Year in Review: 2020 was memorable in so many ways
Editor’s Note: It’s time to look back at the year just past - 2020, and remember the notable stories that were published in the Pratt Tribune. It was a memorable year in many ways. While many of the stories of 2020 focused on the coronavirus, it's coming, it's going, it's effect on the Pratt community and larger area, our number 1 top story for 2020 was about something entirely different. Without a doubt, Mammoth tusk found, was the top-attention getter this past year. It was a feel good, exciting experience that carried over into state and national publications, with a special piece that culminated in a digital Inside Edition production. However, the top picture choice for 2020 came down to community, our children, and the extreme efforts of leadership in our school systems and I couldn't help awarding Pratt Tribune's top picture of 2020 to the poignent lineup at Libery Middle School of students celebrating their chance to go back to school in person from August 26, by Tiffany Riley. I hope you agree it was a moment in time many will never forget.
As always, thank you for your continued loyal readership.
Sincerely, Jennifer Stultz - Editor
Siemens honored with state award - January 1
Pratt resident and community leader Jeanette Siemens was named a 2020 Distinguished Kansan by The Topeka Capital- Journal, after recently becoming a Kansas Health Foundation Civic Hero. Siemens said she was humbled by the attention.
“My goal, formed from many years of association with the Kansas Leadership Center, is just to help others develop the competencies to be good leaders, anytime, anywhere,” she said. “I guess it all really does start with listening.”
Assisted Living Center rises from the prairie - January 22
Construction work continues along U.S. Highway SR 61 across from Pratt Community College on the Grand Plains Assisted Living Center, which is to be the flagship of Pratt’s 2019 economic progress.
Work has been progressing on schedule at the Pratt facility since the Americare groundbreaking ceremony on July 9, 2019 toward a planned opening next September.
Butane leak shuts down Pratt - January 29
Pratt County Emergency Management Director Tim Branscom (above) held a news conference Monday, January 27, at noon to address the problems resulting from a pipeline gas leak near U.S. 54/400 Highway on Sunday evening.
Emergency workers and law enforcement officers worked together to shut down the highway to all traffic overnight and into the next day, turning all vehicles coming out of Pratt around at 30th Avenue and sending them through the cement mixing station there and back to Pratt to find an alternate route. Eastbound traffic at Greensburg was also halted until late Monday afternoon.
A large crater, located about 100 yards south of U.S. Highway 54/400, was created by a rupture in a 10-inch pipe that travels north to south below the highway about 7 to 8 miles west of Pratt.
No one was injured in the incident.
Skyline starts buzzing about bees - February 12
Grant funding from The Bee Cause Project was awarded to Skyline Schools to help start a beehive and honey collection project on the school campus just west of Pratt.
Some Skyline high school students, along with their supervisor, will build a case that will house the hive. It will be located on a window in the atrium, allowing it to be observed by those in the building. The bees will be able to leave the area to pollinate and return to their hive. No bees will enter the building.
Washington house destroyed by fire - February 26
A family of 13 was safe after an early morning fire destroyed their rural Sawyer home on Monday, February 24.
William and Carla Washington were awak- ened about 5:20 a.m. by the faint smell of smoke at their home located about a half mile east of SE 70th Street and SE 60th Avenue in Pratt County. Fire departements from Sawyer, Preston, Cullison, Iuka, Township 12, Pratt County Fire and Rescue battled the fire, three miles north and three miles east of Sawyer.
Swift makes wrestling history for Pratt High School - March 4
Livia Swift of Pratt High School made history on Thursday as the first girls state wrestling champion from Pratt. Swift, a sophomore, defeated a Mulvane wrestler at Tony's Pizza Events Center in Salina for the state title in the finals of the 2020 Inaugural Kansas Girls State Wrestling Tournament.
Pratt wrestler Jadyn Thompson finished fifth for her first state appearance, and the Pratt Girls Wrestling team tied with Nickerson for 4th overall out of 80 teams in the first year of competitive high school girls state championship wrestling.
Weber wins state wrestling title for Pratt - March 4, 2020
Pratt High School junior wrestler Devon Weber became a second-time State Champion, dominating his championship match against the 40-4 Misener of Chanute for 113 lbs. last weekend in Salina.
