Autumn Fest 2015 (76)

Our Community, Our Home

I love to volunteer for activities that allow me to interact with kids in my community.  Whether it is at my church, or our community library, it’s rewarding to provide an activity that teach or entertain our community’s youth.  Volunteering at DeWitt’s Autumn Fest is a great opportunity to see the children I may already know from other community events and to meet the rest of their families.  But more importantly, it is an opportunity to build bridges with the next generation.  Someday, they will be the leaders of our community, and if I can help nurture them in some way, I feel that it is time well spent.

DeWitt is a lovely community and a great place to live and to raise children.  I want the children to be exposed to the many great aspects of the community and maybe raise their family here. Hopefully, some of them will become the leaders that help our community stay strong, safe and thriving.

It is important as adults, as parents, as churches, as business owners and as community leaders; to do everything we can to help our children have positive things to do with their time and energy.  Autumn Fest is an event that provides an opportunity to be involved in kid’s lives and to help our community stay strong.  Events like Autumn Fest connect people with their hometown and help them build relationships with one another.  “Home” is a very special place, we should do everything we can to continue to make DeWitt “home” for our kids and their families.

Cindy Nees, Director of Children’s Ministries, DeWitt Evangelical Free Church

Lincoln Park in Bloom

I have always liked DeWitt’s Lincoln Park.  It is a favorite playground of our grandchildren.  We often take a picnic lunch to the park when they visit.  I enjoy the summer community band concerts, Tunes in Town and the Farmers’ Market.  Our family watches parades and races from the shade of the trees in Lincoln Park.

The DeWitt Area Fine Arts Foundation invites you to spend some time in Lincoln Park on Saturday, September 17, at the John Bloom Arts Festival.  This is the 14th annual arts festival.  The foundation started the event to give local artists an opportunity to display and sell their creations.  It is just one of the many projects that the foundation has to promote fine arts activities in DeWitt.

Twenty local vendors will have their creations for sale at the arts festival between 10am- 3pm on the 17th.  All items are hand crafted.  Those creations include art work, yard art, woven baskets, doll clothes, loomed rugs, jewelry and pottery.  The Nite Lions provide lunch and the Central Community Historical Society serves pie.  Andrew Vickers is the musical entertainment throughout the day.  The Central DeWitt art teachers have make-and-take crafts for children.   It is not only an opportunity to see the creativity of others, but to enjoy time in the park and meet your neighbors!

The name of the John Bloom Arts Festival honors artist and native son, John Bloom.  John was a contemporary of Grant Wood, one of my favorite artists.  I think the story of John’s mural located in DeWitt’s City Hall is fascinating.  DeWitt is fortunate to have John Bloom prints on permanent display in the First Central Gallery located in the Operahouse Theatre.  There is also a large collection of John’s work at the Central Historical Society.  John Bloom may have lived in DeWitt many years ago, but the spirit of the town he depicted in his paintings still lives!

Marsha Witte – DeWitt Area Fine Arts Foundation board member

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Keeping Fun On The Fourth!

What could be more fun than a Fourth of July parade?

For most people, it means finding a shady spot, parking a lawn chair, and
waiting…and waiting…and waiting, until faint echoes of the band float down the
street and the military color guard appears. The crowd stands respectfully as
the red, white and blue goes by, then settles down for an hour and a half of
wheels and walkers, all decorated for the patriotic holiday.

DeWitt’s Fourth of July Parade offers both the predictable and the unpredictable. The unpredictability is built in because there are very few rules. In fact, there is only one rule: You show up; we tell you where to go. That’s it. We do strongly suggest that your entry be decorated in a patriotic manner. After all, this is not a cruise or a commercial; this is a celebration of America and everything that name conveys. DeWitt has always had a parade for this summer holiday. In the past, a chairman was chosen, invitations were mailed, ads were placed, registrations were solicited and received, each entry was given a number and, on the day of
the parade, lined up in numerical order. At the same time, the committee had
to find judges, a Master of Ceremonies, set up a viewing stand in Lincoln Park,
complete with a microphone and chairs. The judges and MC were supplied
with a list–in numerical order–of all the entries. And, at the end of the event,
prizes were awarded–procured by the committee, of course. As the years went by, it became harder and harder to find someone to chair the event. So a good Samaritan would volunteer, go through the whole rigamarole and decide once was enough.

