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Rabbits, exhibitors make impression at Nuckolls County Fair

NELSON — While beef cattle dominated spectators’ attention at the Nuckolls County Fair near here Tuesday morning, the early afternoon spotlight belonged to a quieter, gentler creature.

Action after lunch centered on the south end of the rabbit and poultry barn where 4-H’ers stepped out in front of a judge and around 20 moms, dads, grandparents and other audience members to show their rabbits.

The poultry show was to follow.

Under the watchful eye of judge Dennis Riemersma of Red Cloud, eight 4-H’ers and three “Clover Kid” pre-4-H exhibitors brought their rabbits to the table for inspection.

For some, just controlling a wiggly animal on the table or in their arms was the biggest challenge. During the showmanship competition, many of the youths also obviously were concentrating as they tried to remember all the points in their introductions, including information about the breed of rabbit they were showing.

Showing a rabbit includes turning it this way and that on the table to offer the judge a view from every direction. The exhibitor also takes time to show the judge the rabbit’s feet and even to count its toes.

Kylie Beard, 15, and Zak Corman, 13, were the two senior division exhibitors Tuesday. Beard won grand champion senior showperson, and Corman was runner-up.

Junior champion showman honors went to Avery Ostdiek. Reserve junior champion was Laka McReynolds.

A bit later, one of Corman’s Mini Lop senior does was named overall grand champion rabbit. Alex Watts’ white New Zealand senior buck was reserve champion.

Afterward, Corman, who brought four rabbits to the fair — a junior doe, a senior buck, and two senior does — said he was pleased with the way the fair had gone for him rabbit-wise.

“My dad’s cousin has a bunch of rabbits,” said Corman, who will be an eighth-grader at Superior Public School this fall, explaining how he got involved in the rabbit project.

This is his sixth year showing rabbits and his first showing hogs at the fair, which concludes on Wednesday. He said he enjoys working with the rabbits and is just learning the ropes with the swine project.

“They’re easy to show, and I have six of them,” he said of the rabbits.

Although Tuesday’s rabbit show was small, it included several different rabbit breeds including Mini Lop, Mini Rex, white New Zealand, Holland Lop and American Polish.

Riemersma evaluated the 4-H’ers for showmanship based on the way they presented their animals, the introduction they provided, and their ability to answer his questions about everything from what the rabbits eat to how many teeth are in their mouths.

“Is there anything else you want to tell me?”, he asked several of the exhibitors before finishing their showmanship evaluation.

Riemersma said a good introduction includes information on where the breed came from originally, when it came to the United States, and when it was accepted into the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Meanwhile, however, the 4-H’ers need to watch their time since they have just four minutes in front of the judge.

“Juniors, you have to get with the seniors,” Riemersma told the younger exhibitors, encouraging them to learn from their elders and get some pointers. “The seniors did a very nice job.”

Riemersma also evaluated all the rabbits based on their physical characteristics. Some rabbits are raised for meat, and he shared his thoughts with the audience on the best way to prepare them for supper.

Michelle Kohmetscher, a veteran in her post as rabbit superintendent, said numbers of rabbits and rabbit exhibitors at this year’s fair were about the same as a year ago.

While upwards of an inch of rain overnight into Tuesday had the fairgrounds steaming by midafternoon, she said the rabbit and poultry exhibits had been tolerating the weather so far.

Still, she was glad the fair would be ending Wednesday just as the hottest of this week’s temperatures arrive.

“We have enough fans,” she said. “I think we’re doing OK.”

Kohmetscher said she enjoys watching the 4-H’ers show their rabbits to the judge, and that the rabbit project is a good one for younger competitors since the animals are relatively easy to handle.

“It’s fun seeing those little kids start out,” she said. “They are so proud of their bunnies. It’s fun.”

araun / Andy Raun  

Pre-4-H’er Josie Watts speaks to judge Dennis Riemersma of Red Cloud as Brady Mertens listens Tuesday at the Nuckolls County Fair near Nelson Tuesday.

Kids make robots at YMCA

When Cooper Meyer, 10, and Isaah Stark, 12, began building their robots at the YMCA Robotics Camp, the design would let them pass a plastic ball back and forth between two scoops.

But shortly before they were to present their robot, the design quickly changed.

“This is our robot. It’s made for battle,” Cooper said.

The Hastings Family YMCA began offering its robotics camp this summer after receiving a grant from Union Pacific Railroad for STEM learning. They YMCA used the grant to buy Rokenbok educational toys; the building, mechanical and electric parts can be put together to build the robots. The toys can also be programmed for other tasks using available sensors with the Rokenbok kits.

Tabbie Metcalf, the YMCA’s child care director, brought the program to the YMCA to give kids the chance to work with STEM (Science, Techonogy, Engineering and Math) tools.