The PHS boys team put 4 out of 7 qualifiers into the blood round and one in the finals but did place in the top 10 as a team.
Coronavirus outbreak predicted to hit U.S. soon - March 4
Pratt County Health Officials, like those nationwide, are watching, waiting and monitoring CDC guidelines diligently as cases of the novel coronavirus grow worldwide, but remain outside U.S. borders at this time.
Pratt County Health Department Director Darcie Van Der Vyver said there is now a limit on international travel, particularly to China. Facemasks are not recommended for the U.S. public as they will not stop the spread of 2019-nCoV, she said, quoting CDC guidelines.
“We just need to do the things we would normally do during cold and flu season, and really do them,” Van Der Vyver said. “Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with un- washed hands; germs spread this way.”
No community spread of 2019-nCoV has been identified in the United States at this time.
Everyone is at risk at COVID-19 hits the state - March 25
As residents of Pratt Coun- ty work to adjust to guide- lines of sheltering in place be- cause of cornonavirus spread concern, Pratt County Health Department administrator and RN, Darcie Van Der Vyver, sheds some light on a seemingly dark situation.
"There are no confirmed cases of the disease in Pratt County," Van Der Vyver said on Monday, March 23. "But I encourage the community of Pratt to still take this very seriously. If it’s not here yet, it’s coming."
Van Der Vyver said the most important action every- one can take is to practice self-distancing when possible.
“Everyone is at risk,” Van Der Vyver said. "All age groups need to be careful."
The most at-risk group is the elderly, but anyone can carry the virus, Van Der Vyver said. Some people can be carriers without even knowing it.
Fire plane fills up with water in Pratt to help out Barber County - April 1
Pratt Regional Airport served as a water refilling point for a Grumman S-2 Tracker Airplane, piloted by Bill Garrison, as it flew back and forth from Pratt to Barber County to battle the EWB fire that burned more than 5, 000 acres of land about 18 miles southwest of Medicine Lodge last Wednesday, March 25.
Firefighters from Cullison, Sawyer, and Coats fought the fire with other departments from Barber county and surrounding areas to contain and extinguish the flames before it could expand its path of destruction.
Garrison, Pilot for Ag Air Service, Inc. contracted through the Kansas Forest Service, said he flew from Hutchinson to Barber County to drop the first load of water after being dispatched by Kansas For- est Service the afternoon of March 25, and then he went back to Pratt to refill with water after each drop. It took three days to put out the fire.
City leaders ask for stay-at-home adherence - April 1
With the announce- ment from Governor Kel- ly regarding the Stay-at- Home Order, Pratt city leaders Chief of Police Nate Humble, Pratt County Attorney Tracey Beverlin, Pratt County Health Department Administrator Darcie Van Der Vyver, Pratt County Health Officer Dr. Gene Cannata and PRMC COEO Susan Page issued a statement to the public encouraging all to follow the guidance of national, state and local healthcare officials.
Under Executive Order 20-16, Kansans are directed to stay home unless performing one of the following essential activities:
• Obtaining food, medicine and other house- hold necessities;
• Going to and from work at a business or organization performing an essential function as identified in the Kansas Essential Function Framework;
• Seeking medical care;
• Caring for children, family members or pets,
or caring for a vulnerable person in another location;
• Engaging in an out-door activity, provided individuals maintain a distance of six feet from one another and abide by the 10-person limitation on gathering size.
First postive COVID-19 case recorded in Pratt County - April 8
On Tuesday, March 31, the Pratt County Health Depart- ment issued a news release to the public announcing the confirmation of the first pos- itive COVID-19 case in Pratt County. Testing which had been done eight days prior was completed March 31 and the diagnosis was official, an employee at Pratt Commu- nity College with no travel history and no underlying health conditions, had the novel coronavirus.
Clinical Services Admin- istrator for Pratt County Health Department Darcie Van Der Vyver said it was not unusual for tests to take sev- eral COVID-19 tests to take several days.
“This person was tested by a private physician outside of Pratt County, with an un- known lab,” Van Der Vyver said. “It typically takes anywhere from 3 to 10 days to get test results back.”
