Tuesday, April 28, 2009

All the News from the 2009 Country Bluegrass Show

The best way to start out my post about the final performances at North Platte's Country Bluegrass Show is to thank Donna and Don Mentzer and all of the army of volunteers that it takes to put on an event like this.  They do it because they LOVE Bluegrass music, they like to give back to the community, they want people to enjoy themselves.  All those long volunteer hours just so other people can have fun!  Well... I think they did have fun themselves, and I'm sure they heard a lot of fantastic Bluegrass music.
I've said it before, and I'll repeat it here now.  A rising tide floats all the boats.  The team at the Bluegrass Show gets it.  They know that when people who enjoy Bluegrass music come to town, they might also like to take in some of the other attractions.  Here they set up a display of local brochures, an aerial view of the Union Pacific Bailey Yard and an advertising screen of the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center.  I have heard reports from the Golden Spike Tower that they, indeed, see an increase in traffic during the festival, as I'm sure did Buffalo Bill Ranch.  Several of the bands mentioned both attractions from the stage, as local hosts took them on tours.  THANK YOU!
And here's a scene in the crowded Beef Barn at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.  During the evening performances on Friday and Saturday night, it was standing room only!  Even the bleachers were filled.  Plans are in the works for the construction of a larger building on the Fairgrounds, and I sure hope it's done by the 2010 Country Bluegrass Show (which, by the way will be April 22-24!), because the event could sure use the room!
I want to go on by repeating (I should say paraphrasing) something that was said from the stage by Mike Andes of the band Nothin Fancy.  There is a lot of bad stuff happening in the world right now.  Just turning on the television and catching a news program or hearing a report on the radio is enough to evoke fear, anger and sadness.  The only way to combat the bad is with good, with caring about your fellow man, with being neighborly.  The organizers of the Bluegrass Show know this, the bands who performed from the stage know this, and the people who spent three wonderful days with their neighbors, chatting, strengthening bonds, making new friends certainly know this.  Every time we turn off the television, get together with friends and family, supporting one another, we are taking a stand against the bad in the world today.
Nothin Fancy followed up his remarks with a goose-flesh raising rendition of the Bill Withers' song "Lean on Me."  Risking a post that will be a mile long, I'm going to quote it here.  Their performance of it made the words sink right into your soul, and while I'm sure reading words on your computer screen won't have the same effect, they are still powerful.
Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you don't let show

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road
I'll share your load
If you just call me

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'd understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
Till I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Lean on me...

There were two absolutely wonderful performances by Nothin Fancy, who closed out the show at the 10:00 performance.  You can visit their website linked above or follow them on facebook
One of the great things about music festivals is getting up close and personal with the bands.  Nothin Fancy is the 2008 and 2009 Bluegrass Entertainers of the Year, yet after each performance, sometimes long after each performance, they greeted fans at their table.  The same is true for all of the bands.  Fans could get to know them, find out about where they were going to be performing next and buy a CD or two.

OK, so now on to some of the other bands who performed.  There was Brightwater Junction, with 2008 Mandolin player of the year Eric Coone. 
One of my personal favorites, Blue Swing.  This local band comprised of Luke and Brandon Raby and Ronnie Weigel are awesomely talented musicians.  I should know - they were the first band I hosted at the Nebraska Outback House Concert series!  North Platte is so fortunate to have them around.  They regularly play at local coffee houses and at A to Z Bookstore. They debuted on Nebraska Public Radio live at the Neville Center a few months back, and will perform on a folk music show on National Public Radio in the near future.
Midnight Flight was named Midwest Traditional Bluegrass Band of the Year in 2008 by SPBGMA, and it was easy to see why.  Excellent performances.  The Dobro is definitely one of my favorite instruments and Chad "Gravy Boat" Graves plays it well.
Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice have the number one album on the bluegrass charts, "The Blue Side of Blue Ridge".  Can you see why I'm telling you that Donna brings in all the best Bluegrass bands in the country?

