Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

2016 in review part 1


2016 was a busy year in Kimball. A young Kimball man saved an elderly woman from a burning car, the Goodhand Theater was reopened, a small group of young ladies made wrestling history, the Kimball Event Center was saved, some area youth met a famous movie star, the Kimball Jr. Sr. High School got a facelift and the local Legion baseball team was revived.

We begin where every new year does, in January. Part one will revisit stories through June and next week, in part two, we will revisit stories from July through December.

January 7, 2016

A two vehicle accident east of the Dix exit on Interstate 80 sent two adults and a child to area hospitals Sunday, Jan. 3 around 7:30 a.m.

According to Kimball Sheriff’s Deputy, Brandon Loy, the early morning accident occurred in the east bound lane, when Brittany N. Welch (22) of Augusta, Mich., attempted to pass an eastbound semi truck with a trailer in a 2011 Chrysler four door sedan.

The right front portion of Welch’s vehicle clipped the semi, sending the vehicle out of control and into the median and sending Welch, eight months pregnant, into labor.

Welch and her front-seat passenger, 33-year-old Jennifer Wheeler, also of Augusta, Mich., were transported via Air Link to Regional West Medical Center with serious, but non-life threatening injuries.

A third occupant of the vehicle, a seven year old male was taken to Kimball Health Services via ambulance, where he was treated and released to Deputy Loy.

Loy transported the child to Health and Human Services in Scottsbluff where he was cared for until family members could arrive from Michigan to take over his care.

The driver of the combination truck and trailer, Loran Last, 51, of Newport Beach, Calif., was using his safety restraints. He was uninjured and able to pull over and come to a safe stop on the shoulder of the highway.

None of the occupants of the Chrysler sedan were wearing seat belts.

Currently Welch is listed in good condition at Regional West Medical Center, with no information available on the infant.

Wheeler was released on or before Jan. 4 from RWMC.

No further information has been given regarding citations stemming from the accident.

January 28, 2016

A trip to downtown Kimball to run a few errands turned into a potential nightmare and a daring rescue for 92-year-old Helen Kuhlman of Kimball.

On Friday, Jan. 22, Kuhlman left her Park Terrace apartment for some personal errands and decided first to stop at the Kwik Stop to get gas in her 1993 Buick LeSabre. But, according to Kuhlman, her vehicle came to a stop just short of the gas pumps, made a loud “pop” noise and started fire.

She explained that a man then came to her vehicle and started hollering for her to “get out!” and “unlock it!” Another man, Garrett Pruett, 18, approached on the passenger side of her vehicle, knocked out the window with his fist, opened the door and pulled Kuhlman to safety.

“I was so confused,” she said, “I didn’t know what to do. My car has a lot of buttons.”

Kuhlman believed that she wouldn’t have been able to exit in time and said she was very grateful to Pruett, as her car went up in flames rather quickly.

City Administrator, Daniel Ortiz arrived at the scene shortly after he heard the call for the fire department go out over the scanner.

“I saw a group of guys, some with extinguishers trying to put out the flames,” he said. “Dustin Schutz and Garrett Pruett, were two that I recognized. I grabbed a fire extinguisher from City Hall and ran over to help. By then, Mrs. Kuhlman was out of the vehicle and a safe distance away. The car was not engulfed in flames yet, and we did what we could to control the flames underneath the hood of the car.”

Ortiz added that Fire Chief Wynne arrived and gave commands not to open the hood for fear of giving the flames more oxygen.

Flames engulfed the bottom of the car as the fire department arrived and prepared to extinguish the blaze,

Kimball High Lady Longhorns captured the championship of the 2016 South Platte Valley Athletic Conference Tournament Saturday evening at the North Platte Community College Gymnasium. The final score was 54-53! The score at half time was North Platte St Pats 28-14! The second half come-back will go down as one of the most memorable championships in the history of Kimball High basketball.


February 11, 2016

Amid discussion regarding ongoing costs associated with the Kimball Event Center, the Kimball City Council considered partnering with the Kimball County Board of Commissioners and Kimball Health Services to bring a wellness center to Kimball.

The matter was considered at the City Council meeting on Feb. 2 following a vote to pursue the matter by the Kimball County Commissioner’s at their meeting earlier the same day.

February 18, 2016

Kimball High sophomore Garrett Pedersen is headed to Omaha and the Nebraska State Wrestling Tournament after placing third at the C-4 District Tournament held at Broken Bow this past weekend! Garrett is Kimball’s lone state qualifier but now has the opportunity to become a three time state qualifier and three time state medal winner.

