All-day benefit for local flood victims on tap

April 25, 2019 GMT

One thing is for certain when it comes to Columbus and Nebraska in general: We take care of our own.

That’s the message dozens of local residents and area businesses are spreading as they gear up for what is being called a “Benefit for Local Flood Victims” on Saturday. It will run from 11 a.m.-midnight at Platte County Ag Park, 822 15th St. in Columbus, and feature loads of live entertainment, good food, drinks, numerous auction items, games and conversation among fellow Nebraskans.

All proceeds raised will go directly to helping flood victims devastated by the March natural disaster that ravaged the local area and much of the state as it will be given to floodreliefne.org.

“We as a community can join together to help so many in need. It’s what makes us Nebraskans,” said Columbus resident Tiffany Cech. “We truly are the heart of America.”

Conversation among several local residents in late March about what could be done to help those affected by the flood naturally snowballed into a partnership among dozens of local residents and companies, as well as businesses from around the state. Day by day, support continued to swell to make the benefit a reality.

Dozens of area businesses and restaurants near and far have donated a wide variety of items for the auction, including gift certificates for car washes, tanning sessions, dinners, wine tastings, music lessons, movie tickets, manicures, shoes, tools, hotel stays, a pool party, landscaping, bakery items and spa trips, among other things.

Various gift baskets, homemade quilts, welding supplies, coffee mugs, towel sets, hair care products, jewelry, welcome mats, wines, bouquets of flowers, many household items, T-shirts and artwork have also been donated to the effort.

There will be plenty of items up for bid that should excite every Husker fan, too. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln donated a poster signed by head football coach Scott Frost.

Other Husker-related items donated from elsewhere people can expect to see are a football signed by Frost, a Darin Erstad-autographed baseball, a Fred Hoiberg-signed basketball and an authentic piece of the national championship floor autographed by head volleyball coach John Cook.

Nikki Brunken and a team of others were instrumental in helping secure numerous donations for the auction. She said the response they got was heartwarming.

“It really has been very pleasing because so many businesses and individuals have been so generous throughout this process. They’ve really stepped up and come together to help out victims in this region,” Brunken said. “It has really kind of restored my faith in mankind to see how not just those in the Columbus area but from people even out of state who have been trucking in supplies and whatnot. It has just been really awesome to see.”

But the auction is only a fraction of what will happen on Saturday. Attendees can get a good meal ($10 for adults, $5 for kids and free to those up to age 3) starting at 11 as sloppy joes, hot dogs, baked beans, macaroni salad and chips will be served with a choice of lemonade, tea or water (a full bar with adult beverages for sale will be available). Desserts and chips with dip will also be available for free while supplies last (an at-will donation jar will be there for those items). All proceed raised from food and drink will also go to support flood victims, according to Cech.

Meanwhile, kids can get their faces painted, Brad Zywiec will be doing his popular caricatures on site and a photo booth will be on hand for all to enjoy.

It doesn’t stop there, though. A full lineup of entertainment will be featured throughout the day, boasting musicians of various genres and dancers from the local area and region. Chris Robbins, Jim Davis, iDance Project, Tim Mlinar, Kali Indiana, Second Time Around, VoiceHouse DJ & Sound, Dane Louis, Nick Wieman and Stephen Wemhoff will all perform before the day’s end. Matt Casey will handle the lighting and sound to make it all happen, according to event organizers.

Platte County Ag Park, a nonprofit, donated the venue, staff and other things to support the event. Sara Middleton, an office manager and event coordinator for Ag Park, said the benefit was a great cause to support.

“I always think as an agriculture society, it’s always good to help your community as much as you can,” she said.

The numerous people who have been helping with the planning of the benefit said they were happy to see so many in the community and beyond come together to make Saturday a success. They expressed their appreciation to everyone who has or will contribute their time, those who will attend and the many who donated various items to the auction.

“It has been very overwhelming and positive to see,” said Christine Arasmith regarding the generosity of the community. “Anybody we’ve talked to has been very generous and helped out … the support has been tremendous.”

Nicole Saalfeld shared a similar perspective

“I’m just completely blown away by the amount of support we’ve had,” she said. “No one even hesitated in wanting to be part of it. It has just been awesome to see everyone want to come together to help.”

The benefit was designed to have something for people of all ages to enjoy, and those involved with it said they’re hoping people come out to have a good time while supporting their fellow Nebraskans in need.

“Keep Nebraska strong,” Middleton said. “We’ve been doing good. Let’s keep it going.”

Brunken promised it would be a fun-and-friendly-atmosphere.

“I think it’s going to be a great event. I hope people bring their families out and have a really good, enjoyable day,” she said. “There’s a little something for everybody.”

The event, Cech said, is happening because of the special people who shape Columbus and state as a whole.

“This wouldn’t be possible anywhere else in the world,” she said. “It’s Nebraskans being who we are – all heart, nothing but heart.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.