For 15 games, eight teams battled this past week in the American Legion Regional tournament for the right to advance to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C. And for 15 games, one familiar voice echoed off the brick walls and engaged the hundreds of spectators that showed up to watch America’s pastime at Duncan Field. That was the voice of Mike Karloff.
For the past five days, Karloff served as the public address announcer at Duncan Field during the Mid-South Regional tournament. But this isn’t the first time he’s been part of a regional tournament at Duncan. He was a player for the Chiefs in 1976, the last time the tournament was in Hastings.
Karloff said being at Duncan Field for this year’s tournament brought back memories of his time on the field.
“A couple of my past teammates came back, and we were able to reminisce about playing in Duncan and a lot of the games,” Karloff said. “I wouldn’t say so much it was about playing in the most recent regional tournament but I would say some of those memories of playing at Duncan Field and playing with our teammates.”
In ’76, the Chiefs hosted the Central Plains Regional, but Hastings’ stay in the tournament didn’t last long. The team lost its first two games, falling to Springfield (Mo.) 6-2 — with one of those runs being driven in by Karloff — and to Fargo (N.D.) 7-2.
“To be really honest, I don’t remember much, and I think part of it was because we had a pretty early departure. I think we were 0-2 and out of the tournament pretty quickly,” Karloff said with a slight grimace.
Karloff has long been involved with American Legion baseball in Hastings. In addition to playing for the Chiefs, his sons Matt and Morgan also were athletes in the program. He’s proud to have so much family history with the Legion post.
“When you spend a lot of time going through the program and then your kids go through the program, you really have a strong connection,” he said. “My mom and dad were out here for games (during the regional) and my boys that played American Legion baseball, they were sending me texts and checking in; they want to know scores and they want to know how Five Points is doing. It was really cool.”
The five-day tourney made for some long days for Karloff and all of those working the tournament. Wednesday and Thursday consisted of four games each day, with contests schedule from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. But Karloff was there for each one, reading off lineups, announcing substitutions and telling young fans where to collect their reward for chasing down a foul ball.
Karloff said when he was asked to announce the games, he didn’t hesitate saying yes.
“I’m always happy to help out, and I’ve done games in the past — I did the Johnson Imperial Homes area tournament, but that was after the committee asked me to announce. I told them I’d be happy to announce and to announce as many games as they wanted. It was a lot of fun. It was 15 games; I don’t know if I’ve ever announced 15 games. But it was a lot of fun and a great opportunity. I appreciate the opportunity to help out.”
Despite the long days at the ballpark, Karloff was glad he got to be a part of the tournament. He said he often found himself in awe of talent on the field, especially when it came to plays on the defensive side of the ball. And he’s not wrong; whether it was a diving play in the outfield, fancy double plays up the middle of the infield, or a nice pick at first base, the tournament certainly did put impressive defenses on display.
Another thing he said he’d remember from the tourney was the run made by Hastings Five Points Bank.
“To watch those guys have that success at the end and win those games and to see their excitement, it was just a really proud time to be associated with Hastings baseball,” Karloff said.
Karloff said he still keeps in touch with his former Chiefs teammates from the 1976 regional, adding: “As a matter of fact, I was still playing softball until a few years ago with some of my teammates.”
Whether it was chatting with some of those former players or Russ Bramble — the father of Tom (one of Karloff’s teammates) — throwing out the first pitch, reminders of his playing days surrounded him through the duration of the five-day tournament.
Around 6:15 p.m. on Sunday, Karloff announced the trophy ceremony after the championship game. He congratulated the Bryant Black Sox on a great season after a runner-up finish and wished Festus Post 253 good luck at the American Legion World Series. Then, he shut off the microphone for the final time this baseball season.
Though the tournament is over, Hastings will host the regional again next year as part of a two-year bid. Karloff said he’s already excited for next season.
“Oh yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a great tournament once again,” he said. “And we’ve learned some things. There were a lot of things, ‘OK, we have to remember this for next year.’ But I think overall, things went really well. A lot of people volunteered and a lot of people worked really hard. I think it was really great.”
Paddling around in a canoe on a pond on their property, Taylor and Faith Wilson of Hastings enjoy being on the water as much as they can.