February 25, 2016

The top six contenders from each grade, fourth through eighth, competed against one another in the Spelling Bee, held Thursday, Feb. 18 at the Harry E. McNees Auditorium in Kimball. Fifth grader Lydia Travis won when she spelled “vicinity” correctly and followed up with the correct spelling of “macaw” with sixth-grader Riann Morton as runner-up. Students spelled in front of an audience of parents, grandparents and fellow students as well as judges Carolyn Montgomery, Jo Dietz and Linda Mihm. The enunciator for the event again this year, was Kathleen O’Brien, who has served as enunciator for more than a decade.

Congratulations, Lydia and Riann!

March 3, 2016

Kimball Cub Scout Pack #31 gathered together with leaders, family and friends to compete with their one of kind derby cars, at the Trinity United Methodist Church on Sunday, Feb. 28.

Each scout is given a kit to put together, and design their racing cars at the beginning of February for the race that was held last weekend. The parents of these participants are encouraged to help with their cars. This has been a long-standing tradition in the Kimball area, along with most other cub scout organizations throughout the country.

The cubs have a race track that was built and given to the boy’s group by Lawrence Wiegel. For the event there is also an electronic place finisher at the end of the track that was purchased and donated many years ago by Shorty Staab, who was very active with both the cub and boy scouts.

Josh Gillming, pack #31’s Cub Master and Joel Linn, who has been involved in Cub and Boy Scouts in Kimball for more than two decades and now serves as the committee chairman for the local organization, organized the event along with charter organization representative Randy Gunn from the Trinity United Methodist Church.

Every cub that participated in Sunday’s event received a trophy for their participation and hard work. All the trophies were purchased by Donnie Lonsdale.

March 17, 2016

“I was invited to go to London”, exclaimed Kimball’s newest author, “well, not me personally – but, my little bear book.”

Becky Mannon’s creation, “IF ONLY BEARS COULD TALK: Teddy Bear Tales from the Heart” was written to share her love of her hobby and to share the heart-warming memories of her journey in the art of creating these one of a kind, handmade bears.

The Kimball High School Speech Team won the C1-6 District Championship in Gering, on Monday, March 14.

Individual awards were presented to Desyree Nelson for sixth place in Persuasive speaking, Kennedy Lewis for fifth place in Serious Prose, and the Oral Interpretation of Drama team of Nicholas Thomas-Lewis, Taylor Muldoon, Kaden Adrian and Leisha Casimiro took fifth place.

Sebastian Portillo, Audrey Day, Paycen Harroun, Mikylah Seely, and Tristen Cook were awarded fourth place in Oral Interpretation of Drama and the team of Connor Moore and Mackenzie Brower took fourth place in Duet Acting

“We had a great day,” expressed team leader, Jenn Dillinger, “they were against some really tough competition.”

The following medal winners qualified for the state speech competition scheduled for March 23 in Kearney:

Kennedy Lewis - 3rd place in Extemporaneous speaking, Tristen Cook - 3rd place in Informative Speaking, Audrey Day - 2nd place in Humorous Prose, Leisha Casimiro - Informative speaking Champion, Taylor Muldoon - Poetry Champion, Sebastian Portillo - Serious Prose Champion, Nicholas Thomas-Lewis - Persuasive Speaking Champion

April 14, 2016

Sierra Starr recently completed her first year wrestling and she was part of a group of young ladies that made state history.

Starr and all of the ladies that wrestled at the Midwest Classic Nationals in Kearney on April 2 and April 3 were the first ever full girls’ league in the state.

“It is a point in history and it is awesome!” said her grandma and guardian, Penny Blackman Hobbs.

Starr made her way to the event placing in more than 20 meets this season, most recently at the state competition in Grand Island, where she took third place in the 72-78 pound weight division.

She followed that up by placing second in the national competition, beating out the young lady that bested her at state, and earning a berth to the Junior Olympics .

“We really weren’t expecting that this year,” Hobbs said. “So we won’t be able to raise the funds in time to go to the Junior Olympics, but it is a great goal for her next year.”

Jay Thurin, Starr’s coach, of the Tri-State Grapplers was unable to attend her latest competition so in his stead Bridgeport’s coach Armando Esparza stepped in to help out.

Though Starr won’t begin training for next season in earnest until the beginning of the school year, she plans to train with her mentor, Jersey Menke of Bridgeport, at least once a month throughout the summer.

“I had a lot of fun and I can’t wait to go to the Junior Olympics next year!” Starr said.

April 28, 2016

Imagine the excitement of opening night at the Goodhand Theatre in Kimball, May 1954, a night some may well remember – the smell of popcorn and the excited voices of the crowds waiting in line for tickets to see “Money from Home,” starring Dean Martin, Marjie Millar and Jerry Lewis.

