Chappell celebrates opening of downtown gathering space

CHAPPELL, NE — Residents of one panhandle town have a new place to relax and spend time downtown. 

Chappell marked the grand opening of its new downtown gathering space Saturday night. The concourse is located between Cabela's Furniture and The Rusty Bucket on the west end of downtown. 

Prior to the project, the area was simply a dirt lot. 

The town marked the night with giveaways, live music, food and ice cream. The American Legion and VFW also held a flag retirement ceremony. 

A major feature of the space is a mural depicting the history of Chappell. Painted by Garden County Art teacher Lauren Olson, it features a Cabela's fishing lure, Pony Express Commemorative Stamp and Lincoln Highway Marker and multiple historical figures. 

People included in the mural are the following:

- Aaron Gunn Pyle: A local farmer and painter considered to be the "Painter of Nebraska."

- Congresswoman Virginia Dodd Smith: First woman from Nebraska to serve in U.S. House of Representatives. Served from 1975-1991 when she retired. Spent much of her life living in Chappell. The Virginia Smith Charitable Trust was started in 2007 shortly after her death. 

- Charles Henry Chappell: The town's namesake, he worked for multiple railroad companies from 1870-1915. 

- Orianna Ward Chappell: Charles' wife. She donated the Chappell Memorial Library and Art Gallery.

Olson will paint another mural on the opposite side of the gathering space next Summer.