That familiarity with watercraft and each other proved fruitful as they piloted the “Sailing Sisters” to win the 2019 Kool-Aid Days Cup Sunday at the Tom Dinsdale Kardboard Boat Races at Lake Hastings.
Taylor and Faith paddled in sync as they rounded two buoys in the course around a cove in the lake. Their first outing was completed in two minutes and three seconds.
Being the fastest overall competitors in the race was a marked improvement over the sisters’ attempt last year. This year, they decided to build a more aerodynamic boat and that helped their times.
“It felt way better this year,” Taylor said. “It took us over five minutes last year.”
The boat race was the first try for many competitors this year.
Greg and Chelsea Mol of Hastings built “Jamaican Me a Winner” and won the contest for best theme. But the boat didn’t sail very well due to its high sides and boxy design. It stayed upright through the voyage but it took several minutes to complete. They think they might go with a more aerodynamic design in the future.
After watching last year, they decided to make their own boat this year.
“We saw it last year and thought we wanted to compete,” Greg said.
Jason Buss of Central City and his children, Julia and Miles, said they used several layers of cardboard and rolls of duct tape to cover their boat.
Jason said he competed once before in 2011, and was excited to be able to have his children on board this time around.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” Julia said.
Freshmen Sydney Holmes of Grand Island and Avery McKennan of Fort Calhoun built their boat, “S.S. Don’t Worry,” as part of team building exercises during an honors program at Hastings College.
“We thought it was a great way to get to know each other,” Holmes said.
For Jared Mack, 9, of Grand Island, it was a last-minute decision to compete.
His uncle from Maryland was visiting and they decided to give it a try.
“It sounded fun,” Jared said. “We did it all in one day.”
Kardboard Boat Race winners
1. Kool-Aid Kicker
2. Charlie’s Angels
1. Crimson Guard
1. Yellow Submarine featuring Pirates
2. Sir Floats a Lot
1. Sailing Sisters
2. S.S. Don’t Worry
3. Oh Yeah
Jamaican Me a Winner
Crowds participated in a plethora of activities in the spirit of fun on Saturday for the pinnacle of the annual Kool-Aid Days celebration.
Some of the thirstiest competitors partook in the Kwickest Kool-Aid Drinking Contest.
Kailey Goodrich, 11, of Hastings wanted to join the contest to compete against others — and drink more Kool-Aid. She was second in her heat of contestants.
“My friend beat me by a millisecond,” she said. “If I didn’t take a breath, I could have won.”
For some, it was just being able to down the entire cup of Kool-Aid.
“I drank it all,” proclaimed Zane Brown, 4, of Beatrice.
His mother, Stacie, said the family came up to spend the day with her sister at the festival. When they heard about the quickest drinking contest, Zane and his older brother, Kashton, 7, decided they wanted to give it a shot.
Contestants were divided into four age categories with each bracket requiring a larger amount of Kool-Aid to be consumed. Those 6 and younger drank an 8-ounce cup and the 7-11 category finished 12 ounces. Competitors in ages 12-16 had to consume a 20-ounce glass while those in the adult category had to chug 32 ounces of the sugary drink.
Ella Quintard, 14, of Glenvil said she was a little intimidated by the size of the 20 ounces she had to gulp for the event.
“I think I did pretty good, considering I was against all boys,” she said.
The 32 ounces in the adult category only lasted four seconds for the fastest competitors. Antonio Hernandez of Sutton chugged his cup in 4.47 seconds, winning the contest for the fourth year in a row.
“I never even practiced,” he said.
Hernandez narrowly defeated Alex Kleinjan of Hastings, who finished in 4.66 seconds.
Kleinjan said he tried a couple practice runs the night before the contest. He won the contest two years ago when he competed in the 12-16 category.
“People have fun with it,” he said. “There’s always some good-natured ribbing too.”
Andrea Melendez organized the event for the Kool-Aid Days board.
“The adults never cease to amaze me,” she said. “It’s fun to watch the little kids get their competition side on. Sometimes they don’t know how to react or what to do. It’s funny to watch.”
