For 86 years, Plattsmouth and area residents have volunteered their time and money to ensure the Cass County seat maintains a family-friendly and fun Harvest Festival.
In short, the festival was born so that people suffering through the Great Depression could get together and have fun without needing a pocketful of money, because back then, almost no one had any fun or money.
The founders took a few ideas from the Aksarben Coronation — which took a few ideas from Mardi Gras — threw in some games like the egg toss, picked a king and queen, involved students, and basically, basically gave people an event so they could forgot their woes for a few days. That all occurred before the invention of television, electronic games and Fun Plexes.
By the time the Great Depression ended, the festival had become a tradition, and the reason it survives today is that more than a handful of people in the area have a passion for keeping this festival alive, despite its competitions.
Most the communities in southeast Nebraska sponsor some unique festival such as Germanfest in Syracuse, which celebrates the town’s ethnic history. Nebraska City, of course, draws thousands to town with the annual Applejack Festival, where you can get apples served in about any way imaginable – caramel, slushes, pies, cobblers or just plain.
Each celebration aims to give families a place to have a good time, and each has its own characteristics.
What I find the most unique about the Plattsmouth Harvest Festival is that it not only gives a huge nod and congratulations to area farmers who are all about feeding the world, it also recognizes volunteers who work behind the scenes to make life better for those around them.
The festival blends the accomplishments of young, old and middle-aged by recognizing individuals during the Coronation on Thursday night where a worthy King and Queen are announced along with the new half-dozen Lords and Ladies.
Last Thursday, the 2016-17 King and Queen, Roger Schuette and Whitney Todd, had to give up their seats for the newly chosen Gracie Kliegl and George Blessing III.
If you could find anyone as nice and personable as Whitney and Roger, it would have to be Gracie and George.
All four are worthy of the honors bestowed upon them during the Harvest Festival.
King George has overseen the village of Murray since the 1970s. He was part of the decision-making team that voted to pave the Murray streets, build a new city office, upgrade playground equipment, find a new way to get water to Murray residents without having to invest in very costly equipment, and now, to see a new Memorial Wall was erected in Tyson Park.
George can make almost anything electronic work and his family history dates back to the Cooks, whose cabin sits at the end of Plattsmouth Main Street.
George relies on a Segway to get around, but no one who knows him could call him handicapped or physically challenged, because he can take a “lemon” of a problem and through hard work and perseverance turns it into delicious “lemonade.”
At his side for this year’s festival was Gracie, a Conestoga High School graduate, who literally finds something delightful to be joyous about wherever she goes. Like her predecessor, Whitney Todd, she bubbles with energy and enthusiasm for other people.
The two of them attended just about every activity they could, greeting and talking to people in that down-to-earth way that is rare to find sometimes in this troubled world.
They are the type of people who, if you meet them once, you feel that you have known them for years, because they know how to put their new friends at ease and focus on helping others.
Humble, friendly and warm are just a few words that come to mind when it comes to this new king and queen from the Murray area.
In addition to the king and queen, the festival notes community volunteers by naming them Lords and Ladies. This year, Sandra Allgeier, Shari Dunlap, Tammy Lanum, Shane Jenkins, Joel Little and John Baroni were added to that list.
The choice of grand marshals for the parades also recognizes hardworking volunteers such as this year’s Kiddie Parade Grand Marshal Pat Jones and Grand Parade Marshal Edith Tesarek, two very lovely ladies who put a lot of love into helping others.
The festival also recognizes educators, military personnel and farm families who have stayed the course of time and committed themselves beyond the call of duty to their occupations. This year’s choices, as always, were excellent with The Horn family as Farm Family of the Year. You can’t go through Weeping Water without seeing something the Horns have helped with including the fair, 4-H and library.
This year, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Ronald R. Russell and Captain (Ret.) Sharon Russell were fitting choices for this year’s Military Family of the Year, and quite frankly, I was humbled to learn all they have done in to serve their countrymen.
Having the patience and drive to work with special education students also takes a rare kind of person, and Plattsmouth Community Schools was lucky to have Elaine Stratman in the system for 36 years. That’s a lot of lesson planning, meetings and pats on the back.
The Journal hopes you read about all the wonderful people honored through the festival this year in this issue or on our website cass-news.com. They are truly heroes among us who help make our lives richer, easier and more pleasurable each and every day.