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Ein Prosit!: Kilgore gears up for Oktoberfest this Saturday

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany has been cancelled for the second year in a row, but Oktoberfest in Kilgore will take place Saturday, Oct. 16 from 1 to 9 p.m. downtown.

The family-friendly event returns this year with food, fun and more. Live music, authentic German food and, of course, many varieties of beer will be available.

Attendees wearing a traditional Lederhosen or Dirndl will have a chance to enter the “Best Dressed” competition.

The event schedule is as follows:

  • 1:15 p.m. — Opening and tapping of the keg
  • 1:25 p.m. — Performance by “Bier Nutz,” a local oom-pah band
  • 2:15 p.m. — Chicken Dance competition
  • 2:30 p.m. — Performance by Shannon Roberts Children’s Orchestra
  • 2:35 p.m. — Bier Stein Holding Competition
  • 3:00 p.m — Performance by “Bier Nutz,” a local oom-pah band
  • 4:15 p.m. — Performance by Texas Rhythm Cloggers
  • 5:30 p.m. — Performance by Kilgore High School Hi-Steppers
  • 6:00 p.m. — “Best Dressed” competition
  • 6:30 p.m. — 9 p.m. — Performance by local band “Covie”

Oktoberfest first began Oct. 12, 1810, in Munich, Germany to celebrate the marriage of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The event grew year after year until it became what it is today: an annual folk festival lasting more than two weeks, drawing about 6 million guests each year and serving millions of beers. Other Oktoberfests have been established around the globe, with Kilgore joining in the celebration in 2014.

Kilgore DAR chapter presents Women in American History Awards

KILGORE — Two women instrumental in the Rangerettes program were honored by the Samuel Paul Dinkins chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution this past weekend.

The Kilgore DAR chapter presented posthumous Women in American History awards to Gussie Nell Davis, founder and first director of the Rangerettes, and Jeanne Denman Hale, who, in addition to many other accomplishments, founded Rangerettes Forever, the first alumni group of its kind.

Rangerettes Director Dana Blair accepted the award on behalf of Gussie Nell Davis on Wednesday, while Jeanne Denman Hale’s daughter Martha Deen accepted an award on her behalf Saturday.

The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution is a service organization that is passionate about serving our community, preserving history, educating our children, and honoring and supporting those who serve our nation.

Gussie Nell Davis

The Paul Dinkins Chapter says Gussie Nell Davis was honored for “her exciting innovation that has covered the globe.”

“On November 4, 1906, in Farmersville, a star was born — a star whose brilliant beam would skyrocket across Texas, the United States, and across the globe. Throughout her life, Gussie Nell Davis was often compared to a “ball of fire” and she would indeed blaze a shining new art-form, the dance-drill phenomenon.

Dr. B.E. Masters, dean of Kilgore Junior College, was known for his expectation of excellence. He had heard from a friend about a dynamic young woman who directed Greenville High School’s pep squad, which under her direction, performed drills and a few dance steps on the football field, and she had named them the Flaming Flashes. Dr. Masters asked Gussie Nell Davis to come to Kilgore, and he told her that he wanted her to form a group of girls that would fulfill three goals:

1. Equalize the boy/girl ratio at the college, which was then 6-1

2. Provide girls more opportunities for physical activity

3. Provide a half-time show at football games which would entertain the fans enough to keep them in the stands instead of slipping out to have a “nip” of whiskey.

When Miss Davis asked him if he wanted a drum and bugle corps, he laughed and said “No! I wouldn’t have one!!” When she asked what he had in mind, he said, “Well, that’s up to you — that’s why I’m hiring you!”

So, she combined her knowledge of military drill and her love of dance, to create a unique halftime entertainment unlike any other in the country — even in the world. It was only later that a new definition had to be devised to describe it — the term “Precision Dance/Drill,” and her group, to be called the Kilgore College Rangerettes, would be the world’s first dancing girls on a sports field!

Miss Davis was employed after football season was over, so during the spring semester of 1940 she immersed herself in the P.E. department, instituting a variety of enjoyable activities for the female students. She introduced dance, archery, badminton, table tennis and shuffleboard. She also soon became known for teaching not only P.E. skills, but also the personal life skills which would ultimately enhance the lives of thousands of young women.

