ASHLAND – Summer will be very quiet in Ashland this year.
The majority of the summer activities planned for the community have been cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the casualties to the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is Stir-Up.
“The Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce has come to the difficult decision of canceling Stir-Up Days for 2020. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, our foremost concern is with the safety and well-being of our friends, neighbors, and visitors,” Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce President Bradley Pfeiffer said in a release last Friday. “We plan on the return of Stir-Up Days in 2021! In the meantime, be safe and support those around you. Help your families and neighbors, without putting them in harm’s way. See you next year!”
The Chamber is the organization that schedules the majority of events for Stir-Up. This is only the fourth time since 1935 that the community celebration will not be held. The event was cancelled in 1937 just a week before it was supposed to take place due to concerns about polio. A recent outbreak in nearby communities prompted officials to call off the celebration. It was also cancelled from 1942 to 1944 because of World War II.
Pfeiffer said they were told events drawing large crowds would not be allowed throughout the summer. Once they heard that big events like Ralston’s Fourth of July celebration and Papillion Days were cancelled, it seemed inevitable that Stir-Up would fall as well.
“I think everyone kind of expected it,” he said.
Pfeiffer and Stir-Up Committee chairs Shelley Pfeiffer and Cindy Walsh discussed the situation with Three Rivers Public Health Department representatives and the Ashland city administrator, Jessica Quady, before calling a board meeting to make the difficult decision.
The festivities were expected to draw thousands of visitors due to the theme, “Alien Encounter,” Pfeiffer said. They had many events lined up to tie in with the alien encounter reportedly experienced by then-Ashland Police Officer Herbert Schirmer in 1967 in Ashland.
“We had an array of things set up for the whole weekend,” he added.
Stir-Up is a three-day event that includes a coronation of the Stir-Up king and queen, kiddie and grand parades, contests, games, food, dance, presentations, car show, carnival rides and much more. This year, they were planning special activities to tie in with the theme, including an “alien” hot air balloon ride, a panel discussion with UFO experts and a possible visit from showrunners/talent from the TV show “Ancient Aliens,” Pfeiffer said.
“That would have drawn a lot of people from Ashland and around Nebraska,” he said.
Luckily, the “Alien Encounter” theme planned for Stir-Up can be used again next year. Pfeiffer said he has already contacted Michael Jasorka, the author/illustrator of a graphic novel based on Schirmer’s exact telling of the event, was planning to travel to Ashland from his home in California to attend.
With an extra year to plan, the 2021 Stir-Up should be bigger and better, Pfeiffer said.
“We’re already talking about it,” he said.
Another event Pfeiffer is involved in, the Father’s Day Car Show at Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum near Ashland, has been cancelled. The two-day indoor show was to be held June 20 and 21. Pfeiffer has been in charge of organizing the massive car show for the last two years.
It was to be the summer for car shows, as another show was scheduled for Ashland on Aug. 1. This show, called the “1950s Show ‘n Shine,” was part of a Chautauqua event organized by Humanities Nebraska. It was also organized by Pfeiffer for the Chamber.
The entire Chautauqua has been postponed, according to Laura Capp, who is a board member of Humanities Nebraska and has been working with organizers on the event.
The two-day living history event on July 31 and Aug. 1 was going to focus on the 1950s. Capp said the plan is for the event to be held in 2021 in Ashland.
The Chamber is still deciding on another highlight of the summer for the community, the Fourth of July fireworks display at Memorial Stadium in Ashland. Pfeiffer said the Chamber board will meet again to discuss the future of the event.
“We don’t know what it’s going to look like,” he said.
Events planned as far as September will likely be cancelled, Pfeiffer said, including the Silver Street Flea Market on Sept. 13.
“The way I take it, there’s not going to be any events whatsoever through the summer,” he said.
Terra Uhing, executive director of Three Rivers Public Health Department, said the state has not yet updated the Directed Health Measures (DHM) set to expire on May 31, but she expects they will soon.
The current DHM prohibits public gatherings of more than 10 people, she said, which eliminates large events.
Whether or not this restriction on large groups will continue into June or July, Uhing is not sure, but she’s expecting it may be extended through the summer.
“Any event where we’re talking large amounts of people I don’t know will be feasible this summer,” she said.
Uhing said the public will have to be patient as health officials determine the best course of action to take to slow the spread of the virus. In Saunders County, three new cases were reported last week, bringing the total to 23.