Kwickest Kool-Aid Drinking Contest winners
1. Kinsley Meyers of Grand Island
2. Zevyn Hahn of Grand Island
3. Zane Brown of Beatrice
1. Elijah Bumgardner of Hastings
2. Calvin King of Hastings
3. Joshua Fagiolo of Hastings
1. Jonah Fagiolo of Hastings
2. Jordy Baland of Grand Island
3. Treygan Runnells of Kearney
1. Antonio Hernandez of Sutton
2. Alex Kleinjan of Hastings
3. Stone Powell of Hastings
Cutest Kid Contest winners
Cutest Boy: Jack Collett of Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Cutest Girl: Kinsley Duden of Hastings
Grape winner: Madelyn Olson of Hastings
Ice Blue Raspberry winner: Gracelyn Duden of Hastings
Cherry winner: Violet Billesbach of Juniata
Grape winner: Josiah Parrish of Ogallala
Ice Blue Raspberry winner: Nora Olson of Red Cloud
Cherry winner: Leia Selvage of Lincoln
Grape winner: Harper Ashburn of Castle Rock, Colorado
Ice Blue Raspberry winner: Mila Lane of Hastings
Cherry winner: Kaylee Johnson of Hastings
Grape winner: Aundrea Aguilar of Grand Island
Ice Blue Raspberry winner: Joshua Fagiolo of Hastings
Cherry winner: Aaliyah Denniston of Trumbull
Grape winner: Aliviah Devitt of Hastings
Ice Blue Raspberry winner: Olivia Thiel of Hastings
Cherry winner: Lew Vrbas of Hastings
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After devastating flooding this year, Iowa put $15 million into a special fund to help local governments recover and guard against future floods. Missouri allotted more money to fight rising waters, including $2 million to help buy a moveable floodwall for a historic Mississippi River town that’s faced flooding in all but one of the past 20 years.
In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced $10 million to repair damaged levees while creating a task force to study a system that in some places has fallen into disrepair though years of neglect.
The states’ efforts may turn out to be only down payments on what is shaping up as a long-term battle against floods, which are forecast to become more frequent and destructive as global temperatures rise.
“What is going on in the country right now is that we are having basically an awakening to the necessity and importance of waterway infrastructure,” said Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, a Republican who has been pushing to improve the state’s levees.
The movement is motivated not just by this year’s major floods in the Midwest, but by more than a decade of repeated flooding from intense storms such as Hurricane Harvey, which dumped 60 inches of rain on southeastern Texas in 2017. In November, Texas voters will decide whether to create a constitutionally dedicated fund for flood-control projects, jump-started with $793 million from state savings.
For years, states have relied heavily on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay the bulk of recovery efforts for damaged public infrastructure. While that remains the case, more states have been debating ways to supplement federal dollars with their own money dedicated not just to rebuilding but also to avoiding future flood damage. Those efforts may include relocating homes , elevating roads and bridges, strengthening levees and creating natural wetlands that could divert floodwaters from the places where people live and work.
“There are states who are realizing that they have an obligation to step up here, that flooding is really a state and local problem, and the federal taxpayer is not going to totally bail us out. We need to be thinking ahead and helping ourselves,” said Larry Larson, a former director and senior policy adviser for the Association of State Floodplain Managers.
Although President Donald Trump has expressed doubt about climate change, even calling it a hoax, a National Climate Assessment released last year by the White House warned that natural disasters in the U.S. are worsening because of global warming. The report cited a growing frequency and intensity of storms, heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels.
Instead of pointing at climate change, governors and lawmakers in some Midwestern states have blamed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for worsening floods by the way it manages water along its network of dams.
Preliminary assessments compiled by The Associated Press have identified about $1.2 billion in damage to roads, bridges, buildings, utilities and other public infrastructure in 24 states from the floods, storms and tornadoes that occurred during the first half of 2019. Those states also have incurred costs of about $175 million in emergency response efforts and debris cleanup.
In addition, an AP survey of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts found that this year’s floodwaters breached levees in about 250 locations in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Some levees crumbled in multiple spots, including one near Missouri’s capital city that inundated the airport. When it’s rebuilt, the floor of a new airport terminal will have to be 11 feet higher to meet federal flood-plain regulations, said Jefferson City Public Works Director Matt Morasch.
