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FreedomFest organizers prepare for event

Josh Marreel is on a mission.

But not like the one he had many years ago.

In 2010, Marreel was a U.S. Marine serving on a combat deployment in Afghanistan.

Today, the former Hooper resident is co-founder of Miles for Heroes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising support and awareness for U.S. military veterans. The group focuses on serving veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder by helping them become involved with outdoor interests such as hunting.

Originally taking part in walks and runs to raise awareness for veterans, Marreel and his team members will host their second FreedomFest which includes a barbecue cook-off, 5K run and a concert.

The public is invited to the event, which starts with a poker run. Registration for the poker run begins at 9 a.m. May 27 on Main Street in Scribner and the event starts at 11 a.m.

Registration for the 5K run begins at 1:30 p.m., with the run starting at 3 p.m.

The barbecue cook-off competition will take place throughout the day.

Drake White, whose debut album, “Spark,” shot to No. 1 on the iTunes Top Country Albums chart upon release, will perform at the concert. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. on Scribner’s Main Street. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Based out of Fort Worth, Texas, musician Aaron Copeland, who performed with and co-wrote songs for the Casey Donahew Band, will perform at the concert as well. Copeland has recorded his debut EP (extended play) album.

Concert tickets are $15 each beforehand and $20 on the day of the show.

Those who want to take part in the all-you-can-eat barbecue can pay $25 beforehand (and eat starting at 5:30 p.m.) or $30 on the day of the show.

For that extra $10, area residents can try what the barbecue contestants have cooked, Marreel said.

To register for the barbecue competition, contact Mike Schlueter at 402-720-1527 or Joel Marreel at 402-936-3016.

Funds raised from FreedomFest will be used to help veterans.

“Our whole goal is to get Nebraska veterans into the outdoors,” Marreel said. “We’ve found, and nationwide it’s been shown, that getting veterans in the outdoors or finding them a passion can take their minds away from PTSD and different struggles and anxiety.”

Marreel points to something that took place in January.

“We were fortunate enough to take out some guys out west for a goose-hunting trip,” he said. “It was three guys who didn’t even know each other until we got out there and I think they still talk to this day — every day.”

Marreel said the hope is to provide more trips for veterans.

“We’re pretty excited,” he said.

Miles for Heroes was started by Marreel and Curtis Thomas, who served together with the 3rd Battalion 1st Marines in Southern Helmand Province Afghanistan.

In 2012, Marreel and Thomas lost a good friend and fellow Marine, Wade Wilson, in Afghanistan.

Wilson, who was from Centerville, Texas, was killed in action and posthumously earned a Silver Star — the nation’s third highest medal for combat valor.

The citation states that Wilson put himself in between a critically wounded Marine and an insurgent’s barrage of fire in May 2012.

Marreel had another good buddy from boot camp, former Californian Lance Cpl. Daniel Peterson, who lost his legs during their deployment in Afghanistan in 2010.

“I was fortunate that when I got out of the Marine Corps I had both arms and both legs,” Marreel said.

After they returned from their service, Marreel and Thomas wanted to honor their fellow soldiers who weren’t as fortunate — those who came home missing limbs, who battle psychological demons, and who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

The two men saw Texas country music singer Grainger Smith walk 100 miles year after year to support an endeavor called the Boot Campaign and raise awareness for veterans.

So in 2013, Marreel and Thomas led a team of veterans and patriots on a three-day, 100-mile walk from central to northeast Nebraska and their Miles for Heroes organization began.

The next year, they invited others to join them in a five-day, 464-mile relay carrying the American flag across the state of Nebraska.

That first relay was completed in honor of Donald Schwab, a Medal of Honor recipient from Hooper.

In 2015, the group had a 464-mile run in Nebraska and the next year had one from North Platte to Scribner.

But as the men got older, married and started families, they would take a different approach.

“We focus on a one-day event, where we can get the whole community involved and continue to do what we want to do and help Nebraska veterans find a passion in the outdoors,” he said.

Marreel wants to do what he can to assist Nebraska veterans.

“I found that right when I got out, fishing was my go-to,” Marreel said. “It was my passion that I could grab onto and if I was having a tough day I could go out there and do that.

“Being able to share that with other veterans means a lot and having a community — whether it’s Scribner or Dodge County support this idea — at the end of the day is rewarding for me.”

The first FreedomFest took place in 2017.

Marreel looks forward to this year’s event.

“Doing it on Memorial Day weekend reminds people what Memorial Day is all about,” he added.

Future plans include helping grow the event.

“We want to get more trips out of the year,” he said.

More information about FreedomFest is available at

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Public invited to see works, hear comments by those judging show

It’s not every day you can go someplace and see cattle with teal faces.

Or an old-time pump from which flows a swirl of steel wool.