This scene may soon be repeated, like a favorite rerun, right here in Kimball. More than 60 years later the Goodhand Theatre is scheduled to re-open with the same movie, showing on Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7 at 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.

“We encourage the community to come out and support the opening. Soon we are hoping to have more current movies with a digital system, but it will take money to do this, so we need support from the community to get the theatre up and going,” said Chairman of the Friends of the Goodhand Theatre Adrian Fuss.

May 5, 2016

Jaden Withrow and Trent Rutledge picked the best time to have their best efforts at the Best of the West Track and Field Classic, track and field meet, held Monday evening at Bearcat Stadium in Scottsbluff.

Withrow had a career best triple jump of 43’7.75” to capture the gold medal, the talented Kimball junior also saw the medal stand a second time to receive a third place medal in the long jump with his season best jump of 21’0”. A very good night for Mr. Withrow as he readies for the district and hopefully state meets coming up soon.

Kimball High senior, Trent Rutledge also took the top spot on the awards stand for winning the pole vault with a season best of 13’0”. Rutledge started at 11’6” and never had a miss until going out at 13’6” and almost making that height as well.

May 19, 2016

1. “On the 55th anniversary of our graduation from Kimball County High School, the Class of 1961 would like to present this marquee designating the north entrance to the high school campus. We thank the staff and administration from 1961 for the quality education afforded our class and good luck to all of the future students of the Kimball Public School system,” Jerry Knutsen, President Class of 1961.

Work on the project began in earnest nearly a year ago, with approval from 22 of 34 surviving Class of 1961 members during the 2015 All-Class Reunion. At that time the the empty lot, shown at the far top, at the intersection of Ninth and Nadine streets presented a lackluster and less-than-welcoming entrance to Kimball High School.

Local contractor Mark Brown began building the concrete base, second photo from top, with delays due only to weather.

The brick facade was placed and the marquee awaited lettering, cut out by Kimball High School ag students and powder coated by Allwayz Manufacturing in neighboring Pine Bluffs, Wyo., shown in the photo second from bottom.

The final product, completed in time for the 2016 Graduation ceremonies and shown in the bottom photo with Knutsen, a bold and proud welcome to all visitors proclaiming “You are in Longhorn Country.”

June 2, 2016

Kimball’s Aashlyn Rawlings, along with her brother and some friends, went on quite the adventure this past week.

Rawlings met Shia LaBeouf the star of “Transformers”, “Holes”, and Disney’s “Even Stevens”. LaBeouf along with his art collaborators of more than two years, Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner were all in Kimball last Thursday as part of their latest piece of performance art.

The trio is hitchhiking across the country and allowing the public to pick them up at coordinates the group posted online -- and take them anywhere across the country.

Titled #TAKEMEANYWHERE, and brokered by the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in Colorado and The Finnish Institute in London, the piece runs through June 23.

“I met him (Shia) at the Super 8 in Kimball,” she said excitedly. “I heard he was there so I went up and waited for a few minutes when he appeared!I was speechless!”

Rawlings added that the movie star requested that she and Kimballite Rusty Warren take him and his two companions somewhere through the state.

According to Rawlings, it was Warren that suggested Omaha.

June 16, 2016

A local church is soon to celebrate their established 100th anniversary, according to its pastor, Kenneth Mars whose wife was very instrumental in gathering information on the church history to share with our readers.

St. John’s Lutheran church, currently located on Locust Street in Kimball, first began in June of 1916 and was located on Main Street in a church building north of the railroad tracks. This first church building was erected in 1888, and used by the Methodists.

“The records are a little fuzzy,” Mars said, “but we are picking, June 25 and 26, because there is a statement in the paper (Observer, June 29, 1916) - it said ‘the previous Sunday that the German Lutherans dedicated their church.’ That’s why we chose that date that we did for this year.”

June 23, 2016

For the first time since 2008 Kimball has a Legion baseball team, though currently we have a junior legion team, athletes aged 17 and under, manager Luke Dea and head coach Wade Brashear hope to grow it.

“It started a handful of years ago, trying to rebuild the little league and trying to get it competitive – where we were traveling,” Dea said.

Local kids were missing out on a great opportunity, Dea said, especially in the summer. So Dea and Brashear stepped up to help the athletes move beyond little league.

“It is not tax-base supported, it is not school supported, so there is a lot of volunteering and fund-raising,” Dea added.

The biggest challenges the team has faced include facilities and funds but they are also a young team, playing a few from the Babe Ruth league (age 13-14).

“To keep it going takes a lot of time, money and effort,” Dea said.


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