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Covering Bellevue Gretna La Vista Offutt AFB Papillion Springfield

JUNE 26, 2019 | SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

Entertainment Growth History Recreation


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SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

CELEBRATE SARPY COUNTY

June 26, 2019


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SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

June 26, 2019

Halleck Park in Papillion

INSIDE THIS SECTION Introduction..................................................4 Growth.........................................................7 La Vista City Centre....................................10 Places to go...............................................12 Let’s celebrate............................................14 Get outdoors..............................................17 Pools/splashpads......................................19 Golf............................................................20 County history............................................22 Celebrate Sarpy County is published by Suburban Newspapers. STAFF Section editor/designer: Tom Knox Contributors: Eric Taylor, Brody Hilgenkamp, Ben Justman General Manager: Paul Swanson Advertising coordinators: Echo Estep-Bronk, Amy Corrigan 0000050785-01

Tyler Meyer/Suburban Newspapers

ST BERNADETTE CATHOLIC CHURCH 7600 So 42nd Street Bellevue, NE

Church

Mass Times: Sat: 5:00 p.m. Sun: 8:30 & 10:30 a.m. Parish Office: 402-731-4694 Fr. Harold Buse – Pastor www.stbernadetteparish.org 0000050798-01

LifeSpring Church

Sunday School 9am Sunday Service 10am Wednesday Bible Study 7pm

12210 S. 36th Street Bellevue, NE 68123 Phone: 402-292-7418

13904 S 36th St Bellevue, NE 68123 (1 mile south of Capehart Road)

www.stmatthewbellevue.org

Bible Truth Ministries

(402) 292-4546 LifeSpringChurch.com

Mass Times

“Strengthening families for victorious living”

Sunday 9:30 & 11:00am Adult and Student Worship Sunday School Newborn-6th Grade

402-292-9499

www.Bibletruthministries.org

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2402 Franklin St. • Bellevue

WEEKEND LITURGIES

Adult and Student groups meet throughout the week 0000051757-01

Saturday: 5:00pm Sunday: 8:30am & 10:30am

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PASTORS RORDY & RAMONA SMITH

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Tues-Fri 9:00am

Fax: 402-292-7421

St Matthew Catholic School Preschool (age 3) - 8th Grade Before & After School Child Care

402-291-2030


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SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

CELEBRATE SARPY COUNTY

June 26, 2019

Michael Batchleder/Suburban Newspapers

Floats advance along Mission Avenue during the annual Arrows to Aerospace parade in Bellevue.

Let’s celebrate all that is Sarpy County The duck drop race is one of the most popular events at Springfield Days. Eric Taylor/Suburban Newspapers

Sarpy County may be the smallest of all of Nebraska’s counties, but it is among the mightiest. With Sarpy’s population growing by leaps and bounds, new employers have brought more jobs, developers have created new shopping and dining experiences, new housing has sprung up in every community, new schools have opened and new trails are ready to be explored. With so much happening in the county, there is

a lot to celebrate. Inside this section readers will discover some of the exciting things happening in the county, as well as some events to check out or places to go and things to do. Every story starts somewhere. Read about the county’s history in this section, too. We are proud to be a part of Sarpy County and wanted to celebrate the success that has shaped what the community has become.


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SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

CELEBRATE SARPY COUNTY

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FONTENELLE FOREST Besides finding wildlife along the nearly 26 miles of trails at Fontenelle Forest’s nearly 2,000 acres of forest, prairie and wetlands, there are other things to see. A Raptor Woodland Refuge nurses injured birds of prey back to health. Once they are ready, the birds are released back to the wild. There are a few that never fully recover, however, and are housed permanently at the refuge. New to the park is TreeRush Adventures. Visitors can climb, swing and zip their way through five acres of the forest on tightropes, suspended wooden platforms and ziplines. One part of the park will be geared to adults and older children and another for youngsters ages 4 to 6. Some will take climbers higher than 50 feet and require more stamina and skill.

Brendan Sullivan/Suburban Newspapers


CELEBRATE SARPY COUNTY

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VIEW A WORLD MASTERPIECE Five hundred years ago, Michelangelo unveiled what is regarded as one of the world’s greatest masterpieces. Until September, view a reproduction of the Pieta at The Cloisters on the Platte. While there, make it a day and walk the Stations of the Cross.