Kathy Fults of Highway Home was awarded Female Vocalist of the Year for 2008 for Traditional Bluegrass.  We were treated to several performances by this band as they performed both on Friday and Saturday.
Now I've mentioned just about everyone except the Emcee for the show, Big Al Weekley.  Big Al is a fantastic Bluegrass artist in his own right, a song writer, a Bluegrass historian, an award winning DJ and a truck driver.  His contributions on stage take the show over the top, and I would imagine that he's heavily involved behind the scenes keeping things running smoothly as well.  
So, that about wraps it up!  I hope the organizers, the musicians and the fans all had a restful Sunday following the show and made it home safe and sound.  Why don't you make plans to come to North Platte for next year's Country Bluegrass Show - the 10th anniversary?  The dates are April 22 -24, 2010.  I will GUARANTEE you that you will hear great Bluegrass music!

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee is always on.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Nebraska Geography

I'm having a great time at the Country Bluegrass Show.  Heading out this morning for the last day.  I'll finish up the postings about the fun tomorrow.  But for now, I want to send this cartoon out to you all, some of whom may not be familiar with Nebraska geography.
In case you have trouble reading it, Omaha to Grand Island is 10 gazillion miles.  Lincoln to Grand Island is 10,000 miles.  However, Grand Island to Lincoln is only 95 miles.

It highlights the problem we have in western Nebraska in getting people from the large population centers of Omaha and Lincoln out to visit our part of the state.  Nebraska has 1.7 million people, and more than 1 million of those live within 20 miles or so of the Missouri river on the eastern border of the state.  We sometimes get the feeling that they think that is all there is of Nebraska.

We're up to the challenge, though.  When we let 'em know all of the great things their own state has to offer, most are very grateful for the education and start planning a Nebraska vacation.

Thanks for stopping by.  Come on out west - the coffee's always on.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bloggin' From the Bluegrass Festival

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I spent yesterday afternoon at the Country Bluegrass Show in North Platte.  This is the 9th year for the festival and organizer Donna Mentzer and her crew have done a fantastic job of lining up great Bluegrass acts.  

The Bluegrass Show is held in the Beef Barn at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.  There is some bleacher seating, but for the most part, you just bring your own lawn chairs.  This photo was taken during the first set at noon on Thursday.  Pretty good crowd to hear the opening acts.
Digger Davis and Tombstone was the first band in the lineup.   Digger Davis and Tombstone is a traditional bluegrass family band that formed in August of 2004.  Digger Davis has played professionally for eighteen years and is a former State of Texas Banjo Champion.  In August 2004 Digger and wife Jeannie, along with their now 17 year old son Jonathon and 15 year old daughter Jamie formed "Digger Davis and Tombstone."  17 year old Jonathon Davis who is the band's guitar player has  placed third in the "Texas State Flat-Picking Championship" twice, as well as winning other various guitar contests.  Digger Davis and Tombstone are now touring the US and Canada fulltime. 
Next up was the Stanleytones from Colorado.  The Stanleytones Bluegrass Band was formed in 1999, when the original members met while attending local jam sessions in the Boulder area. The band was named after the Stanley Brothers, Ralph and Carter, who played throughout the 50’s until Carter’s death in 1964. Having recently finished recording a new album, The Stanleytones’ passion for traditional bluegrass is evident in the their sound, and has made them into what they are today---a classic bluegrass band reminiscent of those early bands of the 50’s and 60’s, with an added repertoire of original compositions comprised of melodic instrumentals and skillful vocal harmonies.

Another family group was up next, the Ozark Alliance.  These guys were a special treat, because they are avid train fans, which is a perfect match for the North Platte Country Bluegrass Show, since North Platte is the home of the largest railroad yard IN THE WORLD! And boasts a fantastic way to see the yard from the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center.