Van Der Vyver said the health department, along with three other testing agencies in Pratt (Pratt Family Practice, Pratt Regional Medical Center and Pratt Internal Medicine Group) was carefully following KDHE guidelines as to which people or persons with symptoms warranted testing.
The identity of the first postive case was kept confidential at the time.
Pink unicorn spotted at Pratt apartment complex - April 22
A six-foot tall, bubble- gum pink unicorn with a rainbow tail was spotted dancing around Pratt on Thursday, April 9, bringing smiles to residents of Hillside Terrace Apartments and Pratt Rehabilitation and Residence Center. The happy dancer was also spotted at Pratt Health and Rehab on April 8, the day before.
“With social distancing in place, we wanted to bring some joy and laugh- ter and a little bit of silli- ness to residents who aren’t getting out to see anybody right now and who can’t have visitors,” said Iuka resident Kasey Voss. “Anything to bring a laugh right now.”
Small Business Strong movement grows in Pratt - May 6
With the closure of work- places around the country and the limited availability of Paycheck Protection Program loans, many small business owners have been struggling financially to make ends meet through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pratt business, Creative Restorations, has started an initiative to help local businesses by producing t-shirts at cost and dividing the proceeds from sales equally among participating local businesses. Co-owner, Lisa Rawlings, said she had the idea around a month ago be- cause she wanted to do something to help Pratt and support small businesses.
“Small businesses are the heart of our community,” Rawlings said. “We don’t have very many ‘chains’ in Pratt, so we rely on these businesses for jobs, goods and services, as well as commerce to bring in shoppers from other areas.”
Citizens start to questions county leadership on public safety building project - May 13
he Pratt County Commission’s plans for a New Pratt County Public Safety Center on Northeast 20th Avenue, have raised some questions and concerns around the community pertaining to the cost, source of funding, location, and necessity. While some view the proposed facilities as a needed upgrade to replace the current facilities, others question the timing and course of action for the project.
Dwight Adams, resident of Pratt County and a for- mer county commissioner from 2004 to 2012, started placing signs around town last week to raise aware- ness in opposition to the project and voice his con- cerns with the expenditure.
Pratt County Commis- sioner Glenna Borho con- firmed that the New Pratt County Public Safety Cen- ter will be funded using wind farm money, but re- fused to comment any fur- ther on cost details of the facility at this time. She stated the county commis- sion would, in the future, hold a public meeting at which time people could ask questions and receive answers from officials in- volved with the project.
Police investigate death of 17-year-old Pratt girl - May 20
The death of a 17-year-old Pratt female is under inves- tigation after an incident that occurred last Wednesday, May 13 on the western side of the city. Pratt Police Chief Nate Humble and District Attorney Tracey Beverlin declined to comment except to say the accidental death was under investigation.
Makena Brady, 17, apparantly died after an incident at a party in the Pratt area. No further details about the incident were ever released by the Pratt Police Department.
Coats family sells beef direct to consumers - June 3
Some divine inspiration and a weak cattle market have inspired Nick and Josie Fox in Pratt County, Kansas to start producing beef for not just their family but for their neighbors as well. It might have had something to do with the ongoing COVID-19 pan- demic too.
Josie Fox said Wheat State Cattle Company, started around the end of March and is based out of their home in the Coats area.
The family was already producing beef for them- selves but the industry was looking sad and they were looking for another avenue for revenue. Fox said she felt she was getting some divine inspiration on what the family needed to do.
“God was telling me ‘You need to start this business. You need to sell beef,’” Fox said.
The coronavirus also played a part in this new business venture. The family, like everyone else, was in lockdown and the virus was causing the food chain to break down.
They formed an LLC and started advertising their business on social media through Facebook and a website. Business is booming, the only problem is finding a locker with open butchering slots.
Rawlings organizes police support gathering - June 10
Pratt pastors Mike Neifert (Pratt Friends Church), with guitar, and Dan Chrismer (Ascension Lutheran), middle, led a prayer support service for Pratt city and county police forces, and all emergency workers on the front lines during uncertain times. The June event was organized by Donna Rawlings with the Bread of Life organization in response to unrest around the country.
"I wanted to do this because I just felt we need unity and peace in our country," she said.
