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Crafters come together at Calvin Crest

For more than 50 years, members of the Great Plains Creative Arts Association (GPCAA) have gathered once a year to learn, teach and complete a variety of arts and crafts as part of the association’s annual conference and workshop.

The GPCAA began in 1950 under the name “Great Plains Recreation Leader’s Laboratory,” where the group met for the very first time in Nystad, Nebraska.

Now, 68 years later, the GPCAA is focusing on “new beginnings” as the association moved its annual four-day workshop from its longtime venue in Cozad and relocated to Camp Calvin Crest near Fremont.

“Every year, we try to offer new classes for the event to keep people coming, and this year we wanted to shake things up and decided to move the workshop as well,” Cheryl Jensen, GPCAA board president said. “We were out at Camp Comeca in Cozad for a very long time and we decided to try it here for the first time and it’s been really good so far.”

The GPCAA Annual Workshop began on Tuesday and will continue at the Camp Calvin Crest Conference and Retreat Center through Friday afternoon.

On Tuesday, more than 50 association members spent their morning engaged in a multitude of arts and crafts project classes including loom weaving, stained glass making, jewelry designing, water color painting, wooden sign making and plenty of other artistic endeavors.

For Neva Umstead, who came from Fullerton to teach at this year’s event, the annual workshop is a great way for arts and crafters to try their hands at crafts they may not otherwise attempt to do.

“The great thing about this camp is you can get a taste of a lot of different projects,” she said. “With things like quilting and loom weaving, there is a lot of cost involved with purchasing the equipment, so this is a great way to try those things before you make a big investment. Once you get in here, you can try anything you want essentially.”

Umstead has been quilting for more than 20 years and is teaching classes on how to do T-shirt quilts and mug rugs at the GPCAA Workshop.

“I sewed for a longtime and really self-taught myself how to quilt,” she said. “There was a kind of a quilting craze at that time and my kids were older so didn’t have to sew any clothes anymore.”

Along with Umstead, the workshop features artists and crafters from around the state including some from right here in Fremont.

One of those crafters is Morris Frey who creates birdhouses, dustpans and a variety of other decorative containers out of recycled license plates and tin popcorn cans.

On Tuesday morning, Frey worked through creating a decorative dustpan with fellow association member and student Sheryl Meander.

The pair measured angles on an old Nebraska license plate and used a vice to bend it into a shape suitable for dust collection.

“He is a very patient man,” Meander joked about Frey during the process. “I really enjoy being able to reuse old stuff to create art and this is another great way to do that. We are really big into recycling here.”

Another craft available at the workshop is a loom weaving class that is taught by GPCAA President Cheryl Jensen.

“The idea is to have something to take home with you when you go,” Jensen said. “I had the loom all ready to go for my student and now she is learning how to weave and she’ll have a rug to take home at the end of the day.”

For Jensen and other teachers at the workshop, their craft of choice is not only a hobby it is also their livelihood and lifelong passion.

“It’s like taking a vacation when I come here. You are with people who enjoy doing what you enjoy doing,” she said. “I have a store in Hastings where I teach weaving and spinning and sell yarn called the The Plum Nelly. It really is my passion.”

Another teacher at the workshop, who not only has been a part of the GPCAA for more than 30 years, but also has turned her artistic endeavor into a career is Deborah Brooks.

Brooks is from Hastings and owns her own studio, known as From The Heart Creations, where she creates precious metal clay jewelry.

“It starts as a lump of clay and when you are done it’s a beautiful piece of jewelry,” she said.

Brooks uses precious metal clay which is made up of 95-98 percent silver, binder and water and looks like a typical lump of clay before it is transformed into jewelry.

“You just start with a patty of clay and then just add textures to it,” she said. “You can be creative as you want to, you can even carve it like wood before you fire it.”

After molding the clay into rings, pendants, bracelets and other types of jewelry, Brooks puts it in a 1,650-degree kiln and fires it for two hours.

Along with providing a venue to teach and learn about a variety of arts and crafts, the annual workshop provides an opportunity for members to spend a few days with long-distance friends.

“Some of these women have been coming for over 30 years and they keep their friendships. It’s really amazing,” Jensen said. “People come from all over. We have people from Texas, Wyoming and Colorado and all over Nebraska.” ‘

For Ellen Fielding from Omaha, the event is not only a way to catch up with old friends but a way to connect with her own family.

“It’s kind of a generational thing for a lot of people,” she said. “My mom is 94 years old now and started coming 30 years ago, and she starting bringing me in the 1980s. I invited my sister this year and it is her first year. She came all the way from just south of Seattle, Washington, to spend the week with me.”

