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Santa Claus arrives in Hiawatha!

Santa Claus made his grand entrance to downtown Hiawatha Saturday night.

Santa arrived at the Brown County Historical Society’s downtown Memorial Auditorium and museum, on an antique fire truck, thanks to the Robinson Fire Department and Chief Dennis Tietjens.

Just as he arrived, the Jr. Masters of Ceremony — Ali and Mady Krauter — flipped the switch to turn the lights on downtown, recently put up on all of the downtown lamp posts courtesy of the City of Hiawatha!

Inside a beautifully decorated museum, Santa greeted families and posed for photos taken by Tiff’s Touch Photography — Tiffany Hasenohr — and picked up hot cocoa, candy canes and popcorn!

The event was sponsored by the Hiawatha Chamber and Visitors Bureau, along with the Brown County Historical Society. Photos from Tiff’s Touch Photography of families with Santa will be posted on the HCVB Facebook site soon.

The HCVB has announced that due to schedule conflicts of homeowners that led to lower participation this year, the Holiday Homes Tour is being postponed until next year. They encourage local home owners to start planning their themes and decorations and contact the Chamber to feature their home on next year’s event!

In the meantime, mark your calendar for these other upcoming holiday events in the area — including a new Christmas movie event at the Historical Society Memorial Auditorium — set for Saturday, Dec. 14.

Upcoming Holiday Events

Thursday, Dec. 12 – Fairview Lights Up: Join the community of Fairview for their 26th Annual Fairview Lights Up. Meet Santa at Van’s Electric, stop by local businesses around town at the Community Center and participate in drawings. At the Community Center will be a nativity display by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, a benefit supper by the Fairview Willing Workers 4-H Club with cheesecake dessert by Fairview UCC Guild. The Willing Workers 4-H Club will also have a donation drawing for two hogs and processing and a poker run.

Sunday, Dec. 8 – Stacie’s Dance Academy’s “All I Want For Christmas:” This annual event is at 5p.m. At the Hiawatha High School auditorium. Admission is a new toy for the Jingle Bell Ride County Christmas Store. Monetary donations are also accepted. Dancers age 2-18 will be dancing and singing for the eighth annual Christmas recital.

Saturday, Dec. 14 — Candy Cane Hunt and Breakfast With Santa: The HP&R is teaming up with the Hiawatha Chamber and Visitors Bureau this year for a special jolly event on Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Fisher Center gym.

Join HP&R and the HCVB in searching for Santa’s lost candy canes. This is a free community event for toddlers to fourth graders. Groups will meet at the Fisher Center at the following times: 9 a.m. — Toddler/preschool ages; 9:30 a.m. — Kindergarten-1st grade; 10 a.m. — 2nd-4th grade; 10:30 a.m. — Special Needs Toddler-4th Grade. After each hunt, families are welcome to join Santa in the gym for a grab-and-go breakfast and photos. The hunts will take place by the walking trail by the Fisher Center.

This is a free community event – register your family by calling 742-7176.

Saturday, Dec. 14 – Reindeer Run: Following the Candy Cane adventures is a new event this year — the Reindeer Run at 11:30 a.m. on the walking trail by the Fisher Center. Register now for this short fun run along the walking trail. the race is planned for a mile-ish distance but may shorten depending on weather and course conditions. Everyone who registers by Dec. 9 will get a free pair of reindeer antlers to wear during the run! This event is for all ages and will feature two different routes for youth and adults.

Saturday, Dec. 14 – TUBACHRISTMAS: Set for noon at the Brown County Courthouse lobby. This is the 26th annual event, started by Jerry Speidel and Kevin Pennel. Anyone wanting to participate in the concert can come at 9:30 o’clock the morning of the concert for practice on the first floor of the Brown County Courthouse. Anyone who plays a euphonium or any low brass instrument is welcome to perform in the concert. For more information on TUBACHRISTMAS, go to the website www.tubachristmas.com.

