand Island.
“They like shopping,” Kelyn said.
As always, Henry said they wanted to make the trip educational and fun for the Ozu visitors.
GUIDE ROCK — Authorities have released the names of two men who drowned Friday in a fishing mishap on the Republican River near the Guide Rock Diversion Dam.
A post on the Webster County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page Tuesday morning identified the men as Cody A. Reutter, 29, of Blue Hill and Omar Martinez Cruz, 27, of Grand Island.
Law enforcement, first responders, firefighters, dive team members and other volunteers searched for two men over a long weekend after they went missing on Friday about 3:45 p.m.
“The Sheriff’s Office would like to thank all the volunteers, first responders, law enforcement, firemen, the dive team members, the Methodist church and the community for all their help these past few days,” the sheriff’s office stated in another post on its Facebook page. “All the show of support from food, drinks etc and people willing to help is a true blessing. This was a team effort and we want to thank everyone.”
Webster County Sheriff Troy Schmitz said the men had been fishing near the dam and they were pulled under water by the undertow.
A third man was rescued from the river as part of the same incident. He was taken to a hospital while the search began.
Law enforcement from Webster and Nuckolls counties responded Friday, as well as emergency responders from Guide Rock and Red Cloud and rescue divers from Hebron and Deshler.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission joined in the search Saturday using a boat with side sonar equipment. Rescue divers from Grand Island also assisted.
The search continued into the evening each day and had to be suspended until daylight the following day. Workers used kayaks, air boats and foot patrol to scour the area searching for any sign of the missing men.
About 9:25 a.m. Sunday, rescuers found the remains of one of the men about a quarter- to a half-mile east of the dam.
About 3 p.m. Monday, the second body was recovered about 1.5 miles east down the river from the dam.
Funeral services for Reutter are planned for 3 p.m. Friday at First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hastings. Book signing is 1-7 p.m. Thursday with family present from 5-7 at Livingston Butler Volland Funeral Home in Hastings.
DETROIT (AP) — The signature domestic proposal by the leading progressive candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination came under withering attack from moderates in a debate that laid bare the struggle between a call for revolutionary policies and a desperate desire to defeat President Donald Trump.
Standing side by side at center stage on Tuesday, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren slapped back against their more cautious rivals who ridiculed "Medicare for All" and warned that "wish-list economics" would jeopardize Democrats' chances for taking the White House in 2020.
"I don't understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can't do and shouldn't fight for," said Warren, a Massachusetts senator, decrying Democratic "spinelessness."
Sanders, a Vermont senator, agreed: "I get a little bit tired of Democrats afraid of big ideas."
A full six months before the first votes are cast, the tug-of-war over the future of the party pits pragmatism against ideological purity as voters navigate a crowded Democratic field divided by age, race, sex and ideology. The fight with the political left was the dominant subplot on the first night of the second round of Democratic debates, which was notable as much for its tension as its substance.
Twenty candidates are spread evenly over two nights of debates Tuesday and Wednesday. The second night features early front-runner Joe Biden, the former vice president, as well as Kamala Harris, a California senator.
While much of the debate was dominated by attacks on the preferred liberal health care policy, the issue of race emerged in the second hour. The candidates, all of whom are white, were unified in turning their anger toward Trump for using race as a central theme in his reelection campaign. Sanders called Trump a racist, while others said the president's rhetoric revived memories of the worst in the country's history, including slavery.
"The legacy of slavery and segregation and Jim Crow and suppression is alive and well in every aspect of the economy and the country today," said former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, adding that he supported the creation of a panel to examine reparations for the descendants of slaves.
The marathon presidential primary season won't formally end for another year, but there was an increasing sense of urgency for many candidates who are fighting for survival. More than a dozen could be blocked from the next round of debates — and effectively pushed out of the race — if they fail to reach new polling and fundraising thresholds implemented by the Democratic National Committee.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is working to keep her campaign alive, aligned herself with the pragmatic wing: "We are more worried about winning an argument than winning an election."
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, in his first debate appearance, took a swipe at Sanders: Working people "can't wait for a revolution," he charged. "Their problems are here and now."
While he avoided any direct confrontations with his more liberal rivals, Pete Buttigieg tried several times to present himself as the more sober alternative in the race. He rejected extreme positions, quoted scripture and abstained from calling out his opponents.
The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, also subtly emphasized the generational difference between himself and Sanders, the candidate 40 years his senior standing to his side.
Perhaps no issue illustrates the evolving divide within the Democratic Party more than health care.
Sanders' plan to provide free universal health care, known as Medicare for All, has become a litmus test for liberal candidates, who have embraced the plan to transform the current system despite the political and practical risks. Medicare for All would abandon the private insurance market in favor of a taxpayer-funded system that would cover all Americans.
In targeting Medicare for All, the more moderate candidates consistently sought to undermine Sanders and Warren. The moderates variously derided Medicare for All as too costly, ineffective and a near-certain way to give Republicans the evidence they needed that Democrats supported socialism.
"They're running on telling half the country that their health care is illegal," said former Maryland Rep. John Delaney.
"We have a choice: We can go down the road that Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren want to take us, which is with bad policies like Medicare for All, free everything and impossible promises," he continued. "It will turn off independent voters and get Trump reelected."
Yet Sanders and Warren did not back down. While they are competing for the same set of liberal voters, there seemed to be no daylight between them.
"Health care is a human right, not a privilege. I believe that. I will fight for that," Sanders said.
Buttigieg called on his party to stop the infighting.
"It is time to stop worrying about what the Republicans will say," Buttigieg declared. "It's true that if we embrace a far-left agenda, they're going to say we're a bunch of crazy socialists. If we embrace a conservative agenda, you know what they're going to do? They're going to say we're a bunch of crazy socialists. So let's just stand up for the right policy, go out there and defend it."
A new set of candidates, none with more to lose than Biden, will face off on Wednesday.
There, Biden will fight to prove that his underwhelming performance during last month's opening debate was little more than an aberration.
It won't be easy.
The 76-year-old Democrat is expected to face new questions regarding his past policies and statements about women and minorities — both key constituencies he needs to claim the Democratic Party's nomination and ultimately defeat Trump.
Meanwhile, Trump said earlier in the day that he would watch Tuesday's prime-time affair from the White House. But his Twitter feed was uncharacteristically silent until Wednesday morning, when Trump declared that the Democratic candidates would "lead us into an economic sinkhole the likes of which we have never seen before."
Peoples reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Elana Schor in Washington contributed to this report.