Anyway, enough about North Platte.  Here's the scoop about the band.  It's always a treat to see a bluegrass band work a single mic, and Ozark Alliance, which consists of mom and dad Dennis and Robin and kids Alex and Jenny recently won first place in a single mic contest in Branson.  
The youngest member of the band is four-year-old Allison.  She didn't join the family on stage, but manned the sales table.  She does have her own pint-sized fiddle and mandolin.  I'm sure she'll be a powerhouse in years to come.
Goldwing Express has been to four straight Country Bluegrass Shows.  Dad Bob Baldridge and sons Steven, Shawn and Paul hail from Oklahoma by way of Branson, Missouri.  Shawn channels Conway Twitty, and had the ladies in the crowd screaming for more.  
The last band to take the stage before the dinner break and the start of the evening of Gospel performances was Danny Paisley and Southern Grass.  Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass play powerful, unadorned, and intense traditional bluegrass. There is no hybrid or genre-bending music here. It is music borne of the vibrant old time southern fiddle bands, as well as the lonesome moans of the backwoods mountain blues. The instruments blaze with energy while the songs reveal a paradoxical, desperate sadness anchoring the music squarely in the classic bluegrass tradition. Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass combine those forces with a drive and energy that takes over your senses. It is music you not only hear, but feel in your gut.

I didn't stay for the Gospel night performances, but Mark and I are back for the entire day today.  Call me a pansy, but spending the day in the beef barn with 90 degree temperatures just wore me out - imagine what the performers felt like!  Today's temperatures are in the 60's with a nice breeze.  Now I'll probably have to have blankets!

Thanks for stopping by.  Join me in the food building for a cup of coffee. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What to do? What to do?

Five days off!  The reward for working all of those extra hours and days during the show season.  Now I have to decide what to do!  With temperatures ranging from the 90's to the 50's, slight chances of rain, and of course the wind, the weather isn't going to have much of an effect on my decisions.

So here goes:  Thursday, Friday and Saturday the Country Bluegrass Show in North Platte!  Today I get to spend the afternoon there by myself, then tomorrow Mark will be joining me, and Saturday will be with my sister.  Three great days of music.  Today I'll hear The Stanleytones, Digger Davis and Tombstone, The Ozark Alliance, Goldwing Express and Danny Paisley and Southern Grass.

Since it is going to be 90 degrees today, I'm going to forgo the evening of music (6pm to 10pm), and instead just go noon to 5, then head to the hills!  It's been since President's Day since we've been able to spend any time up on the ranch, and I am jonesing to go!  I don't think we'll get any work done, just enjoy a hike.

Would love to squeeze in another mushroom hunt, maybe on Sunday.  We've been told about a "secret spot" that is supposed to be carpeted with the little buggers.  Sunday is also a special open mic night at A to Z in North Platte.  So much to choose from!

Then Monday another day off, and probably back to the hills, this time to roll up my sleeves and make more progress on the house.  You can see from here that there's LOTS to be done.  

I also just need some pictures without snow in them.

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee is in the travel mug, ready to be on the go.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Reward for Getting Up Early

I actually followed my own advice!  My sweet husband woke me up at 4:30 a.m., which is the time he gets up to go to work - poor him!  I got bundled up and sat out in the back yard for an hour watching the meteor shower.

It couldn't have been more perfect.  49 degrees, crystal clear skies and absolutely no breeze whatsoever.  Of course that didn't stop me from wearing a sweat suit under my insulated coveralls and my son's down winter coat.  But hey, 49 may sound warm, but after you've been sitting there for awhile...

Anyway, I saw nine shooting stars, plus two that I saw out of the corner of my eye, and when I turned they were gone, so were they really there?  Also three airplanes, and several moths flitting across the sky.

Sorry no pictures of actual shooting stars.  I am no way fast enough.

The birds obviously thought the morning had been made especially for them and were singing their hearts out, getting louder as the sunrise brightened the eastern sky.

This was so much fun, I may have to join the Nebraska Star Party.  Looks like their summer gathering is July 19-24 on the Merritt Reservoir up by Valentine.  Sounds like a good time.

Thanks for stopping by this morning.  I've got to go finish off that pot of coffee so I can stay awake during the day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't Miss the Lyrid Meteor Shower

Nebraska is known for many amazing things.  But one of the most spectacular attributes of Nebraska is our night skies.  With only 1.7 million people, and most of them crowded along the eastern part of the state, light pollution in western Nebraska is at a minimum.