Saturday, Dec. 14 — Christmas Movie: The Hiawatha Chamber and Visitors Bureau is teaming up with the Brown County Historical Society to offer an afternoon of Christmas nostalgia at the Memorial Auditorium with a special Christmas movie presentation. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. with the movie starting at 2 p.m. Popcorn and drinks will be available. This is a free Christmas event, however the Historical Society will be accepting a freewill offering for new stage curtains.

Saturday, Dec. 14 — HAATS Christmas Music: Annual Christmas program at 7 p.m. At the Brown County Historical Society. Join HAATS for the music of Christmas and art show. This event is free and a thanks to the community for its support during the year. Come and enjoy the sounds and talents of the NEK Kansas music community. Freewill donations will be accepted to help fund new curtains for the auditorium. Come early, at 6:40 p.m. For Christmas caroling in the lobby.

TUBACHRISTMAS Concert set for Dec. 14

The 26th annual TUBACHRISTMAS concert will be at noon on Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Brown County Courthouse.

Carol Speidel is carrying on the tradition of the TUBACHRISTMAS in memory of her husband, Jerry Speidel, who passed away in 2018.

Jerry Speidel and Hiawatha band instructor 26 years ago, Kevin Pennel, co-founded the Hiawatha TUBACHRISTMAS — based on a national event. That year, he contacted the national organization to register Hiawatha and the rest is history. David Reiter, band instructor from Mound City, Mo., signed on as conductor of the event and has been there from the very beginning.

The TUBACHRISTMAS concerts were started in 1973 by tuba player and teacher Harvey Philips, who died in October 2010. All of the TUBACHRISTMAS concerts were inspired to honor his teacher, William Bell, who was born in 1902 on Christmas.

The first TUBACHRISTMAS concert was in 1974 in Rockefeller Plaza, New York. Annually, there are around 275 concerts in the United States and additional ones in Canada and Switzerland. Hiawatha’s concert is one of seven held this year. Others will be in Manhattan, Hays, Salina, Wichita, Kansas City and Iola.

Carol Speidel said that some performers travel to participate in more than one concert a year.

“Jerry played at Kansas City one year and he and Brett (their son) played in Manhattan before,” she said. “They are all a little different.”

She also noted that David Reiter is back this year again as director of the event — which is held every year in the courthouse lobby and is free to attend. She noted that there is also not a cost to participate — the Hiawatha Chamber and Visitors Bureau covers the cost of the registration fee.

Anyone wanting to participate in the TUBACHRISTMAS concert can come at 9:30 a.m. the morning of Saturday, Dec. 14 for practice on the first floor of the Brown County Courthouse.

Anyone who plays a euphonium, or any low brass instrument, is welcome to perform in the concert. For more information on TUBACHRISTMAS, go to the website www.tubachristmas.com.

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Three district teachers nominated for National LifeChanger of the Year award

Hiawatha Elementary School teachers Kendelle Runer, Bri Jones and Andy Runer have been nominated for the 2018-2019 national LifeChanger of the Year award.

Sponsored by the National Life Group Foundation, the national LifeChanger of the Year program recognizes and rewards the very best K-12 public and private school educators and employees across the United States who are making a difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership.

Each school year, the LifeChanger of the Year program receives hundreds of nominations from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For 2018-2019, there will be a total of 17 individual LifeChanger of the Year awards. The awards structure is as follows:

1 National Grand Prize Winner

4 Grand Prize Finalists

10 LifeChanger Award Winners

1 Spirit Award Winner

1 Spotlight Award Winner

Each winner will receive a cash award that is split between the individual winner and their school. The national Grand Prize award is $10,000. Winners are announced via surprise award ceremonies held at their schools. The top five winners will also be honored at a national awards ceremony in Hawaii. Winners will be announced in Spring 2019.

Winners will be chosen by a selection committee comprised of former winners and education professionals. Nominees must be school district employees. Award winners are selected based on the following criteria:

A proven ability to make a beneficial difference in the lives of students

An ability to positively add to the development of the school’s atmosphere

Is involved in leadership activities at the school and/or community level

A demonstrative record of excellent performance at the professional level

A commitment to producing a nurturing atmosphere

Adherence to high moral and ethical standards

To view the Hiawatha nominees LifeChanger of the Year nominee profile, or to nominate someone from your school community, visit www.LifeChangeroftheYear.com.

