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A grand ol’ time
Flint Hills Christian makes Grandparents Day festivities special, albeit from a distance

Grandparents Day may have looked a little different this year at Flint Hills Christian School but officials said it was still a special event.

“It’s so special for not only our students but also the grandparents,” said Jordan Candido, director of advancement. “It is one of the most looked-forward-to events.”

Pre-COVID-19 the school would invite the grandparents to visit, they would have coffee and muffins, and filter in and out of the classrooms. This year they opted for a slow parade through the parking lot.

“We certainly don’t want grandparents to incur any sort of risk by coming on campus inside around all these little bodies,” she said. “We just decided to reinvent the wheel and … have them take a real slow stroll through our parking lot.

About 75 grandparents in 50 vehicles, one coming from as far away as Arizona, showed up to celebrate with the children.

While principal Joshua Snyder manned the bullhorn, announcing each car, more than 100 children lined the sidewalk waving and holding posters to express how important their grandparents are to them.

It’s a sentiment that is not lost on Candido.

“It takes a village, does it not, to raise children?” she said.

“I think grandparents are a huge influence in building character and an overall positive part of children’s lives.”

Park ranger enjoys sharing history of Tuttle Creek Lake, offering safe place to be outdoors

As a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer ranger at Tuttle Creek Lake, Angelia Lentz helps people safely connect with the natural world. In a year when people are spending a lot of time in a digital space, she’s glad to get people outdoors.

Lentz enjoys sharing about the history of the area and educating the public on how to have fun on the water and in the park safely.

“It’s a chance to get unplugged,” she said. “We’re spending so much time behind screens. I feel lucky to be part of making that opportunity possible for people.”

Lentz, 45, grew up in Smith Center and did a lot of boating, camping, hunting and fishing as a child. She moved to Manhattan in 1994 to attend K-State and graduated in 1999 with a degree in park management. She worked with a few agencies in the area and spent around 12 years with Fort Riley’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation program before joining the Corps of Engineers around three years ago.

For Lentz, the job is about protecting the park and its visitors.

“We are stewards for the land, water and wildlife of Tuttle Creek,” she said.

She said one of her favorite parts of the job is going into local schools to do programs related to the park, especially water safety.

Teaching people how to boat and swim safely on the lake is one of the most important parts of a ranger’s mission, she said, and assisting with water rescues is a difficult part of the job.

She also sometimes speaks to people in the park about the importance of steps as simple as wearing a life vest, for example.

“We want to make sure every one can go out and have a good time and also go home,” she said.

Lentz also enjoys sharing the history of the lake with people in the community. She said she has always been interested in history and how an area’s past shapes its present. Lentz credits this to her mother, who was a history teacher.

“I have a natural curiosity in seeing how an area got to where it’s at,” she said.

Tuttle Creek Lake was created when the dam was built around 57 years ago, and some towns were destroyed in the process.

Lentz said she feels it’s important to remember the people who lived in those places and the towns they called home.

“We have the opportunity to talk to people who were around before it was there,” she said. “It’s important to preserve that history as well as we can.”

Last year provided a dramatic time in the lake’s history, when high waters threatened to flood the area. Lentz said rangers were taking frequent readings of water levels and monitoring the parks to ensure visitors would be safe.

“We did end up working some long hours,” she said. “I climbed up and down the dam taking readings more time than I care to remember.”

Park manager Melissa Bean said Lentz is an asset to the park and always is willing to take on a challenge or solve a problem.

“The fact that Angelia can take on a problem and you know she can do it, that allows myself and her co-workers to get the job done to meet the demands of the public,” Bean said.

During normal operations, Lentz said she enjoys helping people learn about the natural environment of the park, from its wildflowers to its reptiles and amphibians, even the bald eagles that pass through on the park’s annual Eagle Day.

“It’s amazing to see the reaction of kids and even some of the adults,” she said.

Fostering an interest in and passion for nature can ensure people will always have somewhere to engage with the natural world.

“If we want people to conserve our natural resources, they have to have some kind of connection,” Lentz said.

About 8,000 fans attended Saturday's football game, K-State says

Fan attendance at Saturday’s K-State football game was well below the 25% limit, but an athletics officials said they really didn’t have any issues with people following the new rules related to the coronavirus.

“We probably scanned about 8,000 people actually in the stands,” said Casey Scott, executive associate athletics director for internal operations and event management. “We were well below our 25% threshold in the stands. A lot of our fans have opted out, but they’re looking forward to it next year.”

Bill Snyder Family Stadium has a capacity of 52,000, so 8,000 is about 15%. The number of tickets sold for the game was 11,041, which is 22%.