“Everything is ran by code somewhere,” Metcalf said.

During Tuesday’s camp, kids were tasked with building a ball launcher. The plastic pieces snapped together, similar to Legos, with additional parts like wheels, bridge pieces and double connectors.

The kids then add motors, connect wires and pair a remote controller to their creation.

The robots can be simple or complex.

During the camp, some kids made ball launching levers with long arms while others made them with short arms. One group added a second launching lever to send their projectiles in two different directions.

“It’s pretty easy. It looks complex but once you get started, it goes well,” Metcalf said.

Jacob Shin, 10, and Hannah Ahren, 11, used two moving robot bases, both of which were controlled by different controllers. One robot would launch the balls while the other would scoop up the spent ammunition and reload it.

The initial design had difficulty picking up the balls because of the scoop height and then reloading it. Jacob, like most of the kids at the camp, said designing the robot was the hardest part.

“Once we fix those bugs, it will be one of the coolest ball launchers,” Jacob said.

After the kids designed their robot and presented it, they had free time to make whatever they wanted.

“Nothing they can build is wrong. They can only improve,” Metcalf said.

The summer camp was available for kids from preschool through eighth grade.

Metcalf said that the younger kids like to have more direction in their robot-building task while the older kids enjoy having more freedom.

For most of the kids, they come to the camp with no knowledge of robots and just like building things. As the week progresses, they begin to understand how the robots work and what they can do, Metcalf said.

The building challenges can also become complex. Metcalf said one day, they built dinosaur robots that had to navigate through a maze. The kids, however, had to control the robot by talking to each other through video chatting and without looking at the robot.Metcalf said this program gives kids a chance to learn about STEM tools they may not have access to at their school or home. She added that the Rokenbok toys can be used in high school too.

“The Y is youth development for the whole mind, body included,” Metcalf said.

The program has not had an opportunity to do coding yet, but they hope to do so in the future. The kit includes sensors that can be programed to make the robots respond to it environment.

Metcalf said the YMCA can also use the robotic kits for their after school programs for Hastings Public Schools and Adams Central Public Schools.

County in need of dump truck contractors

Adams County is looking for assistance to help haul dirt to the southwest portion of the county as part of the rebuilding of infrastructure following recent thunderstorms.

Members of the Adams County Board of Supervisors voted 7-0 during their meeting Tuesday to advertise for dirt haulers.

Board chairman Eldon Orthmann signed a declaration of emergency on July 10 for damages from storms overnight July 8-9.

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency is surveying the area to get an idea of the damages sustained since July 1.

“We do have a dirt source thanks to the city of Hastings’ utilities, but it’s over on Coaltrain (east of Hastings) and our damage is way down south of Holstein,” Highway Superintendent Dawn Miller said. “It’s excellent, excellent material.”

The county roads department has seven trucks hauling material to two project sites.

Miller said she is looking to contract for semi and side dumps with an operator.

She said by going through the right procurement procedures that money is reimbursable.

Adams County is in the process of preparing its 2019-20 budget.

Miller added a $300,000 line item in her budget for rebuilding storm-damaged infrastructure, which could be reimbursed as long as the governor also issues a declaration of emergency for the area.

“The thing is they haven’t declared that yet, so it may not be reimbursable either but we need to get it done just in case, so it’s ready to go should that declaration come through,” she said.

Miller is looking for at least two contractors to each work 80 hours.

In other business, acting as the Board of Equalization, the Supervisors unanimously approved a motor vehicle exemption for Mary Lanning Healthcare.

They also unanimously approved tax list corrections, and unanimously approved a form 425 report of destroyed real property from Cooperative Producers, Inc. for the land east of Hastings where CPI’s fertilizer plant stood. The land is valued at $500,387.

They unanimously tabled until the next Board of Equalization meeting a form 425 submission from Eldon Nelsen for destroyed farmland due to flooding.

The supervisors also heard 2019-2020 budget requests from representatives of several county departments and organizations that receive county support.

Joe Budnick, chief probation officer, requested $39,361, which is an increase from $38,728 in 2018-2019.

Donna Fegler Daiss, Adams County attorney, requested $1.359 million for her department, which is an increase from $1.351 million in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $1.248 million.

Fegler Daiss requested $37,410 for the West Law Research law library contract.

Chris Long, veterans service officer, requested $191,175, which is an increase from $184,816 in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $179,383.

Ron Kucera, information technology coordinator, requested $308,513 for data processing, which is an increase from $264,408 in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $261,940.36.

Kucera requested $87,100 for communications, which is a decrease from $124,998 in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $124,968.84.