The GPCAA Annual Workshop will continue at Camp Calvin Crest through Friday at 3 p.m. and the general public is encouraged to attend.

Members of the public can still sign up for, and participate in, a variety of classes for a $25 membership fee as well as a lab fee. The lab fees differ from class to class, with most running between $5-10.

Some classes available to participate in include: stained glass, jewelry design, acrylic paint on canvas, silk painting, fabric dyeing, barn wood signs, gelli plate, button art, paper weaving, water color painting, card weaving, bead embroidery, tin birdhouses and more.

More information about GPCAA or the annual workshop can be found on the association’s Facebook page: GPCAA — Great Plains Creative Arts Association.

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Bocce ball league set this spring

Rod Welander is inviting area residents to a ball game.

Not baseball or basketball.

But bocce ball.

This is the fourth year Welander has been an organizational leader for a season of games that not only promotes fellowship, but helps participants raise funds for local charities.

Organizational meetings for the PLC Benevolent Bocce Ball League start at 6 p.m. April 17 and 18 at Peace Lutheran Church, 2102 N. County Road 26, about a mile east of Walmart off U.S. Highway 30.

The league’s games, which last an hour, start at 6 on consecutive Tuesday nights.

Since some would-be participants couldn’t play on Tuesdays, the hope is to offer a second night of bocce ball.

“We have 10 bocce ball courts, which limits us to 20 teams,” Welander said. “Last fall, we had 18 teams and so in order to grow the league, we decided this spring to also play on Wednesday nights.”

At least eight teams are needed if a second night is to be offered.

League games are played for seven weeks, which includes six weeks of competition.

A league tournament and potluck meal take place on the seventh week.

League standings will be determined at that time and each of the top three teams will be able to choose a charitable organization in Fremont that will receive funds generated by the league.

In the previous three years, $4,629 has been raised for various local charities, including: Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity; The Hope Center for Kids-Fremont; The Bridge, which serves survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault; Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog; Jefferson House, a residential shelter for children removed from their homes due to alleged abuse and neglect; and the Salvation Army.

“It’s an easy and fun way to give back to the community,” he said.

The cost to play in the league is $30 per team for the season and $1 a week per player.

Teams can consist of two to eight individuals. Players can range in age from 10 on up.

“The league is really fun,” Welander said. “It’s not real competitive. The fellowship is outstanding.”

Welander said many people form small groups and go out and eat together afterward.

He encourages charities to get a team together and participate.

“Charities need to see if they can get volunteers to participate, because they can benefit the specific charity that they hold near and dear to their heart,” he said.

Bocce, often referred to as lawn bowling or Italian bowling, can be traced to ancient Rome.

The object of the game is to have one or more of a team’s balls closer than any of an opponent’s balls to the pallino/pallina (a smaller ball, usually white) at the end of the set. Welander said the game is easy to learn to play.

For more information, call 402-727-1272.

File Photo  

This Tribune file photo depicts a sign outside of the dual language class at Washington Elementary School in Fremont.

Brent Wasenius / Evan Nordstrom / Fremont Tribune 

David Estrada-Solorzano of Fremont High passes the ball to a teammate in a boys soccer match against Lincoln North Star on Tuesday night at Christensen Field. The Navigators won 4-1. 

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Friends of the Keene Memorial Library book sale set for this weekend

The Friends of the Keene Memorial Library will sell hundreds of boxes worth of donated books this weekend — all to benefit the library and its programs.

The annual Friends of the Keene Memorial Library book sale will take place all weekend long. The festivities begin Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with a special pre-sale. Members of the Friends of Keene Memorial Library can enter for free and non-members can enter for a $10 fee.

On Friday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., the sale opens with free admittance to all. It will continue on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and end on Sunday, with the sale taking place from noon to 4 p.m. On Sunday, all books are half-off.

The large number of books on sale were donated to the library throughout the year and sorted into categories, according to Jeff Hoffman, the book sale chairperson.

“It’s the Friends of the Library’s major fundraiser for the year, so we’re able to provide things for Keene Memorial Library that are outside their budget capabilities,” Hoffman said.

Money from the sale in the past has gone toward a number of different projects. It has gone toward redoing the landscaping, purchasing furniture, supporting the prime time reading program, author visits, the summer reading program and more, Hoffman said.

The event typically raises between $12,000 and $14,000 each year.

The event will take place at the Fremont City Auditorium at Ninth and Broad streets.

Supporting the library is important to ensuring that the community has resources to stay educated, Hoffman said.

“The library provides a number of services for the community that are invaluable, such as our computer work stations,” Hoffman said. “Not only our collections, but our online resources, which are so important to help educate our community

More information on the book sale is available at