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It Takes All of Us When businesses, faith-based organizations, government and individuals come together to improve the lives of families, the results are astounding. Following a nationally recognized model, Lift Up Sarpy County fosters that collaboration and encourages grass roots, person-to-person volunteering.

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CELEBRATE SARPY COUNTY

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June 26, 2019

Resurgence seen across county

W

By Eric Taylor Suburban Newspapers

hat was once vast acres of farmland now has an entirely new look in western Sarpy

County. With new buildings popping up throughout that area in the county, growth isn’t just limited to the city limits. Facebook’s data center, located near Nebraska Highway 50 and Capehart Road, is just one of many industrial developments that are finding their way into Sarpy County. Papillion Mayor David Black said the industrial landscape has undergone significant change in the past several years. “You saw things start to take off about 15-20 years ago with the Shopko distribution center (132nd Street), then nothing else happened,” Black said. “I think there’s been a resurgence within the past five years.” See Growth: Page 7

Tom Knox/Suburban Newspapers

New housing is going up all across Sarpy County. These homes are in the Tiburon Ridge neighborhood in Gretna.

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CELEBRATE SARPY COUNTY

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June 26, 2019

Eric Taylor/Suburban Newspapers Inc.

THE GRANDE PIZZA & TACO COMBO FAMILY TAKE OUT SPECIAL LARGE 2-TOPPING PIZZA, FOUR SOFT SHELL TACOS AND CHILI CON QUESO DIP

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The Facebook data center in western Sarpy County is one of the many examples of growth throughout the county.

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June 26, 2019

Growth: County sees more jobs, housing Continued from Page 9 Black said there are many factors as to why Sarpy County, and specifically Papillion, has become an industrial home. “If you look at the Omaha metro area, industrial vacancies are below 4%, so if a business is needing to move or expand, there’s no place to move into,” he said. “Your only option is to build and because of the time it takes to build, a lot of businesses would bypass Omaha. There became a pent-up demand for industrial space.” Black believes location, for both the business and the workers, is a major reason Papillion has become a centerpiece for industrial buildings. “In the long term, the connection between I-80 and I-29 is going to be Highway 50, Platteview Road and Highway 34, so that creates a shift there,” Black said. “More and more, Omaha and Lincoln are acting as one single metro area. If a company needs workers, they are going to look at those areas. Drive-time wise, Papillion lies in the middle of the state’s two most populated areas.” The industrial growth has been a combination of new business, like Facebook, as well as long-standing businesses, like Omaha Box Company, that are looking to relocate. Black believes that the trend of further industrial development in the area won’t peak anytime soon. That belief is further evidenced by the second data center, currently known as Project Wizard, that is earmarked for Highway 50 and Schram Road. “I don’t see it slowing down,” he said. “As long as there is a demand out there, they are going to keep building. If a business is going to grow and expand, they’re going to need a place to go.” As the industrial world continues to

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation omahachamber.org/economic-development/ sarpy-county-economic-developmentcorporation 808 Conagra Dr Suite 400, Omaha, NE 68102 420-233-7155 CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE Greater Bellevue Area Chamber of Commerce bellevuenebraska.com 1036 Bruin Blvd., Bellevue, NE 68005 420-898-3000 Greater Omaha Chamber omahachamber.org

Chris Machian/The World-Herald

Workers sort packages at an Amazon warehouse in Sarpy County. The facility was opened in October 2018 and employs about 230 people. Amazon also contracts with five independent companies to handle deliveries.

808 Conagra Dr Suite 400, Omaha, NE 68102 420-233-7155 Gretna Area Chamber of Commerce

AREA’S LARGEST EMPLOYERS 2,500-4,999 EMPLOYEES

402-332-3535

Eleven companies, organizations or institutions in the greater Omaha area have 2,500 or more employees, according to 2018 data from the Greater Omaha Chamber.

Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce

5,000+ EMPLOYEES

Children’s Hospital

Offutt Air Force Base

Health care and social assistance

Public administration

University of Nebraska Medical Center

CHI Health

Health care and social assistance

Health care and social assistance

First National Bank

Nebraska Medicine

Finance and insurance

Health care and social assistance

Union Pacific Railroad

Methodist Health System

Transportation and warehousing

Health care and social assistance

Mutual of Omaha

gretnachamber.com 789 Village Square, Gretna, NE 68028

sarpychamber.org 1243 Golden Gate Drive, Papillion, NE 68046 402-339-3050

grow, Sarpy County will follow suit. Black said that according to Heartland 2050 projections, the Omaha metro area could rise from its current base of 800,000 people to 1.4 million. “They are estimating Sarpy County is going to grow 94 percent over the next 30 years,” he said.

First Data Information

Finance and insurance PayPal Finance and insurance


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June 26, 2019

New life in the center of La Vista By Eric Taylor Managing Editor A redevelopment is breathing new life into La Vista. The City Centre development along 84th Street is bringing new businesses, new residences and a fresh look in what will become a focal point for the city. What was a vision of city leaders more than a decade ago has become more of a reality over the past several months as construction continues and several of the first tenants have now been announced. The list of tenants features a craft beer bar, a breakfast and brunch restaurant, a barbecue restaurant, an ice cream shop, a Tex-Mex restaurant, a health food

restaurant and café, an Izakaya-style Asian restaurant and a nightclub. “We are thrilled to welcome these exciting businesses and new concepts to La Vista. We believe City Centre will soon become a distinct destination that will draw folks from across the metro,” said Chris Erickson of City Ventures. The $200 million project also includes apartments that will be available for move-in in August. But the City Centre development is only part of the master plan for the city, which also includes Civic Center Park, which sits on the former La Vista Falls Golf Course. The revamped park will include walking trails, a larger lake and potentially an amphitheater.

Ryan Soderlin/BH Media News Service

Work continues on the City Centre development, which is near Park View Boulevard and 84th Street.


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June 26, 2019

ANNOUNCED BUSINESSES Heights Draft Room – A craft beer bar with 30 rotating taps of local, national and international craft beers along with a diverse selection of bottled beer as well as wine and cocktail options. OverEasy – The nationally recognized breakfast, brunch and lunch concept has flourished in west Omaha for years, and the La Vista location will feature exclusive local touches, like a grab-andgo coffee nook and breakfast bar. Bullitt County BBQ – A full-service barbecue restaurant will feature recipes and secret sauces from several Omaha-area chefs and restaurateurs. Locally sourced meats and signature sides will elevate your expectation of Omaha barbecue. Malted – An exclusive malt shop that will feature house-made ice creams, shakes and sundaes, with adult-only options as well. Steel Cactus Restaurant & Cantina – A Tex-Mexstyle restaurant with a variety of famous specialty margaritas called Yinzerita. The Standard Market & Pint House – A quickserve café as well as a full-service restaurant that has a healthier flare with multiple approaches to clean eating along with a selfserve tap system to enjoy craft beers. Social House – An Izakaya style Asian restaurant and lounge that will feature a custom-built Robata grill and sushi bar along with teppanyaki (Hibachi) for group dining. Foxtail Nightclub and Event Venue – A bar that features craft brews and specialty cocktails within a uniquely and meticulously designed.

Ryan Soderlin/BH Media News Service

New trails and green space are included in the master plan. The development was once the La Vista Falls Golf Course.


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There are plenty of places to go Looking for a way to spend the day? Check out these ideas.

Kent Sievers/BH Media

Bellevue Little Theatre

RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD

Werner Park

The theater celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018. The BLT, as the locals call it, is operated by volunteers and puts on five productions — two musicals and three plays — each season, which runs from September to May. In its early days, the BLT performed in restaurants, schools and Bellevue University, but the organization bought, renovated and moved into the old Roxy Movie Theatre building in Olde Towne Bellevue in 1977. The new season kicks off Sept. 13 with the musical adaptation of “Catch Me If You Can.”

Home to the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Since it opened in 2011, major leaguers and future World Series champions like Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have proved their mettle. The Storm Chasers play 70 home games in the 6,300-seat stadium, which also hosts charity walks and other events.