The Prichards and the Schnepels, decided to take a turn. We wrote and stuffed
and licked and stamped and called –this was before email or cellphones were
common–then figured out where each entry should go, found the judges and
the prizes…it was a lot of work. Someone else took on the project the next year.
But then, when the city was once again looking for someone, Bim and I and
Marvin and Alice decided to host the parade again–and simplify it. Who
needs judges? Who needs prizes? We decided that prizes didn’t add anything
to the festivities, so we abolished them. If you don’t have prizes, you don’t
need judges. If you don’t have judges, you don’t need a Master of Ceremonies.
If you don’t need judges and an MC, you need neither a reviewing stand nor a
microphone, nor a script. Furthermore, since people didn’t care which entry
came first, second, or third, there was no need to assign numbers and no need
to put anybody in any particular order. Hence, our first and only rule: You show
up; we tell you where to go.

In no time at all, we eliminated all the work and kept all the fun. Just to be safe,
though, we meet weekly, just like the staff of the Rose Bowl parade. Saturday
morning breakfast is our traditional meeting time; the place has changed over
the years—Grand Mound, Low Moor, DeWitt, Welton, wherever a good
breakfast and lots of coffee are served. Discussion centers on theme, grand marshall, and parade route. The theme is the result of serendipity. Sometimes the grand marshall is chosen to go with the theme; other times the grand marshall is chosen as a representative of
something great that is happening in our community. The route depends on the
location of that summer’s street repairs. We made ourselves official by purchasing red t-shirts with the words “Parade Staff” stamped on the back. When our children were in college, they would bring their friends home to help direct the entries. Tammy Schnepel and Dawn
Hinrichs have not missed a single year.

We estimate that several thousand people line the streets to watch our parade,
no matter what the weather. We’ve never had to cancel because of rain. We
always have the high school band, we always have tractors, we always have
entries representing a business, a social justice issue, a high school class or a
family. The parade is really a great composite of DeWitt and its sister
communities. We have fire trucks from several counties and if we’re lucky, we
have horses. The last two entries are always the Prichard Pickup and the
Schnepel Golf Cart. By the time we drive the route, candy peppers the
pavement and little kids hold sacks full of sweets, still hoping for one more toss
their way.

We receive our reward as people wave at us and shout “thank you!” Then we
meet for breakfast on the next Saturday and start all over again!

Dianne Prichard – Parade Organizer

The Road Less Traveled in Iowa

Taking The Road Less Traveled To DeWitt

My wife Sandy and I will take any excuse for a road trip that gives us an opportunity to see new parts of the country.  And when we do, we like to get off the main roads to enjoy the real America, not just the “highway America.”  We enjoy the slower pace, the opportunity to see the great beauty and many attractions and curiosities this country offers, and the chance conversations and experiences one can only have if you take the road less traveled.  In all these respects, DeWitt definitely delivered.

Last month, Sandy and I had an opportunity to travel from northern Virginia to Vinton, Iowa to attend our son’s end-of-service ceremony with FEMA Corps, a national service program focused on disaster response and disaster mitigation.  We came up through central Ohio and stopped off to visit friends and family, wound our way through Indiana hill country and Illinois croplands and crossed the Mississippi north of Davenport heading to Vinton.  Thus it was that we found ourselves passing through DeWitt on Route 30 on a fine spring day around lunchtime.  So we stopped off at the Garden Café for some mighty fine soup and sandwiches.

While enjoying the hospitality of the nice folks at the Garden Cafe, we read a bit about native son and noted artist John Bloom and a mural he had painted, “Shucking Corn,” installed in the old DeWitt post office, now City Hall.  With a little time on our hands, and always keen to take advantage of local attractions, we decided to have a peek.  We wandered over to the post office and inquired about the mural and the very helpful postmistress informed us that we had found the new post office, and that the mural was located in the “old post office,” now serving as the City Hall.   Entering City Hall, we were invited by the folks in the front offices to enjoy Bloom’s work located above the Mayor’s office door.  It was well worth the time—a wonderful artistic representation of the American experience we leave the city and highway to enjoy.  The enthusiastic folks there pointed us to some additional Bloom sketches mounted in the Council chambers.  We had an enjoyable conversation about the growth and development around DeWitt.