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Hiawatha school district mourns death of teacher

The Hiawatha USD 415 School District is mourning the death of a teacher.

Monday evening, Superintendent Lonnie Moser issued a letter to the patrons on the district’s Facebook page to inform them of the death of Dixie Pethoud, teacher at Hiawatha Middle School, unexpectedly due to a sudden illness.

“This loss is profound as Ms. Pethoud impacted countless students in her 26 years with USD 415,” Moser said. “This semester, she taught Family and Consumer Science, 7th grade History, and 5th/6th grade Technology. Ms. Pethoud genuinely cared for her students and colleagues. She had a wonderfully positive outlook and will be deeply missed.”

Moser went on to say that USD 415 and HMS faculty are committed to ensuring the students and staff have needed resources during this difficult time. He said additional counselors, social workers and other personnel will be present for the days ahead to assist students and staff with their emotional needs.

Services for Dixie Pethoud have not been announced yet.

Please keep Ms. Pethoud’s family and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers.

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Commissioner resigns amidst Fire Department shakeup backlash

The Hiawatha City Commission now has 10 days to name a replacement commissioner, after John Merchant, Jr. resigned his position at Monday’s meeting, following a failed attempt to reinstate recently terminated Fire Chief Ryan Shockley.

The meeting was well-attended by both concerned community members and members of the fire department.

The resignation came after the commission heard comments from Assistant Fire Chief Paul Shaefer, who spoke on Shockley’s behalf. Shockley was terminated from his position following an executive session at the Nov. 18 commission meeting, without any public comment as to a reason.

Shaefer called the sudden firing a “huge slap in the face,” and spoke to Shockley’s leadership and teaching abilities, and said that the Hiawatha Fire Department is “as strong as it can be, right now,” thanks to Shockley’s efforts. Shaefer cited a list of 53 notes taken from one-on-one meetings between department members and commissioners in April, which have been, to his knowledge, unaddressed by the commission in the interim, and were given to the department at the time of Shockley’s termination. According to Shaefer, Shockley had turned the department around since that time. During his public comment, he Assistant Chief asked the commission what could be done to reinstate the former chief. Mayor Bill Collins stated that action by the commission is the only way to fill an appointed position, at which point Commissioner Merchant put forth a motion to reinstate.

The motion died on the floor for lack of a second. Merchant then made a comment directed at the fire fighters in the room to the point that the commission does not support them. Moments later, Merchant, who was not present at the Nov. 18 meeting, read a letter of resignation, stating that he would be relocating outside of city limits later this month and citing concerns over the ease of access of community members to speak at commission meetings, an unanswered request to have credit card charges listed and discussed in open session, and a lack of accountability. Merchant closed by saying, “We are the voice of our citizens and we owe it to them to do the right thing,” at which time he left the meeting.

Some citizens present at the meeting were upset by a lack of a clear response as to why Shockley was let go, to which City Attorney Andy Delaney replied that personnel and other matters discussed in Executive Session were not something that commission members can discuss in open session. Delaney also responded to questions as to Commissioner Merchant’s lack of knowledge of the previous meeting’s proceedings and Shockley’s lack of knowledge as to a reason of his firing, stating to both that he could not discuss the answers to those questions, but that he disagreed with the factual basis of each question.

Commissioner Dustin Williams stated that he hates that emergency responders and the city are at odds and hopes to find a way to re-establish proper communication. Williams, a longtime EMS member himself, said that he had prepared a statement, but felt that tensions were too high in the room for any constructive conversation to continue. Commissioner Becky Shamburg agreed, saying also that “the issue is not closed,” but voicing her opinion that now is not the time to continue the discussion.

The commission voted to accept Merchant’s resignation, and approved a Special Meeting on Monday, Dec. 9 to fill the position, which they must do within 10 days.