So tomorrow morning, GET OUT OF BED!  Probably in the 4:00 hour.  Dress warmly, grab a chair you can lean back in, go outside and look up!

According to the National Weather Service, the forecast for tonight is partly cloudy, while the forecast for Wednesday is sunny.  So you have a very good chance of getting to see the shower.  And the low Tuesday night is going to be around 39, with the high on Wednesday 80.  You aren't even going to have to freeze your toes off for this adventure.

According to spaceweather, you should be able to see 10-20 shooting stars per hour.  However, inexplicably and unpredictably, some years the number goes up.  Waaaay up.  

The shooting stars should be seen in the slightly eastern sky.

Thanks for stopping by.  Strong hot coffee is recommended for meteor shower viewing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Judging the Success of a Morel Mushroom Hunt

I suppose, in all honesty, if I had led a hunt for Morel mushrooms that resulted in overflowing mushroom bags, my story today would be different.  I would judge the success of the expedition by the pounds that had been collected.  

But, since that wasn't the case, I am still going to say that we had an extremely successful mushroom hunt yesterday.  Less than two weeks after the last blizzard that dumped snow on us, and only a day after drenching rains, we were greeted with sunny blue skies and warm temperatures.

It was even warm enough to create thermals that a lone hawk took advantage of to float lazily in the sky.

The ferns in the undergrowth along the South Platte River are already growing vigorously.  The soft greens are a welcome sight after a winter of brown and black.
It may seem like a wilderness to us, but it is a super highway for the deer.  This well-traveled deer trail cut right through the heart of our mushroom territory.
Other creatures were traveling along their own super highways.  These ants were scurrying busily along, but froze in place with my camera mere inches from them.
My intrepid mushroom-hunting partner.  After a long day at work, which for him started at 5:30 a.m., he still had a smile on his face when his wife dragged him out for an adventure.
Oh yeah, in case you were wondering.  No mushrooms.

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee is always on.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

On Camaraderie and Competition

We made a quick trip to Lincoln this past week to meet with the staff of the Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism, and to host a reception for Meeting Planners, in the hopes of enticing them to bring their next meeting or convention to North Platte.

My son, whom I commandeered to help carry our booth furnishings from the parking garage into the Lied Center asked a good question.  "If you're in competition with all these other Convention and Visitor's Bureaus, why do you all get along so well?"

The absolute truth is that unfortunately, sometimes we don't get along so well.  But for the most part, there is a lot of camaraderie within the tourism industry.  We are usually firm believers in the adage that "a rising tide floats all the boats."  So if a meeting planner selects Grand Island to host their meeting, then maybe next time they'll think about coming as far west as North Platte.  

Also, the competition keeps us on our toes.  If I know that I'm going up against Kearney or Grand Island in a bid presentation, then I had better put together the best bid possible.  It's also true as far as facilities go.  If we want to compete, we had better work hard to make sure that our facilities are the best they can be.

Attractions are the one area that I think we are always supportive of each other in.  We all want Nebraska's attractions to be superb at all times, no matter where they are.  The Great Platte River Road Archway in Kearney is a world class attraction, and we are all hoping for it's visitation numbers to rise.  Same with the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center in North Platte.  Lake McConaughy in Ogallala, the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Toadstool National Park, Chimney Rock...  The list is endless, but high attendance at one attraction doesn't take away from attendance at another attraction.  In fact, higher visitation at one will almost ensure higher visitation at others.

So, we might compete, and we may get on each other's nerves at times, but Nebraska's tourism industry professionals are all working toward the same goal - to increase the level of economic activity within the state at our visitor facilities.

A further note on camaraderie.  The Nebraska Travel Association hosts a booth at the Northwest Sport Show in Minneapolis, which is usually staffed by representatives from the eastern part of Nebraska, Norfolk, South Sioux City and York.  My colleagues know that I am a fan of the Discovery Channel's series "Deadliest Catch."  When I told Bob from York that Captains Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand from the boat "Time Bandit" would be appearing at the show, he volunteered to stand in line and get me an autographed copy of their book.

Here he is holding the book that he stood in line to get for me!  Now that's a true friend.  Thanks Bob!