By Brody Hilgenkamp Staff Writer Soaring Wings opened in 2004, about three years after a local family began growing grapes. From those humble beginnings sprouted a business that sells 12 dry wines, 10 sweet wines and nine beers on tap and has won more than 200 awards. Visitors can enjoy an evening sipping on a drink and tasting food or listening to a musician perform on the vineyard’s stage. The vineyard also hosts annual events like Harvest Festival in September and a pig roast. Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in Gretna is a must-do in the fall and has been for three decades. It started as an idea to provide a family-friendly farm experience, and it has grown into a 400acre fun plex with 55 acres of pumpkins, hay-rack rides, corn mazes, haunted houses, slides, trains, pony rides and play areas. Opening Day is Sept. 13 with the Honeycrisp Festival, which runs until Sept. 22. Vala’s closes after Halloween. Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch, which has been doing business for 30-plus years, has a little bit of everything. It’s a popular wedding and party venue; visitors can pick their own berries beginning in June; it hosts Renaissance, Harry Potter and pirate-themed festivals; the Ranch of Terror is open during the Halloween season; and there’s pumpkin picking in the fall. Visitors can also reserve private campfires. Offutt Air Force Base gives tours for organized groups such as ROTC, educational programs and civic groups with a vested interest in the base. Such organizations can bring between 15 and 40 visitors, or one commercial bus, to go on one tour per calendar week and up to three per month.

Kelsey Stewart/Suburban Newspapers

SumTur Amphitheater Sarpy County’s outdoor music venue, SumTur, holds more than 100 events each year and seats 2,500 people. Concerts, corporate events, weddings, church services and outdoor movies all have been at the amphitheater, which opened in 2007 and is owned and operated by the City of Papillion. Over the years, Willie Nelson, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, and Flogging Molly and Sublime have played the venue. This year, Three Dog Night and Aaron Lewis are major acts to play at the venue.


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June 26, 2019

Omaha National Cemetery The 236-acre cemetery near Springfield is the second Department of Veterans Affairs national cemetery in Nebraska. It was dedicated in 2016 and will serve the burial needs of more than 112,000 veterans in the cemetery’s service area for the next 100 years. Among the notable persons buried there are Wilfred Louis Ebel, the fifth director of what is now the National Cemetery Administration; Melvin Carl Anderson, a posthumous Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient who died fighting in World War II; and Jean Annette Briggs, who served in the Royal Navy and worked for codebreaker Alan Turing.

Chris Machian/BH Media


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CELEBRATE SARPY COUNTY

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June 26, 2019

Sarpy knows how to celebrate all year long By Eric Taylor Suburban Newspapers Parades, carnivals, music and food set the tone for many area celebrations across Sarpy County each year. Thousands of people gather each year to celebrate their hometown. Whether it’s the duck races at Springfield Days or the live music at RiverFest, there’s something for everybody.

Papillion Idol contest, and people of all ages can enjoy someone else singing at one of the many live music performances throughout the weekend. You won’t go hungry. There are food vendors in City Park for whatever your appetite seeks. The Breath of Life Car Show brings classic cars from near and far while the free ice cream social is pleasing to all. The Papillion Days parade is one of the largest in the area, and the three-day Beer Fest features suds and sounds. Gretna Days

Springfield Days Springfield may consider itself a small town, but it knows how to throw a big party. Each year in early June, the community shows off everything it has to offer for a two-day celebration. Live music and a movie kick off the celebration, which leads to a jam-packed Saturday. There’s both a kiddie parade and the grand parade while attendees can test their skills during the ice cream and Runza-eating competitions, or the bubble gum-blowing contest. But nothing tops the annual duck races. Main Street is flooded to make way for hundreds of rubber ducks to float down the road with prizes awaiting the winners. Live music, a beer garden and fireworks conclude the celebration. Papillion Days For more than 70 years, Papillion has been celebrating in style with its annual Papillion Days celebration in mid-June. Papillion Days kicks off with a free concert at SumTur Amphitheater and ends five days later with another free concert at SumTur. In between, there’s no shortage of things to do.

For four days in July, Gretna is the celebration capital of Nebraska.

Sarpy County Fair

Gretna Days is event-packed and allows visitors to get active or let others entertain them. For those wanting to be active, there is golf, softball, dodgeball, innertube races and the Resurrection Run. For those wanting to be a little more laid-back, a cornhole tournament and beer garden may be more your speed. It wouldn’t be Gretna Days without the annual Kiddie Parade and Gretna Days Parade while a community picnic is one of the highlights of the final day.