The Army Corps estimates that levee repairs could top $1 billion in the Missouri River basin, where most of the breaches occurred.
The nation’s disaster costs for public infrastructure will undoubtedly rise throughout the year. The Army Corps has yet to inspect all the damaged levees, officials in Illinois, Louisiana and elsewhere are still assessing damage to their flooded infrastructure, and the annual hurricane season is just getting underway.
Beyond that, the AP’s preliminary figures do not include damage caused by wildfires, which have become increasingly destructive in Western states.
The AP’s research shows that Nebraska was one of the states hardest hit by the flooding, with a preliminary assessment of about $435 million in damage to roads, bridges, utilities and other public infrastructure from a March storm . Rain fell on a still frozen terrain, causing a sudden snow melt that sent huge chunks of ice barreling down swollen rivers.
Nebraska has a regional network of Natural Resource Districts that could direct local money toward flood protection. Like most states, it also budgets money to pay the state’s share of FEMA disaster recovery projects, and the state plans to hire a contractor to help develop a long-term recovery plan.
But until now, the state has not had a coordinated strategy for taking steps to reduce flooding risks, said Bryan Tuma, who leads the daily operations of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.
Only a few Midwestern states have pumped much of their own money into flood prevention.
Minnesota created a grant program in 1987 that has since awarded almost $525 million to local projects.
After extensive flooding in 2011, Iowa launched a unique program that lets local governments keep a portion of their growth in state sales tax revenue to help finance levees, floodwalls and other projects designed to hold back rising waters. The state expects to forgo nearly $600 million of revenue over 20 years to help pay for nearly $1.4 billion of projects in 10 cities. But applications for that program closed several years ago, leading Iowa legislators this year to put $15 million into a separate fund to pay for flood prevention and recovery.
“As a state and, I think as a nation, we’re finally starting to get there — recognizing that making an investment in mitigation pays off in itself over the course of time,” said John Benson, chief of staff for the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
In Texas, the proposed constitutional amendment creating a $793 million flood infrastructure fund is part of a broader package. Among other things, lawmakers appropriated $638 million to help local governments pay their share of FEMA recovery and flood-protection projects, and $47 million to update or develop flood-risk maps.
Sponsoring Rep. Dade Phelan, a Republican whose district was swamped by Hurricane Harvey, said too many cities, counties and drainage districts have been going it alone instead of working together on regional flood-management plans. The scattered approach has resulted in “roads that act like dams” and neighborhoods built in flood zones, he said.
“There’s never been an opportunity like there is now to have everyone sit down and do a cooperative, holistic approach to flooding in a particular watershed,” Phelan said.
In Arkansas, Rapert began pursuing better levee policies four years ago, after flooding on his farmland along the Arkansas River.
The lawmaker discovered that the nearby levee hadn’t been repaired after a 1990 breach and that its governing board was defunct. So he sponsored a law allowing local officials to re-establish dormant levee boards and requiring annual reports to be sent to the state. Although Rapert’s local levee got fixed, he said most of the districts haven’t filed reports, raising questions about whether their levees are being maintained.
“Until there’s a flood, nobody really cares about levees. But when there’s a flood, everybody’s worried about them,” said Jason Trantina, a farmer and convenience store owner near Conway, Arkansas, who was appointed president of Rapert’s local levee district when it was re-formed.
The improved levee worked this year, until it was finally overtopped by floodwaters that swamped Trantina’s business.
Like his counterpart in Arkansas, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also has appointed a task force to examine the state’s levee system, explore ways of better managing flood waters and prioritize state funding for flood recovery.
Parson also signed a budget that includes $2 million for a moveable floodwall in Clarksville, a rural community of about 450 with a 19th century downtown that has been fighting an annual battle against the Mississippi River. After selling the town’s visitor center to finance flood-fighting efforts, the town is again short on money and still needs additional grants to buy the $4.5 million floodwall.
“We have spent and spent and spent money that we don’t have trying to defend against the flood,” Clarksville Mayor Jo Anne Smiley said. “In my judgment, this is the answer to the survival of this town.”
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