He said many people decided to stay home partly because of the threat of the virus, and partly because of the rules this season, which require masks and prohibit tailgating.

“With the combination, people have made decisions on their own whether they should or shouldn’t attend,” he said. “Those things combined.”

While some people raised concerns about crowding in the student section during the game, Scott said he thought it probably looked worse than it was.

He said 1,400 students were scanned into the game, and they were spaced among 6,000 available student seats. Officials allowed students to sit (or stand, as they typically do) in every third row. The empty rows were roped off with purple flags, which may have made that section appear a bit fuller than it was.

“As I looked, they were fairly spaced out according to our distancing plan,” he said.

He added that students had the best mask compliance of any section.

“I’d say it was almost 100%,” he said. “They did a great job.”

One change officials are considering for the next home game is putting the marching band in the north endzone.

“We’re thinking of allowing them to take up the entire north endzone,” Scott said. “That would allow the full band to participate each game.”

At Saturday’s game, only half the band was present so that they could distance within their section. Scott said being able to have the full band in the stadium would add to the atmosphere at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

The band wasn’t able to march on Saturday, per Big 12 rules. Bands aren’t permitted on the field. The stadium showed a 1997 marching band performance on the big screen during halftime instead.

Saturday also was the first time the stadium allowed beer sales in the general admission parts of the stadium. Scott also said he didn’t yet have sales numbers on that, but he thinks it went well.

He said it was the first time in his 19 years that K-State didn’t have an alcohol ejection at the game. Normally those come from tailgating, he said.

Riley County records 43 new coronavirus cases, 2 deaths Monday

Two more people have died from the coronavirus, the Riley County Health Department reported Monday. Both deaths were connected to an outbreak at Homestead Assisted Living, 1923 Little Kitten Ave.

Those deaths bring the county’s total to eight since the pandemic began. Six of those eight deaths have been residents of area nursing homes. The county did not name the victims or give any other information about them, including their age and any medical information.

“All of our lives have been changed by this disease,” said Local Health Officer and County Health Department Director Julie Gibbs in a statement. “Losing loved ones, and sometimes not being able to visit them in their final moments, is truly heartbreaking. I am so sorry for all of the loss people have experienced. We will continue to work to keep our community safe and healthy, and we need your help to do that. Please stay home if you are sick, share information with contact tracing staff if they call, and follow safety guidelines from the CDC.”

Gibbs also gave an update on the number of virus infections. The county confirmed that 43 more people in Riley County had tested positive since last Friday.

This brings the county’s total to 1,390 confirmed cases, with 663 of those being active and 719 recovered.

One positive patient is being treated at Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan.

Officials said the two most recent fatalities are associated with the outbreak at Homestead Assisted Living. Doctors had been caring for one of those people at Via Christi and the other at Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka.

One other recent death also was linked to the assisted living facility. The county’s coronavirus-related death total now stands at eight.

Gibbs said Monday at the county commission meeting that 567 people were evaluated through the department’s free testing events last Wednesday and Thursday. County staff members said they would call those people to let them know whether they are positive or negative.

The department is still waiting for results back from 1,054 tests. The percent positive rate for the week of Sept. 6 was 15.78%, down about 7 percentage points from the previous week.

Emergency Command Center staff attended several large events in Riley County over the weekend, including the K-State football game, and they said the safety plans for each event were “well-executed.”

The health department received some complaints about the student section at the football stadium, which they said appeared to be crowded, but officials said command center staff inspected it and found at least two empty rows between each row of students. They said the seating arrangement complied with the 25% capacity requirement for each section.

“At the K-State football game, there was no tailgating, masks were worn throughout the stadium, and event staff did everything they were supposed to do to uphold the requirements for their special event permit,” said Riley County EMS Director David Adams.

Vargo: County to process more than 8K advance ballot applications, though many are likely duplicates

The Riley County Clerk’s office has received more 8,000 advance voting ballot applications to date, but many of those are likely duplicates, County Clerk Rich Vargo said.

Vargo said Monday during the county commission meeting that an outside organization sent the application forms to voters on behalf of the county. He said some people have reported receiving as many as three or four of those.

Regardless, staff members will sort through each application to ensure people are registered for the general election on Nov. 3 and there are no repeats.

“Those are above and beyond the applications of our original mailing we did earlier this spring,” Vargo said. “The unfortunate aspect is it’s come from an outside party outside of Riley County … probably 90% of them are duplicates of what is already filed. We’re days behind on processing them so it will take some time.”

Vargo said people must register to vote by the Oct. 13 deadline. He wanted to remind college students, in particular, who tend to be new voters.

Advance voting ballots will go out on Oct. 14, and advance in-person voting also will begin that day.