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Josh Buda

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43rd annual Applejack Festival
by Josh Buda

NEBRASKA CITY – The 43rd annual Applejack Festival in Nebraska City celebrates the fall harvest during the third weekend in September. It includes an enormous parade filled with marching bands, car shows and candy for the children.  Thousands of people also head out to the apple orchards as well.

But this year, flooding over parts of I-29 and Highway 2 affected how many travelers made it there.  Nebraska City Mayor Jack Hobbie attends the festival every year and he noticed a slight decrease in attendance.

“We estimate anywhere from 30 to 45 thousand people each year and I would say probably this year we’re close to that 30 thousand range.  So attendance is down about 15 percent,” he said.
And even though it may have been an inconvenience for many travelers to take detours, the business at Kimmel Orchard is still flourishing and those who made it to the festival were able to enjoy the fall harvest with their family.

OMAHA – The Omaha Children’s Museum is celebrating its 35th anniversary with the new exhibit Dinosaurs: Dawn of the Ice Age.  The exhibit features lifelike robotic dinosaurs and roaring Ice Age mammals ranging from the Woolly Mammoth and the gentle Apatosaurus to the ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Dinosaurs: Dawn of the Ice Age also features a Paleocamp where children can dig up fossils.  Visitors can learn new facts about these prehistoric creatures as they watch the Ice Age come to life.  For many children, this is the first time they will get to see these amazing dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals up close.  The exhibit was very well received by the Omaha community.
Dinosaurs: Dawn of the Ice Age is open until January 8, 2012.

UNO Homecoming

OMAHA – The UNO Homecoming celebration turns 80 this year and it featured the biggest parade the campus has seen in years.

“It’s more than doubled in size this year, which is awesome.  Last year, we had about nineteen participants. This year we had over fifty,” said Kristin Hamer, Maverick Productions Homecoming Parade Coordinator. 

In addition to the Greek organizations and several student organizations on campus, the parade showcased more community members like The Shriners, The Red Cross, The United Way and multicultural groups as well.

But this year brought a first-ever change to the usual Homecoming routine: UNO’s Homecoming parade and tailgate party led up to a hockey game instead of a football game.  UNO Alumni Association President Lee Danker believes this year’s Homecoming celebration is set in a positive new direction.

“I think everybody is excited about Maverick hockey.  We’ve got a team that’s the top 15 rated hockey team this year.  So I think the potential for our team to do really well this year is great.  We were excited to be able to combine Homecoming with hockey this year,” he said.
The UNO Mavericks went on to beat the University of British Columbia, making this Homecoming one to remember.


OMAHA – Vala’s Pumpkin Patch is now in its 27th year of operation and this year the Vala family made several improvements to the farm.  The Haunted Farmhouse is now three times bigger than it was last year.  However, even though it is a little scarier, it is still appropriate for all ages.  Keeping families with children in mind, Vala’s also added The Applewood Play Area which is made of logs and provides a new safe place for children to climb around and have fun. 

Another addition is the new Timber Pavilion which is an open-air building that replaces an old tent and provides a nice seating area that can be rented for fall group events or weddings.  The Vala family added several holes and a spooky back room to their 3-D black light golf course as well.

Over the years, a trip to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch has become a tradition for many families.

“I think it’s great that they keep putting more money into the place and keep expanding it and making it nice for families to come out and enjoy it.  There are things for every age group and I like the caramel apples,” said Amy Christensen.

Of course, no trip to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch would be complete without taking a pumpkin home.  Today, Vala’s Pumpkin Patch has grown into a 212-acre operation with nearly 55 acres of pumpkins planted every year.  Vala’s Pumpkin Patch will be open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. until October 31st.


            OMAHA – For the seventh time in a week, the Omaha Fire Department responded to an apartment fires in the metro.  Investigators are discovering that a majority of the fires are leading back to the same cause: improper disposal of smoking materials, ranging from cigars to cigarettes.

            “On a number of these [fires], people are discarding them in a combustible container such as a flowerpot,” said Jim Gentile, assistant fire marshal of the Omaha Fire Department.

            But apartment fires can be prevented when proper precautions are taken.  Sixty-five percent of home fire deaths occur in homes without a working smoke alarm so the Omaha Fire Department is giving away free smoke alarms to families that need them during fire prevention month.

            “National fire prevention month is every October and it’s just a time where we ask everyone to send the message that preventing fires is really easy and if we work together we can help save lives and homes,” said Danelle Schlegelmilch, communications director for the American Red Cross heartland chapter.

            The best way to prevent future fires is to follow the Red Cross fire prevention and safety checklist, which includes: never smoking in bed, turning portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep, keeping flammables away from heat sources and installing smoke alarms on every level of your home.


Josh Buda
Toys for Tots
OMAHA – As the holidays approach, the need to help less fortunate families is greater than ever and the Marine Corps Reserve is working hard to make a difference with their annual Toys for Tots program.

            “Toys for Tots is an organization designed to provide the less fortunate children of the greater Omaha area with a Christmas,” said Sergeant Kacy Potts, Toys for Tots coordinator.

The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope that will assist children in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.  This year, the biggest sponsors for toy drop sites are Hyvee, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Menards and even the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

            “The primary goal of the Student Veteran Organization is to collect toys from faculty and staff here at UNO,” said Adam Maley, Student Veteran Organization president.  Last year, Toys for Tots provided Christmas gifts for twenty-one thousand less fortunate children in Omaha and this year they hope to help even more.

            “However small and insignificant that toy may seem, it makes that child’s day.  It puts a sparkle in their eye that wasn’t there before.  But you get to make their Christmas, you get to make their Christmas worthwhile,” said Matt Knipe, Marine Corps Reserve corporal.

There are over 600 toy drop off sites across the Omaha area so if you would like to get involved with Toys for Tots, donate a new, unwrapped toy or make a monetary donation online at