Heading back to the car we crossed the intersection of 10th Street and 6th Avenue, and we were diverted by a sign identifying the intersection as the crossroads of the old Lincoln Highway and the historic Blues Road.  I’m a great blues fan and it is my ambition on a future road trip to follow the Blues from New Orleans northward.  As we were enjoying that discovery, we turned around to see a thatched roof building in Lincoln Park, something you just don’t see every day in this country!  Further intrigued by the German “Hausbarn” museum sign, we poked our German Hausbarn, DeWitt Iowaheads into the Chamber of Commerce offices to inquire about it.  We met the DCDC staff, who couldn’t have been more gracious representatives of DeWitt—opening up the museum for us and letting us know about the various happenings in the DeWitt environs, including Tunes in Town located in Lincoln Park.  We greatly enjoyed our conversation with them and their willingness to show us the well-organized displays relating to the German migration to America.

As we had an event to get to in Vinton, we reluctantly took our leave of the good folks of DeWitt.  But we have abiding memories of a town with great local attractions and of warm, embracing residents who have an obvious sense of civic pride, and who have a predisposition to offer a helping hand, even to out-of-town folks just passing through.  We look forward with great anticipation to our Blues Road travels in the next year or so, now not just because of the draw of the music, but because it will provide us the opportunity to travel up 6th Avenue on our return to one of our new favorite American towns.

With fond memories – Rob and Sandy Fountain

 

Childhood Experience Sparks Volunteerism

As a 39 year old native of DeWitt,  I grew here doing the same things that kids today do – school and sports.  I think I was 5 or 6 years old when we had a chimney fire at our house one evening.  My sister and I were sent across the street to our neighbor’s house.  I remember watching out the window in amazement at all the fire trucks and firefighters working to put out the fire and making sure things were safe for us again.  Not long after that my father decided to become a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department, where he is still a member of 33 years.

Fast forward to 2006.  My wife Jodee and I had our first girl, Hannah.  It was then that I decided it was time for me to give back to the community that had taken care of me so well.  I became a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department as well in October of 2006.  In addition to Hannah, we have Hailee who is 7 and Jack who is 3.  Our kids love the fact that I am a volunteer firefighter.  They get to do things that a lot of other kids don’t get a chance to do like ride in the fire trucks during parades and going up to the fire station at any time.  Sometimes they want to bring their friends along! Each summer there is a family picnic at Westbrook Park that our kids look forward to just as I did when I was young.

My wife and I have had the pleasure of getting to know a whole new “family” with the fire department.  Most of the people we probably would not have even met and become so close had I not decided to join.

We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Let me put that into perspective; we don’t get a day off.  When that pager goes off, you react and respond.  It may be at night when we are sleeping, during the day while at work or even while attending Church.  We don’t get to choose when it goes off.   I  have missed family dinners, birthday parties, weddings and work.  But it is all worth it.  When you see that look of terror in a stranger’s eye when you show up and the relief when you leave, that’s when it hits you.  We made a difference.  We made a positive impact on that person’s life.

During the first year of membership a new firefighter is required to be FireFighter 1 certified.  That is a 120 hour course and a passing grade on a written and hands on exam to get the certification.  Firefighter 1 teaches the basic firefighting fundamentals that are essential to the job.  The state of Iowa also requires 24 hours of training each year for volunteer firefighters.  Our department has 2 1/2 trainings each month on the 4th Monday of the month.  There are times when it is hard to find that balance of being a good father, husband and have a full time job, but with great support from my wife and kids, we manage.

Being a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department makes me feel like I can give back to my community.  It gives me great pride that I am a small part of our 30 person department.  We all feel like we can be positive roll models for our own kids as well as all the kids in our community.  We are very fortunate to have the support that everyone provides.  We have awesome equipment, a great group of firefighters and the best community around!