One of the crown jewels of Sarpy County, the fair draws thousands of people each year to the Springfield fairgrounds in early August. Animals are also a part of the showcase as the 4-H competition brings in dozens of horses, cows, pigs, sheep, rabbits and chickens that are on display. Those who enjoy motorized entertainment

won’t be disappointed as tractor pulls and a demolition derby attract large crowds. The two-day rodeo has become a highlight for the Sarpy Fair, and the carnival helps provide fun for young and old. There’s also live music along with dozens of food options and many other forms of entertainment.

Of course, there’s plenty of food, refreshments and music that will keep everyone entertained for four days. Arrows to Aerospace

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For nearly 30 years, the Bellevue-Offutt Kiwanis has been providing a premier celebration to the community. There are dozens of free activities during the celebration, which is highlighted by the annual Arrows to Aerospace parade. Washington Park is the home for games, food and other activities.

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Michael Batchleder/Suburban Newspapers

RiverFest Bellevue is the place to be in the summer as the annual RiverFest celebration takes over American Heroes Park. More than 30,000 people ascend on Bellevue for the two-day event, which is a combination of music, food and plenty of fun. Numerous live music performances will hit the stage while the two-day carnival provides plenty of entertainment for young and old. A classic car and truck show provides another highlight to the festival while a beer garden and fireworks show are more reasons to celebrate.

Salute to Summer Festival La Vista knows how to throw a party. That’s obvious if you attend the four-day event over Memorial Day weekend. It all begins with a Hometown Heroes event in which a military family of the year is honored along with others who do their part in serving the country. The free community cookout draws thousands of people while the Show and Shine Car Show is a must-see for car enthusiasts. What’s a celebration without a parade? The Salute to Summer parade down Park View Boulevard is something no one wants to miss. Sprinkle in some live music, fireworks and a community pool party, and it’s easy to see why La Vista is the place to be over Memorial Day weekend.


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June 26, 2019

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June 26, 2019

Get outdoors and play From horseback riding to fishing and dog parks, the options are nearly endless. By Brody Hilgenkamp Staff Writer Did you know there’s a trail dedicated to horse riding in Papillion? It’s true. If horse enthusiasts want to saddle up and get some fresh air with their hoofed friends, they can drive down Schram Road and turn into the southern entrance of Walnut Creek Recreation Area. From there, take the second left — the first left is the RV park — onto the gravel road. Drive past the chain-link fences of the dog park, past the picnic benches and the green-roofed picnic shelter until you hit a dead end. That’s the parking lot for horse trailers and the beginning of the

equestrian trail. “A lot of people don’t know it’s back there,” said Tony Gowan, parks director for the City of Papillion. “It’s kind of secluded.” One could say the same thing about much of Sarpy County’s outdoor recreation. The county is divided into suburbs in the north that are steadily absorbing agricultural land in the south, but enjoyable recreation areas are scattered throughout the county if one knows where to look. Walnut Creek is south of Nebraska Highway 370 near 96th Street, and it features the amenities on the way to the equestrian trail like the dog park as well a 105-acre reservoir for fishing — “without a doubt” the most popular feature of the park, Gowan said — bike/hiking trails and playgrounds. Speaking of the dog park, it has areas dedicated to large and small breeds and also an area with water access for hunting training. Head west on 370 a little bit, hang a See Outdoors: Page 17

Fishing is just one of the many activities availabe at Prairie Queen Recreation Area in Papillion.


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CELEBRATE SARPY COUNTY

SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

Outdoors: Plenty of space to enjoy Continued from Page 18 right on 132nd Street and you’ll find Prairie Queen Recreation Area, which opened in March 2015. Prairie Queen’s most popular feature is the trail system and the fishing, Gowan said, and it has a new outdoor fitness area with eight stations. In the southwestern portion of the county, along the Platte River, is Schramm State Park, with its historic fish hatchery, geologic display, river access for canoers and kayakers, a playground and picnic center, and yes, miles of trails. On the other side of the county, Bellevue’s Fontenelle Forest’s boardwalk was recently named the best hike in Nebraska by Prevention magazine. The forest also features other trails that give visitors access to 2,000 acres of forest, prairie and wetlands. It also has a raptor refuge and playgrounds, and it has added an outdoor adventure park.