Or golden orbs that seem to float effortlessly in a faraway galaxy on canvas.

But you can see these things — or at least artists’ creations of them — if you take a trip to Gallery 92 West this month.

The works are part of the Fremont Area Art Association ANAC Selection Show now on exhibit in the gallery at 92 W. Sixth St.

An artists’ reception is planned from 5-7 tonight in the Dugan Gallery of the downtown art association building. The public is invited to see the show, which consists of 44 works of art by FAAA members entered in a juried competition.

The husband and wife team of Mara Hornig and Chris Sell of Fremont will serve as judges, selecting 14 pieces to go on to the 54th Annual Association of Nebraska Art Clubs (ANAC) conference in June in Scottsbluff.

Hornig and Sell will share their comments at about 6 during the Friday evening reception. Awards will be announced. There will be a Best of Show and 13 Awards of Excellence, said Barbara Gehringer, FAAA executive director.

Works by about 20 FAAA artists are in the show at the local gallery.

“This is some of their best work. It’s all brand new,” Gehringer said.

One requirement is that work entered in this show must have been produced in the last two years.

“This show tends to raise the bar a little bit,” Gehringer said. “It makes people bring out their best stuff. It’s a friendly competition. It’s an honor to make it to state so it encourages artists to really pull out all the stops.”

The show features a wide range of media including, photographs, oil and acrylic paintings, assemblages, clay pieces, paper art, jewelry and works done in colored pencil or pastels.

“I think it’s really difficult to judge something like this and choose a ‘Best of Show,’ because they’re different media and they’re all of the caliber that could go on (to the state competition), but you can only choose so many,” Gehringer said. “It’s always interesting and educational to hear what the judges have to say, because everybody sees art differently.

“Every person who would come in and judge would choose different winners.”

Hornig received her bachelor of art’s degree in art and English education from Nebraska Wesleyan University and master’s of science degree in education from Wayne State College.

She has taught for Lincoln Public Schools and its surrounding areas as a substitute teacher and for Fremont Public Schools for the past 18 years.

Sell received his bachelor of fine arts degree in painting and photography from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He hung various art shows and served as a gallery manager and docent for Elder Gallery at Nebraska Wesleyan.

Gehringer said the statewide conference will feature work from 38 art clubs from across the state. Those works will be judged by a national judge and 25 pieces will be selected to travel to the clubs from June 2018 to June 2019.

“We’ll get that traveling exhibit from Nov. 17 through Dec. 2,” she said. “It’s a really cool show.”

Libby Schere will be one of the teachers at the First Lutheran Church Early Learning Center. The centerwill open on Aug. 13 in the church’s mission center at 3200 E. Military Ave., in Fremont.

Brent Wasenius / Evan Nordstrom 

Miah Vakiner of Fremont High reaches to make a volley at the net in a # 1 doubles match against Blair Thursday at the Fremont High School Tennis Complex in Fremont.

Famous artists' works on display

You’ve probably heard the names.

John Audubon.

Ansel Adams.

Andy Warhol.

You probably don’t expect to see even one of their works of art at a local gallery.

But tonight and this month, area residents can see works by some famous artists at Gallery 92 West in downtown Fremont.

The public is invited to an opening reception for the 31st Annual Sheldon Statewide Exhibit from 5-7 tonight in the Fremont Area Art Association building at 92 W. Sixth St. Admission is free. This reception will be held in conjunction with one for the art association’s ANAC Selection Show.

Featured in the Hinds Gallery, the Sheldon exhibit is titled: “Meet Your Match.”

“The whole show is hung in pairs to encourage the viewer to see connections that aren’t maybe intuitively obvious,” said Barbara Gehringer, FAAA executive director.

Even if the paired objects that seem very different, at first, there is the opportunity for conversations that can spark new ideas and offer fresh perspectives.

“It invites people to look longer,” Gehringer said. “It encourages honing skills at how to look at art and it makes you consider things you may not have at first glance.”

“Meet Your Match” consists of paintings, prints, photographs and sculpture by well-known artists including Adams and Warhol, along with Gordon Parks and Robert Rauschenberg.

The Sheldon Statewide is an annual exhibition and outreach program through with original artworks from the Lincoln museum’s collection travel to communities across the state.

Since its inception in 1987, the exhibition series has reached 300,000 people in 24 Nebraska communities.

Abby Groth, assistant curator of public programs at the Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln, will serve as the guest speaker at the Third Thursday Luncheon, which starts at 11:30 a.m. April 19 at Gallery 92 West in Fremont. The public is invited. Reservations are needed. Cost is $12 for the lunch with proceeds benefiting the art association.

Gehringer invites area residents to see the show.

“It’s an opportunity for people to see some world class art without leaving their hometown,” she said.