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It was an 'ARC Wild' night at the Bravos game

It was a wild night at the Bravos game Tuesday night and that refers to a lot more than the team’s eighth consecutive win.

ARC Wild of Sabetha was a special guest and gave educational presentations on several animals that were brought to the game. Kids surrounded the ARC Wild table, which offered educational and fun information on the animals.

Sherri McNary, one of the founders and organizers of ARC Wild brought Jack the horned owl, along with a python, a turtle and a bearded dragon named Clementine. Helping her was Ranger Jack Frazee, who volunteers at ARC Wild with the animals and McNary said he is helping to educate other youth in his community.

Ranger Jack showed off the python and turtle for the dozens of young fans that gathered to check out the table full of animal pelts and the live creatures. The reptiles were particular hits as the kids took turns petting the python, turtle and bearded dragon.

It was a particularly hot and humid evening Tuesday, so another animal McNary had hoped to bring — a porcupine — had to stay behind at the center. Jack the horned owl also was getting a little hot, so he left a little early too.

Another animal that McNary hopes to get out and about soon is ARC Wild’s brand new animal ambassador Penelope the baby skunk. She said Penelope arrived from Florida last week and is currently in her 30 day quarantine. She said ARC Wild is one of the few private organizations in Kansas that has been granted a KDHE exemption from the state as well to have a skunk as an education animal.

“To be granted permission to legally own a skunk in Kansas by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the USDA is a huge accomplishment,” she said. “It is a symbol of the trust and confidence the state of Kansas has in our ability to provide meaningful wildlife conservation education to youth in northeast Kansas. We are deeply honored for their trust and look forward to another exciting year reaching youth.”

ARC Wild provides programs to youth exclusively in rural Northeast Kansas and southeast Nebraska — many offered free of charge at libraries and community events. The Ranger program is a new one and this fall ARC Wild will launch an eco-club for middle school age kids interested in nature. McNary said it will be application only and it is from this pool of youth we will draw our future Rangers from. Those accepted into the program will spend time volunteering at the ARC, visit behind the scenes at zoos and help with citizen science projects in northeast Kansas.

A program that involved many area youth this summer was the ARC Wild Nature Cache, which runs through Aug. 1. More than 160 area families were working on their passports and finding hidden treasures in northeast Kansas. It was free, fun and provided great social distancing.

All ARC Wild staff are 100 percent volunteers, who donate their time and talents to further conservation in northeast Kansas communities. Volunteers could be trained and educated individuals — such as conservation biologists, herpetologists, wildlife rehabilitators, zoo docents, teachers, horticulturists and more. Other volunteers can have just a love for nature and wildlife and want to help.

McNary said there are other ways to help as well. While ARC Wild works hard to bring live animal education to youth in rural northeast Kansas and southeastern Nebraska, the help of the community is needed by way of donations of finances or time.

For more information on ARC Wild go to www.arcwild.org or Facebook at arcwildedu.


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Hiawatha Chamber cancels Maple Leaf Festival

In light of the continued concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hiawatha Chamber and Visitors Bureau has canceled the Maple Leaf Festival, planned for Saturday, Sept. 26.

However — stay tuned for an announcement about the Halloween Frolic’s 106th celebration! It might look a little different this year, but the tradition will continue!

The announcement concerning the Maple Leaf Festival came this week as the HCVB joined many other organizations who have canceled activities this year. In the spring, the HCVB canceled the Easter Egg Hunt and did not plan it’s other normal activities such as the Spring Tea and additional activities for the Fourth of July.

The Maple Leaf Festival had grown considerably in the last few years with kids inflatables, the mobile Discovery Museum, live music, a variety of food and craft vendors, magicians and many other activities. However, organizers felt that for the safety of the community, they must postpone the event and come back bigger than ever for 2021.

“We understand there are so many unknowns to the COVID-19 virus,” said Kate Miller, HCVB president. “The HCVB board unanimously decided that we needed to cancel 2020 Maple Leaf Festival.”

Miller said the board understands this will cause disappointment, however the board members decided they could not strive to put on a festival that met the expectations of the last few years and accomplish this safely.

“We also know that there will be many questions about Halloween,” she continued. “We would like the public to know that we have a plan in place to safely continue our tradition of the Halloween Parade and Frolic. It may look very different, but it already looks much different from when Mrs. Krebs started the tradition successfully in 1914, so we too will change with the times and current needs.”

Miller said the HCVB will do everything in its power to continue with the 106 year tradition and that the board will release information in the coming weeks.

“As always, we hope the public continues to support our local businesses and organizations through the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

She wanted to remind the public to please remember that the Together We Are Hiawatha campaign is still going on and local shoppers have a chance to win $250 in Chamber Bucks for each winning ticket drawn from participating businesses.

“While it feels like forever, this will eventually have an end and we will be back to a more normal schedule,” she said. “Until then, it is more important than ever as a community to come together and support one another.”

For any other questions contact the HCVB at 742-7136 or by email at hiawathachamber@rainbowtel.net.


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Big Kansas Road Trip canceled due to COVID-19

COVID-19 has caused yet another local event cancellation.

The organizers of the Big Kansas Road Trip announced late last week that the event scheduled for September has been rescheduled for May 6-9, 2021. This is the second time the event was rescheduled — it was originally slated for May 7-10 of this year, but was pushed back to fall due to concern with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The BKRT is a “destination” event for three counties — this year set to be in Brown, Doniphan and Nemaha — and is sponsored by the Kansas Sampler Foundation. This event was in its third year as it took the place of the Kansas Sampler Festival. This event was designed to bring people from all over Kansas to the designated counties as they showed off the local attractions that travelers would find interesting in an “open house” type of format.

“The communities in the three counties are asked to simply be good at being themselves.”