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee is always on, just don't disturb me while I'm reading my new book!

Friday, April 17, 2009

New Lincoln Highway Video

Earlier I posted a video about the Lincoln Highway Scenic Byway, and it is a great video, but this one was just done for 2009. It highlights the new Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center in North Platte, so if you enjoy trains, don't miss this one.

The Lincoln Highway Scenic (and Historic) byway covers a lot of territory, from the Missouri River on the east to the Wyoming border on the west.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nebraskans Like Their Beer

I don't usually pull articles right out of the newspaper for my blog posts, but some are just too good to pass up, like this one that was in Sunday's newspaper:

The beer industry that includes brewers, distributors, suppliers and retailers contributes $865 million annually to Nebraska's economy.

According to an economic impact study commissioned by the National Beer Wholesalers Association and Beer Institute, the beer industry provides 12,290 jobs that pay more than $280 million in wages in Nebraska.  It also brings in $82 million in federal, state and local taxes.

"America's brewing industry continues to play a pivotal role in supporting this nation's economic viability." Tom Long, Miller-Coors president and Beer Institute chair said in a press release.

The beer industry directly employs 7,939 people in Nebraska and pays $144.2 million in wages in 2008, according to the study.  Nebraska's 26 beer distributors employ 513 people while brewers and beer importers employ 59 people.

Beer sales also help support about 7,367 jobs at licensed retailers, which include supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants, bars, stadiums and other outlets.

Nationally, the beer industry contributes $198 billion annually to the U.S. economy and provides nearly 1.9 million jobs that generate $62 billion in wages and benefits.

Wow!  Sounds like one of the best economic stimulus plans would be to drink more beer.  If it were possible for me to drink more than one per night, I would try to do my part.  Someone will have to take up the slack for me.

Nebraska does have some great micro-breweries.  There's the Thunderhead Brewery in Kearney.  Right now they have a "Golden Frau" Honey Wheat.  Mmmm.

And then there's the Empyrean Brewing Company in Lincoln.  Wow do they have a great selection.  Chaco Canyon Honey Gold, Burning Skye Scottish Style Ale, Luna Sea ESB, Third Stone Brown, Dark Side Vanilla Porter, Collapsar Oatmeal Stout.  I don't think I've ever tried one that wasn't exceptional.

In Omaha, there's the Upstream Brewing Company.  They have more fresh brewed beers than I can mention, and they also have cask conditioned ales.  A real treat.

Dusters in Columbus brews their own beer (try their 1916 Irish Stout), as does Granite City in Lincoln.

I'm sure I've missed a micro brewery or two, so if you know of one, let me know.  Of course, I'll have to go check it out before I write about it!

Thanks for stopping by.  Coffee or beer.  Your choice.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway

The Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway takes travelers off the beaten path on Nebraska's Highway 2 from Grand Island to Alliance.  Nearly the entire journey traverses the great Nebraska Sandhills, which is truly Nebraska's Outback.

You will be awed by these magnificent grass-covered dunes of rolling sand, you will come to understand that it is true that Nebraska has more miles of shoreline than any other state as you intersect the beautiful South Loup and Middle Loup Rivers.

You will experience small-town Great Plains life at it's best as you take the time to explore Cairo, Ravenna, Litchfield, Ansley, Broken Bow, Merna, Anselmo, Dunning, Halsey, Thedford, Seneca, Mullen, Whitman, Hyannis, Ellsworth and Alliance.
This is Cowboy Country, where the Kings of the Cattle era reigned over the last of America's open range.  It's also where many immigrant families got their start when the Kinkaid Act replaced cattle with homesteaders.  Today it is the people as much as the great scenery and diverse wildlife that make this drive exceptional.  You'll meet new friends and experience some colorful characters on your journey.

The great Charles Kuralt once called Nebraska's Highway 2 one of America's 10 most beautiful highways.  Don't leave a statement like that unchallenged.  Go see it for yourself.

Spring truly is in the air.  That last storm brought us rain instead of snow, so it's time to get the oil changed and check the tires and start making plans for your Road Trip!  You can plan your trip by visiting www.sandhillsjourney.com.