Melanie Curry, Adams County treasurer, requested $616,420.12, which is a decrease from $645,202.85 in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $608,983.76.

Rachel Ormsby, Adams County register of deeds, requested $260,971, which is an increase from $288,645.61 in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $258,578.41.

Ormsby requested $6,400 for microfilm, which is a decrease from $11,000 in 2018-2019. $10,656 was spent.

Ormsby requested $83,408.85 for preservation and modernization, which is an increase from $77,605.07 in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $9,224.22

Ron Seymour, UNL extension educator for Adams County, requested $228,966, which is an increase from $212,800 in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $211,862.

John Rust, Adams County sheriff, requested $2.413 million, which is an increase from $2.169 million in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $2.025 million.

Rust requested $2.662 million for the jail, which is an increase from $2.588 million in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $2.101 million.

Stephen Illingworth, Adams County district court judge, requested $62,292, which is an increase from $60,855.42 in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $59,221.55.

Jackie Russell, Adams County assessor, requested $531,000, which is an increase from $502,860 in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $475,190.

Amanda Bauer, Adams County clerk of the district court, requested $482,704.87, which is a decrease from $483,468.81 in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $418,236.58.

Tom Hawes, Adams County court clerk magistrate, requested $182,000, which is a decrease from $199,500 in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $129,126.87.

Miller requested $92,310 for the weeds department, which is an increase from $91,652 in 2018-2019. The actual expense was $75,769.97.

Jolene Laux, Adams County fairgrounds manager, requested $694,307, which is unchanged from 2018-2019.

Planning committee evaluates emergency response

A lightly loaded tanker truck carrying a flammable liquid was knocked over on the southwest edge of Hastings by a wind gust Tuesday afternoon that led to a quickly spreading fire.

That was the scenario discussed as part of a tabletop exercise during the quarterly meeting of the Adams County Local Emergency Planning Committee, Tuesday at the Whelan Energy Center conference room.

While there was no such fire, it could happen. That’s why LEPC chairman Phil Beda crafted the scenario.

He wanted to engage the 20 or so committee representatives from local businesses and government agencies present at Tuesday’s meeting about how such a fire would affect them and what resources they could provide.

The committee has about 30 members all together and is looking for more.

Beda, a hydrometeorological technician with the National Weather Service in Hastings, used the Camp Fire in California from November 2018, which destroyed the town of Paradise, as a model for the exercise. Paradise had a population of around 27,000.

“Basically what happened is the fire moved on the town so fast firefighters went from firefighting to evacuating the town and then just let the town go,” he told his fellow committee members. “Granted we don’t have the trees they do or the pine forests or stuff like that, but I thought this was a pretty good scenario for us.”

In the scenario Beda presented, as was the case in Paradise, the fire occurred when the area had been hot and dry for six weeks after a wet summer. In Beda’s scenario, the fire occurred Oct. 1.

“We’re very green, but if we were to go into drought conditions later this summer, this fall, this could be a potential area where maybe part of the town could be affected by a fire,” he said.

With corn drying out in early October in Nebraska, Beda thought it could be good fuel for a wild fire.

“I just felt there’s a pretty good corollary, so we could at least practice that,” he said in an interview after the meeting. “When I build these exercises, I try to have everybody have some involvement or some type of buy in too it.”

Within the Adams County Local Emergency Planning Committee there are hundreds of years of experience in everything from fire fighting to various forms of industry.

“We try to get that knowledge funneled down to say how we would attack that problem,” he said.

In creating a scenario, Beda tries to look one season ahead. For instance, at the Local Emergency Planning Committee’s next meeting on Oct. 15, the scenario may involve winter weather, such as a blizzard.

The scenarios aren’t always weather related. One past exercise involved a two-week power outage caused by a terroristic attack.

“I try to bring in other scenarios not just your standard tornado, thunderstorm type of thing,” he said. “I try to bring other things that could affect the community.”

The Adams County Local Emergency Planning Committee was nominated for an award to be announced at the 2019 Region 7 LEPC conference, Aug. 7-10 in Omaha.

Dawna Whitcomb, administrative assistant for Adams County Emergency Management and Adams County LEPC secretary, is among committee members who will attend that conference.

She said the committee has grown quite a bit during the six years she’s been part of it.

“We’re trying to get more people involved because it’s not necessarily just the hazardous part any more,” she said. “We’re really trying to do an all-hazard approach. Some of these are weather related that aren’t necessarily hazardous, but it’s something we need to be thinking about because it could potentially turn into a hazardous disaster. We tried to reach out and get as many community members on board as possible. We still are looking. We’re always looking for people to come in and step in.”

Anyone interested in joining the Adams County Local Emergency Planning Committee should contact Whitcomb at or 402-461-2360 to fill out an application.