The public is then invited to roam at their own pace to eat, buy, explore and visit locally in order to get to know the people and places.

In 2018 the public explored Barber, Comanche and Kiowa counties. In 2019, Cheyenne, Sherman and Wallace counties were featured. The BKRT replaces the long-time Kansas Sampler Festival as a way to provide the public a sample of what there is to see, do, hear, eat, and buy in Kansas.

The Kansas Sampler Foundation of Inman made the announcement late last week about the change in schedule after a meeting with local leaders.

“Everyone on the call was able to express their opinions,” said Marci Penner, Foundation director. “We were all sad about pushing the event to May but we unanimously felt like it was the right thing to do for the communities, the public, and the success of the event.”

This is the second time the BKRT has been pushed back as COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise and Kansas has been placed on a quarantine list for other states as well in recent days.

“We’ve had to reschedule twice now and that is hard on everyone concerned,” Penner continued. “We fully intend to hold the event next May, in some fashion, no matter what. The people, businesses, attractions and scenery in these three counties deserve the best event possible. We will do everything possible to help make that happen next May.”

For updates and more information, go to www.bigkansasroadtrip.com. Local leaders are Linda Duesing, Sarah Kleopfer, and Connie Werner in Brown County; Leah Johnson in Doniphan County; and Kylee Luckeroth, Gina Murchison, and Cindy Alderfer in Nemaha County.


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Board hears initial thoughts on back-to-school plans

Superintendent Lonnie Moser shared his takeaways from the state’s suggestions on re-opening schools with the Hiawatha School Board at Monday’s meeting, with a heavy focus on the still-uncertain near future.

Moser stated that he would meet with administrators to begin decision-making processes, and then the work would go to several committees that will work to finalize the district’s plan that will be submitted to the School Board and then the state for approval.

As things stand today, it appears that the school year will start on-site with new day-to-day protocols to combat the spread of COVID-19, as long as there continue to be low community restrictions. Moser said the use of masks will be a part of the discussion that committees must have. Work will be done to limit crowded hallways and gathering areas, while cleanliness and social distancing will be focus areas. The district will be assisted in planning and in response to any setbacks by local health departments.

Three different phases are possible, with phase one being on-site education, phase two being a hybrid plan with students rotating days or half days, and phase three is online. The school must provide an online option for families that do not feel safe sending their kids to school, and administration will be available to meet with parents interested in this. Moser did note that any online learning will not look like the method used to finish out the school year.

Moser mentioned a few other topics that will need to be addressed, but with no set solutions at this point. Transportation and food service will be important issues that must be addressed and will likely need revamping to fit suggested guidelines.

Extra-curricular activities are a popular discussion topic, and Moser said that he believes that KSHSAA will hold off on making any decisions until closer to the school year. He also stated that he believes that sports will be an all-or-nothing venture, as well as sharing the opinion that moving fall sports to the spring would likely be seen as unfeasible by the State Athletics Association.

On a final note, Moser informed the board that he is set to join a County committee in charge of SPARK COVID-19 relief funds. Some of the $2 million slated for Brown County will likely go to the school, and the discussion at the board meeting mainly centered around temperature screeners for each school.


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Governor delays start of school for K-12 until after Labor Day

Kansas students won’t see the inside of a classroom until after Labor Day.

And, if Kansans don’t start wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings, the start date for school could get pushed back again.

Gov. Laura Kelly said she cannot, in good conscience, send children and teachers back to school in August, considering the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Kelly reminded Kansans of the dire need to take health precautions Wednesday afternoon during a live press conference. In her press conference she was joined by the Kansas Education Commissioner Dr. Randy Watson and the Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lee Norman.

“This virus has impacted all of our lives,” Gov. Kelly said, noting that when she ordered schools closed in March, the state case numbers reacted and they “flattened the curve.”

That is, until Memorial Day hit, and following that the case numbers have dramatically risen and now Kansas is considered a “red zone” based on the number of cases. Gov. Kelly said she had hoped to curb the rise in cases by mandating masks within the state, but many counties voted to over ride her mask mandate — as allowed by House Bill 2016 — and so that was not effective in slowing down the spread of the virus.

“The moment cases started trending downward, we saw a rise in politics,” stated Gov. Kelly, noting the resistance from the Legislative Council on her mandates.

With an incubation period of two weeks, the state will realize the full impact of social gatherings from the Fourth of July by this weekend, said Dr. Norman.

Gov. Kelly said she will be signing an Executive Order next Monday, July 20 mandating that Kansas schools cannot open until after Labor Day — at the very least putting the start date at Sept. 8 or later. She stressed this date included all activities and athletics.

The delay will give school districts time to prepare to bring the students back to the classroom in light of an 1,100 page document of guidelines for doing so — just released this past week by the Kansas Department of Education.

Dr. Watson said each school district will develop it’s own plans — fine-tuned to fit the district and the community’s needs based on restrictions within each county and according to the local health director. Some of the guidelines could include the requirement of masks in the classrooms, daily health assessments and temperature checks, in addition to stringent cleaning procedures.

Dr. Norman said that as of Wednesday, Kansas had more than 20,000 cases and almost 300 deaths after a recent spike. He noted that the disease should have declined in the summer months, but instead they saw record increases. Nationwide, there have been 140,000 deaths due to the COVID-19 coronavirus and Dr. Norman said many who have recovered were left with lingering health effects after contracting the virus.

“Every week we don’t take COVID-19 seriously it sets us back two weeks,” Dr. Norman said.

As the governor left her press conference, she was met with applause from the rotunda in the Capital from a large group of teachers who had gathered. Many teachers are concerned about returning to the classroom too early.

The governor’s decision must be affirmed by the State School Board.