Thanks for stopping by.  If your travels bring your nearby, stop in for coffee.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lincoln Highway Scenic Byway in Nebraska

The route for Lincoln Highway was first scouted out in the teens by a U.S. Army convoy that included Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was the nation's first transcontinental highway.

Today, all 400+ miles through Nebraska are a scenic byway - the Lincoln Highway Historic and Scenic Byway. It passes right through Lincoln County, through the communities of Brady, Maxwell, North Platte, Hershey and Sutherland.

Here is the text regarding the byway from the Nebraska Travel Guide:

Strike out along this 400-mile byway today and experience history firsthand as you view Pony Express stations, sod houses, wagon ruts from the Oregon Trail, and authentic brick pavers from the original Lincoln Highway. Head outdoors for a dip in Lake McConaughy - one of the state's largst recreational lakes. And if it's springtime, don't miss the annual sandhill crane migration.

You can find the byway on the web at www.lincolnhighwaynebraskabyway.com.

Unless you head out in the next day or so, you will have missed the 2009 Sandhill Crane migration, but there's always next year! Things are really starting to green up along the Platte River bottom, and the farmer's are busy in their fields. Get out and take a road trip.

Thanks for stopping by. If you come through, stop in. The coffee is always on.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Skills USA Pictures

I've tried to go back and put these pictures into some kind of coherent order, but Blogger seems to be intent upon thwarting my efforts, so they're coming to you just the way I uploaded them.

Here you see the beautiful creations of the culinary contestants. They will now be judged on presentation and flavor, as well as the technique that the judges observed during the competition.

You wouldn't necessarily think of investigating a crime scene as a trade, but it is, and these students are busy dusting for fingerprints and collecting evidence.

This is probably one of the most fascinating competitions, and the one I understood the least. It is "Mechatronics", which is the design and implementation of automation or robots in the production process. America is definitely going to need more of these guys as technology advances.
Now back to things that a lot of us see in our daily lives. This is new construction plumbing. Local businesses (and some nationwide sponsors) donate all of the materials, sinks, toilets, pipes, etc. for the students to use in the competition. These materials are then made available to the community at a very deep discount (so if you're working on a project, think Columbus next March after their SkillsUSA competition, and hopefully North Platte in March of 2011).

This is a fun little competition called the Metric 500, where students build and race Co2 cars. They are judged on the car itself, which must meet certain very detailed specifications as well as winning the race.
This is a diagram of what the contestants must build at the masonry competition.

And here are students at the very beginning of the competition.

This is a team of four students in what is called the "Team Builder" competition. They are given eight hours, and must complete an entire project which includes framing, windows, doors, wiring, plumbing, roofing and siding. This is one of the projects I think could be a spectator sport, or at the least a reality show that follows the students through training and competition. The competition even includes requisitioning and timing the delivery of the necessary materials.

Here is a competitor in the Construction contest. They bring their own hand tools, are given a set of plans, and they must "buy" the materials and build.

Where would we be without firefighters, and there's a competition as well as a written test for them, too.

These are contestants in the Cabinetry competition.
Auto Body Repair and Refinishing.
Here you see a wide shot of the Carpentry competition.
This is a problem solving contest. The teams were given a few materials and the problem of getting a golf ball from the table to the floor in 15 to 20 seconds - not more, not less.
My pictures here show only a tiny, tiny portion of the competitions within the SkillsUSA contests. Look at one of my previous posts on the topics to see a full list of the competitions.
North Platte High School sent 47 students to the contest, out of those, they received 25 medals, 16 academic achievement awards, 6 distinguished ambassador awards and sent 3 students on to Nationals - in welding, first aid/CPR, and sheet metal. Overall, North Platte has more SkillsUSA champions than all of the other programs in Nebraska put together! Way to go NPHS.