Gifford Farm, a popular educational area near Fontenelle Forest’s wetland marsh, has farm animals, festivals, open houses, and an outdoor nature classroom for families and groups to enjoy. All of these places, Gowan said, show there is very strong outdoor recreation in Sarpy County, and there are more areas in the works. The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District has two more reservoirs on the way that will bring more hiking and biking trails and picnic areas to the county. One will be near north of Cornhusker Road between 114th and 120th Streets, and the other will be near 108th Street and Lincoln Road. The lakes will be 34 and 12.5 acres, respectively, and the larger of the two will accommodate boating. “A strong part of Sarpy County is the outdoor amenities,” Gowan said of the county’s recreation opportunities. “We’re very blessed to have that.”

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June 26, 2019

Mountain bike riders blaze the course at Walnut Creek Recreation Area in Papillion.


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CELEBRATE SARPY COUNTY

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June 26, 2019

Where to cool down By Eric Taylor Suburban Newspapers Looking for a place to cool down this summer? There are plenty of options throughout Sarpy County. Whether it’s an aquatic center, a swimming pool or even a splash pad, Sarpy County has your answer to beat the heat.

BELLEVUE Cascio Pool, 1500 Lawrence Lane. Dowding Pool, 14th and Washington Streets. Gilbert Pool, 29th Avenue and Jackson Street. Sun Valley Pool, 52nd Street and Aspen Drive. Banner Park splash pad, 50th and Virginia Streets.

GRETNA

PAPILLION

Gretna City Pool, Highway 6/31 and W. Angus Road.

Papio Bay Aquatic Center, 815 E. Halleck St.

LA VISTA

Eagle Ridge Splash Pad, 66th Street and Ashwood Avenue.

La Vista Municipal Swimming Pool, 7529 S. 85th St. SPRINGFIELD Buffalo Park splash pad, Sixth and Vine Streets.

Schwer Park Splash Pad, 800 W. Centennial Road. First Street Plaza Splash Pad, First and Washington Streets.

Everett Park splash pad, Betz Road.

The splash pad at Buffalo Park in Springfield is one of many places to cool off in the summer.

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Find a fairway, take a foursome

June 26, 2019

BARRIER-FREE PARKS Champion Park 7541 Park View Blvd., La Vista Barrier-free playground, an extension of La Vista’s Central Park. Restrooms, shelters.

PUBLIC GOLF COURSES Eagle Hills 501 Eagle Hills Drive, Papillion 18 holes, 402-592-7788

Peterson Park 200 W. Angus St., Gretna Low-impact playground with easy-access swings and spinners. Two shelters and a gazebo.

Tara Hills 1410 Western Hills Drive, Papillion 18 holes, 402-592-7550 Tregaron 13909 Glengarry Circle, Bellevue 18 holes, 402-292-9300 SEMIPRIVATE Willow Lakes 12301 S. 25th St., Bellevue 18 holes, 402-292-1680 PRIVATE Platteview Country Club 4215 Platteview Road, Bellevue 18 holes, 402-291-5927

Enjoy the seesaw at the barrier-free playground at Peterson Park. Susan Skinner/Suburban Newspapers

PROUD TO SUPPORT SARPY COUNTY! Ken Summerfield, Agent American Family Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. & its Operating Companies, American Family Insurance Company, 6000 American Parkway, Madison, WI 53783 007250 – Rev. 1/17 ©2017 – 9916013

945 N. Adams St., Ste 8 Papillion, NE 68046 (402) 339-0200 ksummerf@amfam.com 0000051141-01


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SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

CELEBRATE SARPY COUNTY

June 26, 2019


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CELEBRATE SARPY COUNTY

SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

June 26, 2019

Step back in time to county’s roots By Ben Justman Special Contributor Sarpy County is small but mighty. At 240 square miles in area, it is the smallest of Nebraska’s 93 counties. The size of Sarpy County, however, is not relative to its expansive history that stretches over 200 years. Shortly after the Louisiana Purchase, explorers Lewis and Clark stayed here in 1804 while charting the relative unknown in what would become the western half of the United States. Prior to their arrival, the indigenous peoples, primary the Omaha Tribe but also the Pawnee and the Otoe, would have resided in the region. By the 1830s, the population consisted of a handful of fur traders and religious missionaries. One fur trader, Peter Sarpy, ran a successful operation at Bellevue. This trading post and ferry on the bank of the Missouri River would eventually become Nebraska’s third-largest city. Nebraska officially incorporated as a territory in 1854, and Bellevue became the gateway to the west for an influx of travelers. Many of them were on their

