CUSTER COUNTY—Multiple Custer County businesses and the Custer County Fairgrounds are celebrating their history as well as their futures as pillars of the community following the annual Custer Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) Awards Presentation on October 2, 2022.
The annual picnic and awards presentation was held at the Arrow Hotel East parking garage on Sunday afternoon with event attendees enjoying BBQ, beverages, the new Leadership Custer County class, and multiple community awards.
Agriculture Innovator Award: David Lamb Farms
Business Innovator Award: Arrow Seed
Friend of Custer County Award: Custer County Fairgrounds
Wheel Horse Award: Joyce Richardson
CEDC Board President Chris Smith welcomed event attendees and Director Keith Ellis—who has recently completed his first full year as executive director—began the afternoon by recognizing the 12 participants in the Leadership Custer County Class.
Ellis referred to the class as a “critical issues think tank” consisting of a diverse group of community leaders who will help brainstorm solutions to important issues facing the area. The class will complete tours of Custer County communities as well as go on a trip to Lincoln to visit with state officials.
Throughout the last year the CEDC has celebrated business growth and startups, hosted community round tables, overhauled the CEDC website, and focused on topics including the connection between business and education/student-parent awareness, workforce housing, tourism, and working on solidifying plans for a childcare and wellness center.
“We know economic development is usually something that takes place behind the scenes, a very humble line of work with this organization. I’ve heard John Sennett say it a number of times: the CEDC works because no one cares who gets the credit, we just want to get things done,” Chris Smith said.
Representatives with the Custer County Fairgrounds were honored with the Friend of Custer County Award. The fairgrounds were originally located where the courthouse stands until early 1885 when 40 acres were purchased east of Broken Bow. Barns and buildings have been destroyed due to weather events and rebuilt throughout the years thanks to the dedication of individuals, businesses, and organizations. Financial hard times have come and gone and today the fairgrounds now hosts more than 55 events during its busy season between May and October including the county fair, Mid-States Rodeo Finals, 4-H events, bull riding, bull fighting, and numerous horse and other events throughout the year.
The Lamb/Kellenbarger Farm was recognized as the Ag Innovator on Sunday afternoon. The Kellenbarger homestead was established in 1883 by Joseph Kellenbarger and located eight miles northwest of Merna. Ray and Esther Kellenbarger and Howard and Josephine Kellenbarger Lamb have farmed the property. Currently, Dave and Donalee Lamb are on the farm and in transition of passing the farm to the fifth generation: Jason and his wife Amber, and Rodney and his wife Nichole.
The Lamb/Kellenbarger farm is a diversified operation raising corn, soybeans, and hay with most of the corn and hay going toward the cattle operation—which consists of a cowherd, backgrounding, grazing, and finishing yards. The family believes in staying involved with community, state, and national organizations and has done just that for several decades by supporting soil conservation, extension, 4-H, school board, fair board, coop board, public power, hospital, rural fire departments, state government, and state cattleman’s boards.
Arrow Seed received the Business Innovator Award. Leonard Girardin began managing a new seed company in Broken Bow in 1946 and bought the business in 1954. It has been in the family ever since with 3rd and 4th generations of the Girardin family involved in the business as a retail and wholesale operation. Arrow Seed provides products to area producers/homeowners and makes delivers to more than 100 dealers with online sales reaching customers in more than 40 states.
Joyce Richardson is the honored recipient of the Wheel Horse Award. She is a past CEDC chairman, owner of Runza with her husband Kevin, rental property owner, volunteer and leader in the Broken Bow United Methodist Church, and has served on several local boards. Joyce also encouraged businesses to participate in the 4 County Cash program created by the CEDC during the COVID-19 pandemic. She provides leadership within the CEDC and throughout the entire community.