The purpose was to pray for the safety of officers, the fire department, emergency medical personnel and others in the way of violence.
Fatal wreck takes place near Skyline - July 8
A two vehicle accident in Pratt County on June 20 has claimed the life of a Haviland woman.
Killed in the accident was Carla Woods, 61 of Haviland.
The accident occurred when Woods was east- bound on U.S. 54 just east of Skyline School in a 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup. Woods went off the road and into the south ditch then overcorrected, came across the highway and slid sideways into the westbound lane of traffic where the Silverado was broadsided on the driver's side by a westbound 2007 Freightliner semi driven by 32-year-old Felix Moreno-Mateo of Wichita, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol online Crash Log.
Masks mandated - July 22
In a move precipitated by a spike in local COVID-19 positive cases, Pratt County Com- missioners met July 16 and voted to rescind a resolution made July 3 to now require those in Pratt County to wear masks in public.
On July 2, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly had issued an executive order requiring face masks or other face coverings be worn by all in public to help stem the rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the state. However, Pratt County commissioners voted at that time to follow their own guidelines and not require such masks in the county. Their unanimous vote last Thursday changed that ruling.
According to the rescinding order, Pratt County is experiencing a rise in COVID-19 related cases and the potential for significant communi- ty spread.
Pratt County now has 16 active coronavirus cases now on record.
High speed chase ends in Pratt - July 29
Three suspects in a high speed chase through Kingman and Pratt counties were taken into cus- tody without incident at 10:23 a.m. at the Budget Inn in Pratt on Thursday, July 23, after their car was found abandonded at 606 N. New Street.
Pratt County Sheriff Jimmy White confirmed Friday that three individ- uals listed on the Pratt County Jail roster intake for Thursday, Cardell Wil son, Bobby Hudson and Dion Winston, were associated with the stolen silver and black Camaro that sped through Pratt and was found aban- doned.
Girls sell lemonade to help their teachers - August 5
Two girls from Pratt, concerned about the com ing school year and possible job losses for their teachers due to the eco- nomic impact of the coro navirus, decided to make lemonade out of lemons. On July 9, 2020, Morgan McGreevy and Iliana Craft, Pratt 6th graders, put a plan into action that netted more than $800, all of which they donated to the Pratt Public School Foundation.
“It’s just something we wanted to do,” said McGreevy. “The whole school situation, I just don’t want people to lose their jobs.”
The girls sold bath and body products, cookies and breads, and lemonade, and set up shop on July 9 at 521 Stout Street and 520 S. Oak.
Primary votes tallied - August 12
Pratt County voters submitted a total of 2,549 ballots in the 2020 pri- mary election for a 51.3 percent turnout in the county. There are 4,967 registered voters in Pratt County so participation was better than the usual 20 percent turnout for a primary election, according to county clerk Lori Voss.
"There was an increase in advanced voting this year and a great turnout at the polls," Voss said.
In the Pratt County commission race, candi- dates Rick Shriver and Dwight Adams claimed primary victories.
Other local contest pri- mary results included Lori Voss-R 1,448 over Holly Howell- R 746 for the Pratt County clerk position.
Pratt County results for state races included Prat- tan Donna Hoener-Queal-R 1,373 over Brett Fairchild-R 813 for the Kansas House of Representatives 113th Dis- trict. However, overall dis trict results in the Re- publican race for Kansas House of Representatives 113 put Fairchild on top with 2,709 votes (53 per- cent) over Donna Hoener-Queal with 2,397 votes (47 percent).
In the state Senate race, Pratt County voters sup- ported Mary Jo Taylor-R with 1,194 votes for Kansas Senate 33rd District over Alicia (Schartz) Straub-R 969, but overall district votes put Straub on top in the primary with 9,257 votes (60 percent) over incumbent Mary Jo Taylor with 6,218 votes (40 percent).
ins Pratt County with Roger Marshall winning the Re- publican race at 158,486 votes (40 percent) over Kris Kobach with 103,266 votes (26 percent).
Gimpel gets K-9 lead position - August 26
There’s a new driver behind the wheel of the Pratt Police Department’s K-9 Unit and a new partner for
Fin, the three-year-old black Dutch Shepherd who wears his badge on his collar.