There were no try-outs for that first group in 1940. Gussie Nell chose all her girls from her P.E. classes. Her first criterion was physical coordination and a sense of rhythm. A trim figure ran a distant second, and facial beauty was almost never a consideration...

Under the leadership and training of Miss Gussie Nell Davis, the Rangerettes became known for their exquisite high-kicks, their incomparable precision and their exciting showmanship. Television sports announcer Red Grange was the first to nickname them the “Sweethearts of the Nation’s Gridiron.” A writer for the Chicago Tribune labeled the ‘Rettes “the gals with the misbehaving shoulders” after they captivated a record crowd of 96,000 at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

But Gussie Nell was not just content to direct a perfect line of dancers. She was a motivator long before the era of motivational speakers. She used her dynamic enthusiasm to infuse each young lady with the importance of standing tall, not only physically, but psychologically; to approach life with discipline and determination, even in the face of pain and/or obstacles; to believe in yourself and to use your God-given talents and skills to give 100 percent plus to any endeavor. Every Rangerette remembers “Beauty Knows No Pain!” She taught her girls that they would get the most out of life if they put the most into it!”

Jeanne Denman Hale

Jeanne Denman Hale, meanwhile, was honored for her many accomplishments, the chapter said.

“Jeanne Denman Hale, my mother, was born on October 31, 1924, exactly one year after her parents met at a Halloween party,” according to a biography provided by Martha Deen. “My grandmother was wearing a backless dress, and her sister had painted a black cat on her back. My grandfather told a friend, “I want to meet that girl with the cat on her back.” Well... they met, they married, and they had my mom the next Halloween!

“When my mom graduated from TSCW (now TWU) with a degree in speech, drama and journalism, she moved to New York City with hopes of becoming an actress. To pay the rent while she went to auditions during the day, she took a job as a chorus line dancer at night. But she was fired when the owner found her reading a book in the dressing room between performances. He told her she was supposed to be out front, drinking with the customers. She told the owner, ‘I was hired to dance, not to drink!’ Then, she decided to try out for the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, and she made it. But she tore a groin muscle in rehearsal and went back to Henderson to recuperate. She met my dad, who was just home from World War II, and that was that!

“They raised cows and kids, four of them, including twins, my brother and I... She owned a dance studio in Overton for several years, and was Sandy Duncan’s first dance teacher! When I was 5, she was Mrs. Texas, and she was in the top 10 in the Mrs. America contest.

“When we were a little older, Mom went back to teaching, first at Kilgore Junior High, then Kilgore High School, and then at Kilgore College, where she eventually became the director of public relations and alumni relations. In that position, she directed several trips that the Rangerettes and Ranger Band made, to Venezuela, Romania and Hong Kong. She also had a bombshell of an idea... She created an alumni group whose goals were to support current members, foster camaraderie among years of members and raise money for scholarships… This alumni group became known as Rangerettes Forever. It was the first of its kind, and now Rangerettes Forever have raised well over a million dollars in scholarship funds.

“My mother was active through the years in church, scouting, PTA and community service. She authored a speech textbook and a couple of unpublished novels. She was a member of Mensa and also Intertel, which is the 10 percent of Mensa members with the highest IQs. At First Christian Church, she began the Young Adults Sunday School Class and taught it for 30 plus years. Along the way, they finally had to change the name to Young Adults Forever Sunday School class.

“She became a docent for the East Texas Oil Museum, where she used her computer skills to produce two cookbooks, as fund-raising activities. She also put together a cookbook for Rangerettes Forever called From Kicking to Cooking. She was an active member of the Guild of The Texas Shakespeare Festival. In recognition of her many civic accomplishments and contributions, she was named First Lady of Kilgore in 2000.”

State Rep. Dean: Much work left to do in redistricting process
  • Updated

The first draft of a map redrawing Texas House districts shows a change in the counties state Rep. Jay Dean represents, but the Longview Republican said it is not yet set in stone.

Texas House members on Thursday released the first proposal for a new map redrawing the chamber’s 150-member districts. The initial draft shows Dean’s House District 7 shifting from Upshur and Gregg counties to Gregg, Harrison and Marion counties.

“This is just a first pass of things,” Dean said. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to be the final product.”

The Texas Legislature is in its third special session, which is focused on the redistricting process. Beginning Tuesday, legislators will be debating the first map, Dean said.

