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Schuyler community turns out in full force

January 23, 2019

They laughed, they smiled and they cheered.

More than 100 community members on Saturday night were wined and dined while enjoying good food, company and entertainment inside the Oak Ballroom.

Although it was indeed a showcase of community pride on display, it was also an opportunity to remember what makes Schuyler so special by honoring a number of its residents and businesses. At least that’s what the Schuyler Area Chamber of Commerce was aiming for with its 2018 Celebration Banquet.

“I thought it was great. Things went really well this year,” Chamber Executive Director Jackie Farrell said. “We sold a lot of individual tickets this year, a few more than last year, so that was nice to see.”

New Schuyler Mayor Jon Knutson agreed.

“It’s always good to see that kind of turnout. It was a busy night,” he said. “Schuyler has always supported its people - there was a mix of everybody there. That’s just the way Schuyler is - we can get together and celebrate.”

Perhaps the most touching moment of the night was when Studio A Dance Academy owner Katie Shultz was announced as the winner of the chamber’s coveted Business of the Year Award. Shultz appeared genuinely surprised as she graciously accepted the honor on behalf of her studio, 1117 A St. in Schuyler.

“I am incredibly honored. I had no idea,” Shultz said of winning. “I do this because I love it. Dance is my passion and kids are my passion, and to be able to share my love of dance with the Schuyler youth is all I ever wanted to do.”

It was quite the night for Studio A, which had several of its students entertain the crowd with unique dance performances during dinner. Among them was 14-year-old Bailee Kovar’s moving dance to “Bloom,” and an electric routine by 14-year-olds Natalie Yrkoski and Erika Quezada to Janet Jackson’s classic “Rhythm Nation.” There was a dance to Ed Sheeran’s touching “Supermarket Flowers” by 15-year-old Cara Dvorak, 17-year-old Jaiden Sock’s take on “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and a fun gambol to the classic “I Put A Spell On You” by 11-year-old Khayl Salinas-Cone, as well as 10-year-olds Reese Inselman and Nadia Pond.

Shultz praised her students for their efforts.

“I think they did a terrific job,” she said. “They learned these routines months ago. It’s up to them to continue working and practicing. They have a lot of self-discipline and drive.”

A Schuyler Central High graduate, Shultz expressed her enthusiasm for sharing her love for dance and working with the younger generation on their technique – that’s what motivates her.

“This whole journey began as a hobby and evolved into a full-time business,” she told the Sun. “After all these years it still feels like just a hobby. To be recognized by the chamber as a business, let alone business of the year, is humbling.”

Farrell praised Shultz, noting the businesswoman was highly deserving of the award.

“Her love and passion for children and dance has been the secret to her success,” Farrell said during the ceremony. “Every week, she touches the lives of 215 students. Along with teaching them to dance, many life lessons are learned along the way.”

There were several other awards given out throughout the night: Honorary Member, Schuyler Legacy and Citizen/Organization of the Year. The chamber’s Board of Directors voted to finalize the selections for all of the awards prior to the banquet.

Farrell called Charlie Heavican “a staple in the Schuyler community” before announcing him as the recipient of the Honorary Member Award.

“He was born, raised and continues to reside here, having only left for four years while obtaining a degree from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln,” she told the audience. “In a world filled with so much change, (Heavican) has kept his core values at the forefront of many of his decisions.”

Farrell said Heavican’s commitment to the community is evident in the numerous volunteer positions he has held throughout the years. Among them are stints serving as treasurer of Colfax Foundation and Schuyler Community Development; serving on the Downtown Revitalization & Commercial Development Committee and Schuyler Railside Green and president of Schuyler Rotary. Heavican has also been a huge supporter of the American Red Cross, having donated more than a dozen gallons of blood, she noted.

The Schuyler Legacy Award was presented to Larry Karel, whom Farrell called a man of great integrity and high regard.

“He believes in rules and doing things the right way,” she said. “He is involved in organizations and activities that promote the Schuyler community.”

Karel was a Rotary member for 40 years. He has a great love for fishing and baseball; as well as a great sense of humor, she noted. He coached Legion baseball for years when his children were little until they were grown, started the American Youth Soccer Organization program in Schuyler in 1983 and served as Colfax County and the City of Schuyler’s attorney for many years. He is one of the founding members of Schuyler Community Development, having served as its first president and currently serves as vice president, she listed among his many accomplishments.

The final award of the night, Citizen/Organization of the Year, is intended to recognize selfless civic activity – anyone who regularly gives their time for the benefit of the community. Lloyd and Betty Brichacek embody those traits, Farrell noted, but the couple still appeared extremely surprised to hear their names called as recipients of the award during roaring applause.

“I always see them smiling and laughing and they love entertaining,” Farrell said. “Enjoying life all along the way.”

The Brichaceks share their life and time hosting tours, sharing knowledge, community history and making people laugh. One of their favorite activities is completing bus trip fundraisers. They have dedicated time and funding to the old Schuyler Sun office by helping turn it into an annex museum of the historical society. They have spent countless hours cleaning, moving and setting up displays and now give tours and make sure the museum annex stays up and running.

“This couple is wonderful. They are selfless, dedicated to making Schuyler great and keeping its history alive,” Farrell said. “They share their time, talents and love for the community of Schuyler with those around them.”

The couple graciously accepted the award to applause and a standing ovation. Numerous people congratulated them as they made their way up to the front of the room.

Lloyd joked they were surprised to be there and couldn’t believe they had made it due to their busy schedule of having numerous places to be that night. Each of them fittingly thanked the community for their support, another testament to them receiving the award in the first place.

After a performance by comedian/magician Janene Harris, a moment was taken to acknowledge all of the unique centerpieces at the tables provided by numerous area businesses. Although all of them were eye-catching, ultimately attendees voted CHI Health-Schuyler the favorite for its decorations fitting the “Light It Up” theme. It was the organization’s version of an x-ray, complete with a miniature skeleton, that won the organization $50 in Chamber Bucks.

There was also a silent auction with about a dozen gift baskets fashioned by local businesses. The baskets were donated for bidding, and will see the nearly $1,000 in proceeds raised fund Christmas decorations for the streets of Schuyler.

The banquet was catered by Buresh Catering of David City, which served a meal of prime rib, pork tenderloin, garlic potatoes and green beans buffet-style. Helping with beverage service and clean up were students from Schuyler Central High School’s Project S. Seniors Cristóbal Gonzalez and Christopher Renterina, along with freshmen Janessa Eggleston, Marisol Deanda and Vanessa Uriostegui.

“Things went very well this year,” Farrell said. “The award winners were all surprised. The local talent was fantastic. The comic-magician and crowd participation were fun, and the meal was delicious… There was a nice crowd there; everybody was having a good time. It was nice to see the support everyone gives to Schuyler and each other.’’

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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