I would encourage everyone to not hesitate to volunteer for anything you feel passionate about, whether it be coaching youth sports or a 4H volunteer, there is always room for more volunteers.  Without volunteers our community could not deliver the opportunities that we offer!  If anyone has any interest in becoming part of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department you may talk to me or any of the other 29 members.

Jeff Peters, DeWitt Resident & Proud Volunteer for the DeWitt Fire Department

Bridge at Westbrook ribbon-cutting

Bridging the Future at Westbrook

The community is buzzing with great reviews regarding the new bridge on the Paul Skeffington Memorial Trail. The bridge now carries walkers, runners, dogs, bikers, disc golfers, mountain bikers and hikers across Silver Creek at Westbrook Park. It is situated east of the old bridge location and at a higher elevation, keeping tree debris from accumulating during floods as it previously was under the 100-year flood elevation.

The new precast concrete construction consists a partial realignment of the bridge approach, a 10’ wide 75’ double tee pedestrian span and a height that reaches 6 to 8 feet higher than the previous bridge.  The width of the bridge allows for easy snow removal which will grant easy access to the trail during the winter months.

The original bid for construction was $240,879.50 from Ritmer Inc. of DeWitt, but the start of the bridge project was initially delayed due to the necessity of a wetland delineation, resolving Indiana Bat Habitat issues, and working to comply with IDNR regulations. In the end, the cost of the project – including legal, administrative fees, engineering and construction – totaled $292,342.24. The bridge project was designed and engineered by IIW Engineers & Surveyors PC.

The new bridge is a tremendous addition to Westbrook Park. Everyone is invited to enjoy the Paul Skeffington Memorial Trail and check it out.  The bridge was made possible by funds from: City of DeWitt, Clinton County Development Association, and Paul Skeffington Memorial Race Committee.

DeWitt Delivers Recreation!

 

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Family Farming in Clinton County

I was born 38 years ago into a farming family.  I have fond memories of my childhood on the farm.  I remember helping with sorting pigs back when my dad had a small farrow to finish hog operation.  This means we had sow’s that gave birth to baby pigs and we raised them until maturity and sold them to market.  I also have memories of riding in tractors and the combine that seemed so big and massive at that young age.  Then I moved to town with my mom and spent the majority of my formidable years as a city kid that only had marginal association to the farm.  I give this brief but powerful insight into my childhood because now that I have a family of my own I understand as a father what those experiences and memories mean to me as a father as well as what they mean to my own children.

My family has come a long way from when I was a child when we farrowed those 80-100 sows and raised pigs all while planting 1000 acres of corn and soybeans.  Over the years we have IMG_0126since stopped raising hogs and are now only crop farmers.  Today on an annual basis we plant approximately 6500 acres of corn and soybeans.   I say ‘we’ because our operation consists of 5 families, my dad Gary Willimack and his wife Tamra, Brent and Jessica Willimack and their daughter Addison, Jayson and Megan Willimack and their daughter Greyson, Scott and Kassidy Willimack, and myself Matt Willimack and my wife Amanda and our children Mairead and Owen.

I started farming with my family not long after my work off of the farm allowed us the ability to move back to DeWitt which I call home.  I now work for Grain Processing Corporation in Muscatine, IA in addition to farming with my family.   I started farming with my family because my father Gary has worked hard for many years to build a farming operation that could provide opportunities for his son’s to be a part of production agriculture.  We now all work together for common goals.  Some of those goals are things like:

  • Creating a livelihood for those families involved in the operation
  • Being good stewards of the land, i.e. using technology to be as efficient with things like seed, fertilizer, and chemicals to produce quality grain that helps feed a growing world.
  • Keep land conservation in the forefront.  Strive to leave our mark on the environment as better quality land, water, and air for the next generation.
  • Perpetuating the legacy my Dad and even my grandfather started by giving their children the opportunity to farm.
  • Raising our children to understand and appreciate agriculture and how the food they eat gets to the table.

We take pride in the fact that we continue to be a farming family.  Our business is farming, but we are a family first, and we hope that our farming business stays that way for generations to come.

Matt Willimack, Agriculture Enthusiast

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Agriculture Awareness

Driving around the vastness of farm acreage outside DeWitt, one might not realize the esteemed value of the land. Or how our local countryside effects the world.