way west for gold in California or in search of religious freedom in Utah. A number of travelers would ultimately stay in Bellevue, and with Sarpy as one of the organizers, the fledgling settlement went from trading post to town. Shortly after on Feb. 7, 1857, Sarpy County was established. All three of the first Sarpy County commissioners — John B. Glover, Robert McCarty and Philander Cook — were farmers. The first federal census taken in the young county just three years after its establishment indicated a population of 1,201 inhabitants. Whether spurred by the greater notion of Manifest Destiny or simply drawn to the prospect of farmland to call their own, pioneers in greater numbers than ever headed westward in the decades following the Civil War. New towns began to sprout. Papillion, Springfield and Gretna all have their origins associated with not only a sense of pioneer spirit and but also their connectivity to the railroad. Papillion has survived and thrived because the local residents, led by John Beadle, raised

the necessary $444 to persuade Union Pacific to build in their fledgling town. Other towns such as Xenia, Portal and Chalco fell short in their effort to build a sustainable community and are now relegated to ghost town status. Sarpy Center, founded by civil war veteran James Spearman, was unable to secure a railroad line to his young community. Rather than accept defeat, he hitched horses to most of the town’s buildings and moved them a few miles to establish a new town. Thus in 1881, the community of Springfield was born. Bellevue was nearing extinction by the turn of the century. It had been passed over for both the territorial capital and the site of the Transcontinental Railroad and its fur trade origins had become obsolete. The county courthouse had been relocated to Papillion in 1875, just five years after the town was founded. Much of the population in Bellevue had already left by that point, including Papillion’s first mayor, William Robinson, as well as prominent Sarpy County judge James Gow. What was left of the oldest commu-

nity in Nebraska managed to hold with the establishment in 1883 of Bellevue College, a four-year university, but its destiny forever changed when the first troops arrived at the newly built military installation known originally as Fort Crook in 1896. By 1900, the county population had grown to 9,080, but for the first four decades of the 20th century and despite its proximately to Omaha, change was gradual. It was in 1922 that the system of county prefix numbers was established for Nebraska license plates. The arrangement was based on the number of registered vehicles in the county at that time. Sarpy County was the 59th most populated of the 93 counties. The roaring ’20s did little more than meow in Sarpy County, and as an agrarian community, the region faced hard times during the Great Depression of the 1930s. With the coming of the World War II, Sarpy County played a pivotal role in our nation’s war effort. The Martin See History: Page 22

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History: Offutt Air Force Base was once known as Fort Crook Continued from Page 23 Bomber Plant at Fort Crook built more than 2,000 bomber aircraft, including the planes that would drop the atomic bombs on Japan. At its peak in 1945, the facility employed more than 15,000 people. After the war, Fort Crook took on a new role. It was renamed Offutt Air Force Base and became home to the Strategic Air Command. Thousands of military personnel and their families moved to Sarpy County. New neighborhoods, including Capehart and Wherry, were built to resolve a dire housing shortage. The expanding role of the base had significant impact on the county’s population, which nearly tripled from 10,835 in 1940 to 31,281 by 1960. In addition to the oldest settlement in the state, Sarpy County is also home to Nebraska’s newest community, La Vista, incorporated in 1960. Sarpy County now needed a new courthouse to accommodate this surge of population, which between 1960 and 1970 had more than doubled to 63,696. In 1974, the current courthouse structure was built, replacing the 1922 classic revival styled building that at present is home to Papillion City Hall. Built upon a solid historical foundation, Sarpy County continues to grow. The population is 181,000 residents and counting. From its humble beginnings to a thriving 21st century urban landscape, Sarpy County has been on a remarkable journey, one with chapters that continue to be written. — Ben Justman is the executive director of the Sarpy County Museum

Lt. Jarvis Offutt was the first Omaha airman killed in WWI. Offutt Air Force Base is named in his honor.

June 26, 2019


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SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

CELEBRATE SARPY COUNTY

June 26, 2019

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Celebrate Sarpy County 2019  

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Celebrate Sarpy County 2019  

Entertainment, Growth, History and Recreation

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