So there you have it, my last pitch for SkillsUSA. According to the advisors we spoke with, a team or school program is only as good as it's instructor. Industrial Arts instructors are becoming hard to find, with only one school in Nebraska offering a degree in Industrial Arts Education. I ask again, where is the next generation of home builders, auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, firefighters going to come from? The advantages of these careers are many, including that talented students can begin earning good wages right out of high school or a two-year trade/technical/vocational school without crippling student loan debt.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Another special from One Foot In The Grave

The elevator to success is not running but climbing the stairs.

A bore is a person who has nothing to say and says it.

Today we are going to discuss Baking soda and powder. Most kitchens cupboards have these two products. If you don’t know how old your soda or baking powder is or are any good do the following test. Put ½ teaspoon of soda or powder into a cup of hot water. If it doesn’t bubble throw it out. You can make baking soda for every cup of flour the recipe calls for use 2 teaspoons of cream of tarter, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda and add half a teaspoon salt. Don’t try to save it, It has to been made fresh each time.

Whoa!! I need to start over. OK? Thanks! I went on the internet and soda mines are all over the world. The closest to us is in Wyoming. I counted 18 mines in Wyoming. The sodium carbonate mines are also known as washing soda, or soda ash. It can be made into table salt by a solvay process . It is used to make glass, used in municipal pools to neutralizer acid effects of chlorine, cooking, taxidermy in chemistry used as in electrolysis, it can be a food additive, raising agent, brick laying and bonding agent.

The World needs soda and you thought that yellow box in your cupboard and refrigerator was it main use. Commercial baking soda has small amount of starch to prevent moisture from causing it to lose it’s leavening powers. Altitude makes a difference, because of the decrease in barometric pressure at high altitude it expands quickly so has greater leavening powers . Check your recipe and see if it is for low or high altitude.

What did you say? OH I’m sorry! I thought it was fun. I think maybe I would have liked chemistry. Yes! That would have been fun. What did you just say?? I would make a better laundry lady. What ever. I always have fun.

A man walks into a bar and says, Hey guess what I’m a talking dog. Ever seen a talking dog before? How about a drink for the talking dog? The bartender answers, OK, The toilet’s right around the corner.

A man says, does your dog bite? No he doesn’t. Reaches down to pet dog and it bites
him. I thought you said your dog doesn’t bite. That not my dog.

If you want to leave a comment for OFITG, I'll make sure she gets it.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's a Long Way from Nebraska

Yes, the Bering Sea may be a long way from Nebraska, but that's no reason not to be a fan of the Discovery television series "The Deadliest Catch". Who needs the crime dramas that are thinly-disguised retellings of the latest news headline, the not-so-reality shows, prime-time soap operas and un-funny comedies when you've got a life-or-death struggle to bring food to our tables that pits man against nature?

It's not so different from the cowboys of Nebraska's Sandhills fighting wind, weather and market prices to scratch out a living bringing beef to America's dinner plate. Well, except that the waves on Nebraska's "sea of grass" are more solid under foot than the waves of the Bering Sea. But if it's blowing strong enough, the spray in the form of sand and dirt can still be blinding, and the wind chill will freeze your face. And any rancher or farmer who raises livestock can relate to the setbacks of dead loss.

The lead up to the airing of the 2009 season, which is season 5 for the show, starts today (Tuesday April 7), at 6:00 p.m. Central Time (7 p.m. Eastern & Pacific), with four hour-long episodes of the best of seasons three and four.

Then there's a weekend marathon on April 10 and 11. And finally, at 8:00 p.m. (CT), on April 14, the new season begins with an episode called "Everything On The Line."

Thanks for stopping by. If you stop by for coffee during the show, we can only chat during the commercials.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Last Snowstorm of the Season?

For the last three snowstorms, I have told myself that it was the last snowstorm of the season.  Maybe this time I'm right!  Below, a Union Pacific train speeds through Sutherland during the storm.
Welcome to Sutherland!
The view from our front porch.
Some of the beautiful drifts left by the 40 m.p.h. wind after the storm.
A lot of the snow has already melted, especially on the streets and sidewalks, except for some in the branches of the tree in front of the Sutherland Courier-Times building.  There's still drifts to melt, with the forecast calling for temperatures in the 50's this week, it shouldn't take long.
Brrrrr.  We've already had a couple of days of mid 70's weather, just enough to give us a hint of the springtime to come.  I'm ready for the weather to get warm and stay there!