The redistricting process happens every 10 years and coincides with decennial U.S. Census data. Based on the 2010 Census numbers, each Texas House District consisted of about 170,000 to 175,000 constituents. With the 2020 data, each district will need to have about 194,000 constituents.

Upshur County has about 40,000 people, while Gregg County is home to about 125,000. To continue representing the two counties, he would need to gain additional population from somewhere else.

Meeting the new population requirements, according to Dean, is done by looking at the map and trying to determine where an additional number of people can be found “to meet the requirements of the size populations.”

“We’re just trying to find population and figuring out how to put these districts together contiguously by county to make sure we have at least 194,000 people per district,” Dean said.

And while population is a factor of redistricting, being contiguous is also an important aspect, Dean said. Shifting his district east to include Harrison and Marion counties would — at first look — meet the 194,000-population mark.

To determine the fate of the districts, Dean said debate and changes will be taking place Tuesday as legislators decide the best course of action for each of the 150 Texas House of Representatives districts.

“We’ll debate the map, and amendments will be made to change the map in certain situations,” Dean said. “It’s almost like a chess game or putting together a puzzle, but it’s based on population.”

The first draft of the redistricting map is not the final one, Dean said, and he added that residents are encouraged to involved by sharing their thoughts.

Under the preliminary map, Upshur County would move under state Rep. Cole Hefner, R-Mount Pleasant, who also represents Rains, Wood, Titus, Camp and part of Smith counties.

District 9, which currently includes Harrison, Cass, Marion, Panola, Sabine and Shelby counties and is represented by state Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, would move south to include the counties of Angelina, Houston, Polk, Trinity and Tyler. Paddie, who has represented House District 9 since 2013, announced recently that he will not seek reelection to another term.

Spread of COVID-19 in Gregg County declines; community spread level again 'moderate'
  • Updated

COVID-19’s spread in Gregg County continues to ease as public health officials on Monday announced fewer than half the number of new cases than in their previous report.

The Northeast Texas Public Health District reported 81 new cases of COVID-19 — 47 confirmed and 34 probable — in Gregg County residents since its report on Thursday that showed 156 total new cases in county residents. Monday’s report included four days, while Thursday’s was the previous three days.

NET Health on Monday also reported Gregg County’s community spread level dropped again from “substantial” to “moderate.”

The county’s community spread level, which is set based on its seven-day rolling rate of infection, has gone from substantial to moderate, back to substantial and again to moderate in recent reports.

On Monday, the rolling rate for the past seven days in Gregg County was 27.31, about 29 percent lower than Thursday’s report.

Moderate spread, which represents an average of 10 to 35 new cases per day in the previous week, means there is “sustained transmission with confirmed exposure within congregate settings, and potential for rapid increase in cases,” according to NET Health. Substantial community spread, which is an average of more than 35 new cases, is “large scale, uncontrolled community transmission.”

In its latest report, NET Health shows Gregg is joined by Anderson, Henderson and Wood counties in having moderate levels of community spread. The other three counties for which the district provides disease surveillance — Rains, Smith and Van Zandt — remained at substantial levels of community spread.

Recoveries from the virus in Gregg County residents also rose significantly since NET Health last released numbers on Thursday. Monday’s report showed 16,891 confirmed and probable recoveries compared to 15,927 on Thursday. There were 1,869 active cases of COVID-19 in county residents on Monday, according to NET Health.

The health district reported it would no longer report deaths from the virus beginning Aug. 31. The state, however, continues to track deaths.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has not increased its death count for Gregg County since Oct. 3.

According to NET Health, there were 198 East Texans being treated for COVID-19 at Tyler hospitals on Monday, which is about 49 percent lower than the high of 389, which was set this past month just after Labor Day weekend.

On Sunday, the latest day for which data was available, the state reported 379 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in 19-county Trauma Region G, which includes Longview and Tyler. That is the lowest number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment in the region since Aug. 6 when there were 373 patients, according to the state.

On Monday, 56.98 percent of Gregg County residents 12 and older had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 49.73 percent of residents 12 and older had been fully vaccinated, according to the state.

State data shows 84.81 percent of Gregg County residents 65 and older had been vaccinated with at least one dose as of Monday, while 78.25 percent had been fully vaccinated.