Ronda Graff

Community Connections

News and views from the McCook Community Foundation Fund


Taking the time to celebrate

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Last weekend, McCook was steeped in goodwill and nostalgia to unofficially kick off the holiday season.

Families lined the downtown streets for arguably the biggest and best Christmas Lights Parade, put on my KICX. Groups took turns in a horse-drawn carriage ride around the neighborhoods, thanks to the McCook Chamber. People looked up in awe at the new lights outlining McCook’s “skyline,” installed by a group of individuals who just wanted to get it done. And friends and neighbors waved to each other as they went from decorating Xmas cookies and making snowflakes at the McCook Community Kitchen to shopping at local stores to enjoying hot chocolate and treats throughout the community.

It was a reminder of all the good things that can and do happen in our communities when people and organizations come together.

As we near the end of the year, we begin to reflect on everything that has taken place over the past 365 days - the good and the not-so-good.

There was the bad, like the grass fires, which destroyed houses and buildings and led to the loss of life. But the disasters also brought out the good as people stepped up to help by fighting the fires, serving food to those on the frontline or donating money and goods to replace what was lost.

If we sit still for a moment to consider all the good things that happened, we would be in awe of everything we have been blessed with over the past year. If you need a prompt, just start flipping through the pictures on your phone. It is like when you are cleaning at home and you stumble across an old photo album or high school yearbook…you are just going to look for a few minutes. Next thing you know, an hour has passed.

Likewise, I digress…

Some highlights from the past year include Humanities Nebraska bringing the Nebraska Chautauqua to McCook for the first time in more than 30 years. Through reenactments and speakers, the 1950s were brought to life.

McCook should have a new outdoor swimming pool in 2024, thanks to McCook voters passing the sales tax bond issue. The new facility is long overdue but the project will move McCook forward.

Additionally, concerts were held, theatrical performances were put on, community events took place. As I frequently say, anyone who says there is nothing going on hasn’t looked hard enough. And if they truly believe there is nothing to do here, then they need to get involved to make it happen.

Personally, one of my favorite memories from this past year was the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street’s traveling museum, “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.” For those who don’t remember, the exhibit was set up in the lobby of the Keystone in late spring and early summer. Most of the local students visited the exhibit, learning

Mary Dueland organized the volunteer docents to lead the school groups through the exhibit, prompting the students with questions and helping them to delve deeper into the pictures and stories on display.

I had the privilege of following a few of those groups on their tours and their reactions showed why it was so important to bring an exhibit about our history to the community.

The kids repeatedly noted the word “persistence” on the exhibit and how the people before them has to be persistent to get things done and had to be persistent in their changing environment.

They also realized the importance of George Norris, both in creating the Unicameral and bringing electricity to rural America.

Another unique aspect of the Smithsonian traveling exhibit was the postcards visitors of all ages could fill out and leave in the mock mailbox. The postcards featured questions to prompt a person to think about their community, including “Name 3 things you would miss from this community if you had to leave” and “If you were mayor, what would you do?”

Several dozens of cards were filled out and compiled into a spreadsheet. with all the answers available on the McCook Community Foundation Fund website, mccookfoundation.org. The replies make for interesting insight to what people — both current residents and visitors — think about McCook and their own communities.

The responses are also useful as we look forward on what we want our community to be, what we could like to see happen, and what each and every one of us can do to make McCook and Southwest Nebraska an even better place to call home.

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