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee is always on.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Henhouse Prowlers In Concert May 5 UPDATE

Could there possibly be a more appropriate group for the Nebraska Outback Concert Series than the Henhouse Prowlers? Kind of an inside joke, but as I've blogged before, my family farm is Seifer Farms, which specializes in free-range chickens. They're not too fond of henhouse prowlers, whether two-legged, four-legged or two-winged. But I'm sure they'll welcome these guys with open arms!

With that introduction, let me announce the next concert in our ongoing house concert series:
The Henhouse Prowlers, direct from Chicago, Illinois (by way of Des Moines and Lincoln), on Tuesday May 5 at 7:30 p.m.

Chicago. A city known for its blues…and its bluegrass. In the bluegrass history books, a pivotal stop, among others, along the road to success for the Monroe Brothers and, in more current times, noteworthy as home base for the long popular Special Consensus. And now, the Windy City serves as a critical intersection in the lives of five musicians, two who hail from Illinois and the others from as far and near as North Carolina, upstate New York and Missouri.

With a PBS series soundtrack already to its credit and a sophomore recording in the works, The Henhouse Prowlers have been barnstorming on to the red hot bluegrass scene since 2004. A couple of personnel shifts later, in 2007 the roughly thirty-something quintet made the commitment to go the distance, to be a full-time touring bluegrass band. But not just another bluegrass band. The Henhouse Prowlers are adeptly positioning themselves for nothing less than success. Each member does double duty within the group, holding a business as well as musical post, making it a total collaborative effort.

Dedicated equally to tradition and innovation, The Henhouse Prowlers center their sound on that of the early, formative years of bluegrass, while they keep their pulse on today by covering contemporary topics in a largely original repertoire.

The Henhouse Prowlers wear the Bill Monroe mantel with spit and polish. They perform in suit-and-tie and work in a tightly choreographed, one-mic stage setting, which adds a dynamic dimension to their shows. Combining passion, confidence and flair with instrumental and vocal prowess, The Prowlers deliver bluegrass with an edge.

The group’s prolific songwriting provides entrĂ©e to twenty-first century topics, not typically tackled by traditional bluegrass groups. Guitarist Ben Benedict describes what they are trying to achieve. “None of us, in this band, lives in a ‘Little Cabin Home on the Hill.’ Most of our audience doesn't either. But there is a broad spectrum of life that we can all relate to, so those are the themes we try to hit on and tell stories about in our original material.”

You can also find out more about the Henhouse Prowlers on their MySpace page.

The Henhouse Prowlers will now be playing in the Hay Loft at Cox's Vineyard, 130 N. West County Road in Sutherland. All other details are the same:

Details about the Concert Series
  1. Our concerts are no-smoking and low-alcohol. Feel free to bring your favorite beverage.
  2. Finger food will be provided. Also feel free to bring your favorite snacks to share.
  3. Childcare will be provided. The younger kids will enjoy movies in the family room. Those who enjoy music are welcome to stay and listen.
  4. A free-will donation will be accepted, with 100% of the proceeds going to the artists. The recommended amount is $10.00 to $15.00 per person.
  5. Because House Concerts are technically "private events", the concert is by invitation only. This keeps us from getting in trouble with BMI and ASCAP, and from looking like a business. But e-mail me and I'll make sure you get an invitation!
  6. If you plan to come, please RSVP so we know how many to plan for.

All of the housekeeping details aside, you'll enjoy a great evening of fun and friends at a House Concert - live music as it was meant to be, up close and personal. To give you a hint of what you've been missing, here is Beth Wood singing her heart out for us at the March 28 concert.
She had the audience mesmerized. Do you see what I mean by "up close and personal"? Live music doesn't get any better than this.

And one of the perks about being a House Concert host is that the artists are staying in your home, which can make for late nights, but also lots of fun at the "after party".

Want to find out more about House Concerts? Visit Concerts In Your Home.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you at the concert. The coffee is always on.