Hastings will see a gush of additional vehicle and human traffic this week as two large events — Kool-Aid Days and the American Legion Baseball Mid-South Regional Tournament — are sure to bring crowds of extra folks to town.
Hundreds of people are expected to come — and stay — in Hastings, including many who have not been here before.
The baseball tournament alone, which runs from Wednesday through Sunday, involves eight baseball teams and at least 160 players and coaches. Two of the teams are from Nebraska — Fremont and Hastings Five Points Bank. The other teams are from Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas.
Kool-Aid Days runs from Friday through Sunday.
Local officials have been working to prepare for the influx of visitors.
“The local shops and restaurants and everybody here in town know that it’s happening, and so they are preparing for the hundreds of extra people who will be here,” said Anjanette Bonham, executive director of the Adams County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The two events are a chance for Hastings to showcase its local attractions and unique offerings, as well as share its part in the history of a world-famous soft drink and showcase historic Duncan Field — where a young Yogi Berra once played — to a whole new set of baseball fans.
While Kool-Aid days is about celebrating the history of the soft drink and the baseball tournament is about competition and enjoying America’s favorite pastime, Bonham said the city is ready to capitalize on all the increased exposure.
She said hosting so many new visitors helps spread the word about Hastings to other communities and neighborhoods, potentially leading to return visits or additional new visitors in the future.
In addition, local businesses should benefit from this boost in traffic in Hastings.
Bonham said community leaders are working together to make sure the events run smoothly. She said the Convention and Visitors Bureau has helped to find lodging, restaurants and other entertainment options for visitors.
The city of Hastings’ Parks and Recreation Department has been working to make sure Duncan Field is ready, and the street department is preparing to close streets downtown for the parade Saturday and the opening of the World’s Largest Kool-Aid Stand afterward.
“There’s just a uniquely American thing where you can have a parade that celebrates something that was invented in your hometown,” said Mayor Corey Stutte.
Stutte said the city knew about the simultaneous events well in advance, and he is confident the city will be able to accommodate everyone.
“We’re lucky to have such great city staff who are willing to step up and get those sort of things done,” he said.
Bonham said she is confident Hastings can make a good impression, thanks to its Midwest hospitality and well-kept facilities.
“We’re a really unique city with a lot of small-town charm here in the Midwest. I think we have a lot to offer, and we’re very proud of our community,” Bonham said. “Of course, Duncan Field is absolutely beautiful. To showcase that in our city, we are really excited to have them here and share that with them.”
Bonham said the city won a bid to secure the baseball tournament at Duncan Field for both 2019 and 2020.
Visitors can find restaurants, attractions and lodging at visithastingsnebraska.com. They also can call or email the Convention and Visitors Bureau to get a visitors packet.
Hastings Police Detective Josh Onken (left) and Hastings Firefighter Nick Hoendervoogt donate blood during a blood drive contest between the two departments Monday.
Firefighters narrowly beat the police Monday in the Battle of the Badges blood drive at the Hastings Police Department auditorium.
Hastings Fire and Rescue and the Hastings Police Department faced off in a friendly competition to see which group could donate the most during the blood drive, which is planned to become an annual event.
Going into the day, the police department had outpaced firefighters by about 35-20 in sign-ups. But walk-in traffic helped boost the fire department’s numbers to tie things up by midday.
By the end of the event, 51 people had donated blood for the fire department and 49 gave for the police department.
Organizers from the American Red Cross had hoped to collect at least 71 donations through the six-hour blood drive, but had to turn away donors by the end of the event after running out of supplies.
Police Capt. Mike Doremus said it was great to see such an outpouring of support from the community. As the donor organizer for the police department, he said it was a good idea for the fire and police departments to host the blood drive because both have seen situations where people were in need of blood.
“Both of us see blood donations put to use,” he said. “We’ve both seen that real need first-hand.”
Hastings Fire Capt. Darin Clark coordinated donors for the fire department. Along with people turning out to donate blood, he said, several businesses offered money and items to be given away to donors during the drive.
He said finding so much support in the community was roverwhelming.
“I think it’s great that everyone wants to help the fire department and police department,” he said.
The Battle of the Badges blood was held in memory of Robert “Bob” DeWitt, who served with the Hastings Fire Department from 1977-2001 as a firefighter/emergency medical technician. He also served as the president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Hastings Local 675 for many years. He died about three years ago.