Officer Danny Gimpel applied for the position as Fin’s handler when it became available in April and got the assignment from Pratt Police Chief Nate Humble in May.
Students go back to school in style - September 2
Last Wednesday, August 26, Pratt USD 382 students returned to classrooms for the first time since last March 13 when the COVID-19 pandemic changed the face of public education for the first time in even senior citizens’ memories.
At Liberty Middle School, where 329 Pratt Greenbacks grades five through eight attend, morale was high, said Principal Ryan Creadick.
“That goes for teachers, students and staff,” Cread ick said.
Arriving at school, LMS students assembled on the school grounds until 7:40 a.m. when doors opened and students masked up to enter the building. Masks are required to be worn by inside USD 382 schools by teachers, staff, students and visitors.
Commerce alive and well despite COVID-19 - September 16
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, and in spite of gloom-and-doom eco- nomic predictions, local entreprenuers and long- time owners are creating some hustle and bustle in the business community of Pratt.
“There was a lot of money lost because of the coro- navirus, but we didn’t lose a single business, that we know of, in the past few months,” said Pratt Area Economic Corporation Director Mark Morgan. “In fact we have had more good stuff happen business-wise this year than in the past two years here in Pratt.”
With steadinly increasing inventory, Bright Ibeauwuchi and Qingzhen Zhen have opened Direct Voltage, an online consumer hobby store located in the old J.C. Penny’s store in the 300 block of S. Main.
National Guard brings food - September 23
Pratt was one of seven southwest Kansas com- munities to receive food box deliveries on Thursday, September 17 from the Kansas National Guard. Pratt County Food Bank Director Diana Harris said the food boxes are a nice addition to the regular food boxes which the food bank gives out to families in need.
“The boxes the National Guardsmen brought out are called ‘1 pot meal kits’,” Harris said. “They contain packaged side dishes like mac and cheese, rice, different kinds of beans, we’ve had these before and they are very good.”
Harris said the Pratt County Food Bank received an entire pallet of the food boxes, 200 to be exact. They do not have meat in them, but they pair up nicely with the contents of other food boxes the food bank has available.
Mammoth tusk found on NE side of Pratt - September 30
News spread quickly Monday in Pratt of an archeological find at a construction site behind Casey's General Store just north of the U.S. Highway 54/400 and K-61 intersection. Randy Thimesch and his Thimesch Construction crew unearthed what turned out to be sec- tions of a mammoth tusk around 10 a.m. while they were trenching in sewer lines for a new truck-oil change and tire repair station owned by Dale Withers, of Pratt. "As soon as we hit it I knew it could be a mam- moth tusk," Thimesch said. "I saw the one that was unearthed in Cun- ningham a few years ago and recognized this as a very similar piece."
Sewer line work was halted and crew members shifted their focus to gently digging around the area where the large 20-inch section of tusk was first found. Several other smaller sections of tusk were also unearthed.
Demo reveals history at corner of First and Main streets - October 7
Though to some it may have seemed to be an eye- sore for much longer, after standing empty for four and a half years, the old KFC building on the NE corner of the First and Main Street intersection in Pratt came tumbling down on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. A demolition crew used heavy equipment to tear down the walls and then clean up the rubble.
"The lot has been pur- chased by an individual who plans to put up a Scooter's Coffee Shop," said Pratt City Manager Bruce Pinkall.
According to Pratt City Clerk Lou Kramer, the last electric bill was paid by KFC on April 18, 2016. The business at 100 N. Main Street was established as part of the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in 1983, according to information from the Pratt County Historical Museum. Prior to that it was Clark's Mobil Oil Corp, start date 1970. And prior to that it was Young's Service Station, a Mobil garage established in 1960.
The walls of that gasoline station were visible inside the KFC building as demolition crews brought the rubble at the corner down.
Positive COVID-19 cases on the rise - October 28
Pratt County Health Department Administrator Darcie Van Der Vyver reported 12 active, positive cases of COVID-19, with a total 114 positive cases, 102 recovered and 6 hospitalizations on Friday, October 22. By Monday, October 26 at noon, those numbers were up to 16 active, positive cases, 123 total positive cases, 107 recovered and still 6 hospitalizations.