Fruitful Location. Farming is a global business, and it begins right here on the 1,244 farms in Clinton County. Area farmers have the notable benefit of Iowa’s rich and deep soil, ample water supply and long growing seasons which produce more profitable crops. Corn and soybeans are the two thriving crops, but for over 150 years, corn has been Iowa’s dominant crop, the largest producer of corn in the nation for almost two decades. In Clinton County, 198,000 acres of corn were harvested with an average yield of 186.8 bushels per acre and 109,000 acres of soybeans were harvested with an average yield of 50.8 bushels per acre.

The soil isn’t the only local benefit. Here around DeWitt, local farmers have access to major Midwestern and global markets. DeWitt’s crossroads allow farmers the ease to export their harvest and livestock by truck, rail or river to local and global processing plants, which are used across the world for food, fuel, fiber and feed.

Local support comes from the Clinton County Farm Bureau, located in DeWitt, which is dedicated to helping farm families prosper and improve their quality of life. Financial support such as Farm Credit Services of America, First Central State Bank and DeWitt Bank & Trust Company, all located in DeWitt, offer farmers operating lines of credit, livestock loans, equipment financing, and real estate loans to name a few.

Technology. Agriculture businesses such as Park Farms Computer Systems, Ag Spectrum Company, River Valley Co-Op and Kunau Implement Company in DeWitt provide farmers with valuable cutting-edge technologies and education based on proven scientific research. Tractors with GPS systems. Drones capturing pictures and video of crop health. Nutritional systems that address the basic science of plant and soil health. Farmers depend on local business services to offer high-tech equipment and new technology to help increase crop yields and efficiency. An essential outcome when agriculture is responsible to feed today’s world population of 7.3 billion people.

Because of this technology and better understanding of crop management, today’s farmer is more efficient and better stewards of the land. For example, in 1990, one acre of corn fed two head of cattle. Today, 1 acre of corn feeds 1.9 head of cattle, creates 580 gallons of ethanol, 27 gallons of corn oil, and 1.7 tons of CO2 for industrial use.

Economic Impact. Clinton County is an economic powerhouse when it comes to agriculture. There are 417,189 acres of farm land, with the average size farm at 335 acres.

In Clinton County, there are over 70,000 cattle and calves and more than 56,000 hogs and pigs in inventory. 1.7% of all jobs in the county came from livestock production and the market value of livestock sold was $112.7 million. The market value of crops grown was $286.6 million with 17.7% of all jobs in Clinton County coming from crop production.

Overall, agriculture-related industries produce 8,887 jobs, contributing $524 million in wages and over $4.8 million in total sales in Clinton County.

The next time you drive around the rolling hills of farm land outside DeWitt, appreciate the vastness of the rich, deep soil. The livestock managers, agronomists, and scientists we call farmers. And the impact it reaches on a local, regional and global level.

Explore more about how DeWitt Delivers Agriculture!

The Logic of Looking Local First

Options by the numbers.  Thirteen companies offer insurance services in DeWitt which cover home, auto, life and health look local logo color (1)needs. Over ten financial institutions present a variety of services such as banking, investing, and accounting; and six of them offer tax service, which is important to note during tax season. If you are wanting to change your look, try one of the five hair salons like Touch of Bliss Salon Spa or the two barber shops in town. Four printing and signage companies like Custom Art and Signs offer many different custom services for your business or personal needs. With all those options and competitive prices, you don’t have to look out of town.

Reliable problem solvers right around the corner. You don’t have to call an 800 number and be put on hold. Not only are there many options and quality service, there’s a bounty of highly trained professionals right here in DeWitt. Frustrated with spreadsheets at work? Hasenmiller Spreadsheet Solutions specializes in optimizing your time by customizing spreadsheets. Need some advice on a house addition?  Consult with one of the three highly experienced construction companies, three electrical contractors or two plumbing and heating companies in town. Does your car need a tune up? Take advice from the three long-standing mechanic shops right around the corner. Three attorney offices offer legal expertise to business and individual clients, which saves a trip to larger cities when dealing with legal matters.

