Virus, new businesses were top stories here
HARTINGTON — Determining the top local news story of 2021 was not a difficult task.
Despite vaccines, social distancing and masking, the COVID-19 pandemic again dominated our lives and the news in 2021.
By year's end, the virus had claimed the lives of more than 820,000 U.S. citizens and more than five million across the world.
Vaccinations began in Nebraska in January, allowing a bit of normalcy to return, but thoughts of the deadly virus were always just around the corner as different variants arrived.
The second biggest story was another sad one. After years of declining enrollment at the Newcastle Elementary School, the Hartington-Newcastle School Board made the difficult choice to close the facility altogether.
The third biggest story of the year came on the heels of one of the biggest stories of 2019 when a Historic District was formed in downtown Hartington.
Downtown Hartington has since begun to see a bit of a make-over. The former Globe Clothing store was transformed into a steakhouse in 2021, which has since become a destination spot for people around the region.
At the same time, the former Surge Sales and Service building, just across the street to the west of the Globe, underwent a transformation of its own as it became the Big Hair Brewhaus. After soft openings, both businesses began operating fulltime in late May.
The steakhouse and brewery have since become staples in downtown Hartington.
Downtown saw yet another dining option in Angus as the Chief Bar and Grill re-opened under the management of Katherine Breen and Christian Auch of Fordyce. They also own and operate Boondocks in Fordyce.
The business underwent some major cleaning and some minor remodeling with new tables and chairs and a fresh coat of paint - before it opened to the public.
In late 2021, the Hartington-Newcastle School Board started discussing the possibility of expanding the Hartington building to alleviate over-crowding.
Six new classrooms and a new gymnasium will be added to the south side of Hartington Elementary School under a $6.9 million plan approved by the Hartington-Newcastle School Board.
Supt. A.J. Johnson said the addition is needed because of increasing enrollment and over-crowded issues at the current facility, which was built in 1973.
“We’re just bursting at the seams right now,” Johnson said, as he gave an impromptu tour of the facility Tuesday morning. During the tour, Johnson pointed out three offices that had been turned into classrooms. The stage and lunchroom area are also used for classroom space on occasion, Johnson said.
“We just need more space,” he said. Prochaska and Associates architectural firm, Omaha, presented a master plan to the board Monday, designed to provide the muchneeded space for the district.
The plan includes construction of two new 1,600-square-foot preschool classrooms with restrooms, a new gym and four 1,300-square-foot upper elementary classrooms.
The plan calls for the preschool classrooms to connect to the current west wall of the elementary building.
The next biggest story of the year here turned out to be one big party.
Organizers for Bow Valley’s huge German heritage celebration were disappointed when they had to cancel last year’s Schuetzenfest event.
Bow Valley area residents planned for several years to put on the Schuetzenfest celebration in 2020, but the virus scuttled those plans. There was no stopping the Bow Valley Park Association from putting on the celebration in 2021.
It turns out the cancellation ended up being a good thing in disguise.
Organizers put together a two-day new celebration July 31 and Aug. 1 — 125 years after the first Schuetzefest was organized here.
“I guess maybe it was meant to be,” said Randy Noecker, who is one of the event’s organizers.
The celebration of Schuetzenfest honors this area’s German heritage in a traditional festival dating back to the early 17th century.
Matt Potts of Crofton, and his girlfriend Amber Johnson of Yankton, S.D., were crowned as King and Queen.
A new city sales tax was approved in 2020 by Hartington voters. The new tax was implemented in 2021 and is expected to generate income to help make street, infrastructure and other improvements throughout the community.
Hartington-Newcastle’s dominance of the State One Act play competition brought yet another state title to the school in 2021.
Hartington native Doris Feilmeier was recognized during the year as the Nebraska Mother of the Year.
The Cedar County Transit Authority not only expanded its footprint here in 2021, putting up a brand new vehicle storage and office facility near the Community Complex, but it also expanded its territory into Knox County.
A Hartington High School graduate became the 10th biggest story of the year here when she trained for and then competed in the Olympic trials in Eugene, ORE. Even though Michaela Dendinger did not advance to the Olympics, she put in quite a showing for her hometown.
Top Cedar County Stories of 2021
2. Newcastle school closes
3. New downtown businesses open
4. HNS Board plans addition
5. Schuetzenfest celebrates 125th
6. New city sales tax enacted
7. HNS wins State One Act again
8. Feilmeier is Neb. Mother of the Year
9. Cedar County Transit expands
10. Hartington native — Olympic trials