"The numbers are constantly changing," Van Der Vyver. "I'm actually surprised we are staying as low as we are for as long as we have, because we are doing a lot more testing now, and that means we will identify a lot more positive cases quickly."
Van Der Vyver said that by 2:20 p.m. on Monday, the number of active cases increased to 18 as additional numbers came in from testing results.
Pratt County votes Republican - November 11
Pratt County over- whelming chose the Trump/Pence (Rep.) pres- idential ticket over Biden/Harris (Dem.) by 75 percent, with 3,034 to 598 votes, respectively. Libertarian candidates Jorgensen and Cohen did receive 94 votes and there were 16 write-one votes in the final numbers of 2020 Election votes.
For the U.S. Senate Race, Pratt County voters put Republican Roger Marshall into the top seat with 2,858 votes compared to 977 votes for Democrat Barbara Bollier and 178 votes for Lib. Jason Buckley.
Pratt County supported the re-election of Repub- lican Ron Estes for an- other term as U.S. Rep- resentative for the 4th District with 3,081 votes. Democrat Laura Lom- bard received 898 votes.
Unopposed in the Kansas Senate 33rd Dis- trict race, Rep. Alicia (Schwartz) Straub,re- ceived 3,323 votes.
Also unopposed for the Kansas House of Repre- sentatives 113th District, Brett Fairchild of St. John received 3,332 votes.
Pratt County election results for county commission seats were fairly straight forward with Dwight Adams (Rep.) getting 931 to 299 write-in votes (unofficial) for Morgan Trinkle in District 2. Rick Shriver, un- opposed in District 3, received 1,384 votes for the county commission posi- tion.
For Pratt City Commission seats, Kyle Farmer received 1,529 votes, Jeanette Siemens 1,462 votes and Jason Leslie (incumbent) 923 votes.
Tradition continues with Lemon Park Lights - November 25
Just after 5:30 p.m. on a rainy Saturday evening, November 21, the switch was flipped in Pratt and, just like the previous near- ly 30 years, the Lemon Park Lights were turned on for area residents and visitors to enjoy throughout the Christmas season.
Even though there was no traditional lighting cer- emony this year and no annual Christmas in the Park because of the coronavirus pandemic, cars lined up at the park entrance and spirits were lifted as drivers circled the one- mile roadway that took viewers by more than 150 whimsical, colorful, senitimental and memorial displays.
"It was really cool that we had over 450 cars go through on just that first evening," said Lemon Park Lights Coordinator Deb Goyen.
The Lemon Park Lights tradition started in 1992, with 15-20 lighted Christmas displays, all the result of a Deb Goyen-idea approved by Lemon Park's George Lemon.
10 COVID-19 deaths reported in Pratt County - December 2
On Monday, November 30, Pratt County recorded 10 COVID-19 deaths, according to updates provided by Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials. There are now 500 positive cases of the coronavirus in the county also as of Nov. 30, 2020.
Pratt County Health Department Administrator Darcie Van Der Vyver said there may be many more positive presump- tives that have not yet been recorded as there are many outstanding test results.
In the state of Kansas there were 1,560 COVID- 19 tabbed deaths and 157,446 positive cases on Monday.
PRMC staff receive first COVID-19 vaccinations in Pratt County - December 23
Dr. Eric Clarkson, D.O., MBA Family Physician at Pratt Family Practice, recently received the coronavirus vaccine and said that he has followed the development of the vaccines from the very beginning.
“I trust the product. I have received it,” Clark- son said. “Other than a sore arm for 24 hours, I have not had any adverse effects. I do not know of any front-line healthcare worker in town who is a candidate for the vaccine who didn't get it.”
Though the vaccines are new and it is not yet cer- tain how long immunity will last, Clarkson said that the short and long term harms of COVID-19 can be scarier than any risk of the vaccine for many people.
“I cannot express the relief and joy felt by every healthcare worker who has already received this vac- cine. We feel that this is the beginning of the end of this virus,” Clarkson said.
It is not yet known when enough vaccines will arrive for all healthcare workers or when the vaccines will be available to the general public.