Welcoming community equals business growth. While offering services locally, many companies stretch their territory to a large part of Midwest zip codes. Sandry Fire Supply not only provides gear and equipment to many surrounding states’ fire departments, but also provides emergency car-cutting training to places in South Africa and Europe. Kirby Water Conditioning and Jansen Electric both service a 60-mile radius from DeWitt, offering their expertise to many communities. On the other hand, Grace Lutheran Camp and the Clinton County Fairgrounds literally keep themselves local; however, they service people from all over the region with their extensive community rental facilities.

Giving back. Locally owned businesses build strong communities by supporting local causes. Evidence is in the long list of contributors at a local fundraiser. Title sponsors at a charity event. It’s visible at the Veterans Memorial, a collaboration of companies such as Holst Construction, Hansen Monuments, Jansen Electric and others, who brought their quality of work to a meaningful project.

Rooted in DeWitt, these professional service companies provide us with the advantage of their expertise every day. Reliable problem-solvers with dependable service, highly trained and price competitive. Look Local First. It’s all here, right around the corner.

 

Changing Needs, Consistently Great Care!

Different families consider different amenities important when they are relocating to a new community. For some, it may be recreational sports; for others, proximity of fine arts opportunities; and for still others, access to churches, a library or a movie theater.  When my husband and I chose DeWitt in 1972, it was a pleasant little town of about 4,000 residents, with friendly people and all the necessities we desired — including excellent schools and a hospital just down the street.

In those early days, with three children then kindergarten-age and younger, we did not know how often we would remind each other of the importance of having a hospital close by. The first week we were here, our 3-year-old developed an earache, and I packed up the morning kindergartner and the newborn to spend what I expected would be the whole afternoon at the doctor’s office with a feverish, whiney toddler and his siblings.  After all, we were new and did not know a soul to ask a babysitting favor, let alone did we have a family doctor.

The kindly receptionist “worked us in” and soon our son was on the road to recovery, and my sanity was preserved. There were many other occasions when our family was able to be seen on short notice, and we always appreciated being able to fill prescriptions or have lab tests done right here in DeWitt.

For a time, we were frequent flyers in the emergency room and on a first-name basis with the x-ray tech as our well-rounded children tested their super powers. I learned to take stitches and casts in stride and became adept at wrapping appendages in bread bags so they would not get wet in the shower. Again, it was great to have our hospital just down the street.

I delivered Baby No. 4 at DeWitt Community Hospital. it was, by far, the best birthing experience of the four, made special because by that time, I had gotten acquainted in the community and knew some of the nurses and aides who cared for us.

When my husband developed complications from a blood clot after open heart surgery at another hospital, the local staff took special care of him until it finally became apparent he needed to be moved back to the larger facility to receive more extensive care. But the TLC he — and I — received is something I never will forget.

Fast forward 34 years, and I again was hospitalized just last fall in DeWitt — this time for double pneumonia. While it was not pleasant being ill, I received the best of care from friendly, caring staff who are very good at what they do and who did everything they could to make me comfortable. From the environmental services staff to the kitchen crew to nurses, aides and special technicians who monitored my health, I absolutely felt I was in the best hands.

Need a mammogram, blood work, a colonoscopy, cataract surgery or other procedure done? Chances are it can be done in DeWitt. But healthcare does not happen just at the hospital and doctor’s clinics. Patients seeking competent, friendly practitioners at dental, optometry and chiropractic offices, in physical therapy gyms and massage therapy salons will find them here as well.

Assisted living services are available at Maggie’s House, and the community is blessed to have several senior living complexes that cater to those who still live independently. And when skilled nursing care is indicated, Westwing Place is among the best in the country. My grandmother was a resident there for 22 years — until the ripe old age of 103 — a milestone I attribute to the wonderful care she received.

Yes, quality health care is abundant in DeWitt. I cannot imagine raising a family in a town without a hospital or other medical services that are not only convenient and easily accessible but also top-notch.

In the scheme of what really is important, amenities such as  an aquatic park, a country club, a fitness center, and biking and walking trails go hand-in-hand with with medical providers to assure DeWitt Delivers health and wellness!

Mary Rueter – DeWitt Resident