DeWitt’s wife, Char, helped check in donors during the event. In addition to her late husband’s first responder duties, she said, Bob also had delivered blood for the Red Cross for many years.
“He always had a connection with first responders and the need for blood,” she said. “We decided to make the blood drive in honor of Bob to kick it off.”
Between summer vacations, the Independence Day holiday and fewer school blood drives, July is a difficult time to collect enough blood donations to meet the needs of patients, according to the American Red Cross. Less than 3 percent of the population donates blood in a given year.
Char said the Red Cross supplies about 40 percent of the blood in the United States. Across the nation, there is about a two-day supply of the most common, Type O. The stockpile of the other types would only last about three days.
“The need is constant,” she said.
For more information about donating blood, visit redcrossblood.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or download the free Red Cross Blood Donor app.
WASHINGTON — Following two mass shootings over the weekend, President Donald Trump called on federal authorities Monday to do a better job identifying violent extremists in the U.S. But that won’t be easy.
Federal investigators looking to prevent acts of domestic terrorism, like the massacre of 22 people at a crowded shopping center in El Paso on Saturday, have fewer tools and legal powers at their disposal than they would if they were up against someone tied to an international organization such as the Islamic State or al-Qaida.
That challenge has revived questions about whether the FBI, which transformed itself after the Sept. 11 attacks to combat international terrorism and acquired broad new surveillance powers, is adequately positioned to confront a white nationalist threat responsible for some of the deadliest acts of violence in the last few years.
“I can go online and say whatever I want, but that doesn’t mean it’s sufficient for the FBI to open an investigation,” said David Gomez, a former FBI counterterrorism supervisor. “You need to combine the free speech with an overt act, and that overt act has to be something criminal in nature.”
The laws, as they exist, “are not designed around the FBI being able to prevent these actions,” Gomez said. “The laws are designed to respond to crimes already committed and then investigate them.”
Confronting domestic terrorism is an urgent issue for law enforcement at a time when white supremacists and like-minded extremists are causing more murders, including a rampage at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 last October, than Americans inspired by foreign groups. The FBI made about 90 domestic terrorism arrests in the first three quarters of the year and has hundreds of open cases.
Still, Trump said Monday, law enforcement “must do a better job of identifying and acting on early warning signs.”
“I am directing the Department of Justice to work in partnership with local, state and federal agencies, as well as social media companies, to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike,” the president said.
That’s easier said than done, with part of the challenge arising from how federal law distinguishes between international terrorism and domestic terrorism.
Law enforcement officials conducting international terrorism investigations, for instance, can get a secret surveillance warrant to monitor the communications of a person they think may be the agent of a foreign power or terror group. Similarly, the U.S. criminal code makes it a crime for anyone to lend material support to designated foreign terror organizations even if the investigation doesn’t involve accusations of violence.
There’s no domestic counterpart to that material support statute, meaning federal prosecutors must rely on hate crimes laws, weapons charges and other approaches that may not carry the terrorism label. Mere membership in, or support for, a white supremacist organization is not illegal. And decades after accusations of surveillance abuses by the agency, FBI officials consider themselves duty-bound to follow internal guidelines meant to respect free speech.
“Our domestic threat actors, particularly independent actors, are very, very hard to surveil the same way we would surveil a foreign terrorist organization because we’re constitutionally precluded from piercing” protected free speech, said Adam Lee, a former high-ranking FBI official who oversaw hate crimes investigations at the bureau and led the Richmond, Virginia, field office at the time of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
Other obstacles include whether technology companies can adequately flag troublesome behavior in advance, and whether law enforcement can successfully separate out those bent on violence from those who simply mouth off about it.
The perpetrators of extremist attacks often act by themselves without any affiliation to a broader movement or organization, which can thwart efforts to identify them beforehand. To the extent they reveal their plans for violence, it is sometimes only minutes in advance and, even then, often to a narrow audience. An anti-Hispanic screed that authorities increasingly believe was written by the suspect in the El Paso shooting appeared on an online message board about 20 minutes before Saturday’s shooting.
“This is a totally disaggregated movement. There isn’t some type of terrorist cell that you can infiltrate with your agent and discover the big, bad guy behind it,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks violent extremism. “It’s just a more complex ecosystem.”
Beirich said she believes “our entire intelligence framework since 9/11 took its eye off the ball of white supremacy. The threat wasn’t identified as it was accelerating.”
Now, she said, the problem has become apparent to everyone.