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'What the POTG is all about'

This spring, Lincoln High School’s Pride of the Green was dealt a harsh blow when the Indiana State School Music Association canceled this year’s marching band competition season due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.

But band director Bill Marsh wasn’t about to let that be those students’, especially the seniors’, defining moment.

He took the program they had planned to do and started in, little by little. They’ve practiced, he said, as they’re able, and they’ve even seized opportunities to perform under the Friday night lights at Inman Field.

“We’re just trying to do what we can for the seniors to have their last chance at performing,” said Marsh. “We want them to have something, not to have everything taken away.

“So we’re taking it week by week,” he said. “And we’re trying to get together the best show — the best performance — we can put together for the football crowd.”

The football crowds, however, look far different in this time of COVID.

Games are limited to just 250 spectators, and tickets are no longer sold at the gate, only ahead of time at the high school.

Jeremy Woolard, president of the POTG band boosters, said the pandemic has hit them hard ,too.

The group typically raises about $30,000 from game concessions to help pay for everything from competition entry fees to travel and even instrument repair, when necessary.

A typical season, Woolard said, costs more than $100,000.

But with fewer people in the stands, fewer people are eating and drinking.

“It’s impacted us a lot,” he said. “The first couple of games, it’s like looking at a visitor crowd, not the home crowd.”

The boosters, too, pay the creators of the POTG shows each year, so Woolard is hopeful that this show can be used again next year, although Marsh is making no promises as the shows are so often catered to the talent they have.

“So we forked out the money for this show, but we’re not having a full show,” Woolard said. “But this show was also written for this specific group. Next year we’ll use 32 seniors, so it’s just going to be hard.”

The state marching band season typically runs from August through November; members of POTG had already been working on their newest program for nearly two months when announcement of the cancelation came down.

“I remember that day,” said senior Isabella Meier, also POTG’s drum major. “We were supposed to have band camp, but Mr. Marsh called all the seniors in. We were weary; we were worried our season would be canceled, but I don’t think any of us were actually prepared to hear the words come out of his mouth.

“I felt so sad,” she said, her voice still full of emotion. “It was my senior year, and I was really looking forward to performing at Lucas Oil Stadium. We were upset, but we leaned on each other.”

And they’ve continued leaning, she said.

They’ve worked together to learn the first part of the show, one based on the Aesop Fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare.”

Marsh said they will continue to build on the show, as much as they are able, and perform it all for senior night on Oct. 7.

“It can be a struggle with attendance,” he said as students are sometimes either quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19 or stay home, as they are asked to do, if they feel even the slightest sick.

“It can be hard to get any cohesiveness right now, but we’re doing the best we can,” he said.

The seniors, though, are grateful for the effort, no matter how slight at times.

“I almost started crying at that first football game this season,” Meier said. “It just reminded me how much I loved band. I couldn’t stop smiling.

“We feel blessed to perform. It’s not the same, but we’ll take what we can get.”

Performing, too, is helping the younger band members, too, as they’re able, even in a shortened season, to continue learning from the senior members.

“We knew we wanted to do some kind of season for our seniors, but we also didn’t want to come back next year with a group that was inexperienced,” Marsh said. “The seniors, they’re helping the younger kids to learn what we stand for, how we do things.

“They’re also doing their best to keep morale up, keep everyone on the same page,” he said. “They understand it’s important for us to continue our tradition. Whatever the final product is, we’ll be proud of it. We’ll do our best because that’s what Pride of the Green is all about.”

Library to enter Phase III reopening

The Knox County Public Library will begin Phase III of its reopening plan today.

This next phase puts an end to by-appointment-only visits to the facility, but they aren’t doing away with the service altogether.

After COVID-19 concerns prompted a shutdown of the library in March, KCPL slowly rolled out library services again, beginning in May.

July saw patrons return — by appointment — to the main building at 502 N. 7th St.

And though no longer required, library director Emily Bunyan says appointments with a staff member will remain an option for patrons interested in continuing that one-on-one service model.

“Some people like that special attention when they’re working on a large project or are working on online classes and maybe are unfamiliar with online learning or our computer systems,” she said.

Bunyan pointed to an example of a parent who, because of virus concerns, is opting to continue e-learning with her children instead of sending them back into the traditional classroom.

But, the mother of three said she could use a little assistance with the technology and online lessons.

Bunyan says the parent and her children were able to schedule a two-hour appointment with youth services manager, Roger Stremming.

“Many parents and students are struggling to cope with online learning right now,” she said.

“If the library had been at its usual capacity, with limitless people and no appointments, Roger wouldn’t have been able to work so closely with this family.”

The appointments, she said, prove helpful in a variety of ways for people of all walks of life. Some are conducting large-scale research projects, while others may be attempting to apply for a job or create a resume and simply lack the necessary computer skills.

“Whatever it is they need, we make an appointment and match them in a way that is most helpful to them,” she said.

Another new service model KCPL will keep — even in a post-pandemic world — is curbside pickup of materials.

Library patrons can request books and DVDs and opt to pick them up -inside a labeled paper bag — just inside the library’s main entrance.

“We didn’t have that service before, but we’ve received so many comments about it and it’s been so popular that we will keep doing it even after COVID,” Bunyan said.

Library staff members, she said, are doing what they can to keep the community safe but also offer access to invaluable services and materials found in the public library system.

Just a day before Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a statewide masking mandate, KCPL board members voted in favor of requiring patrons and staff to mask inside the library building anyway.

While a few patrons seem resistant, Bunyan says they’ve mostly seen only cooperation from community members.

“I appreciate how patient everyone has been. I know the library is more regulated and more inconvenient, but we appreciate people understanding,” she said.

Though hand sanitizing stations, masks, off-limits restrooms and socially distanced computer stations aren’t exactly a return to normal for the library, Bunyan is pleased to be able to allow patrons inside the doors to peruse bookshelves at their leisure once again, and she’s hopeful that the library’s hours could be extended by the end of 2020.

The local library once offered 68.5 hours per week of open door policy to the public. With COVID-19, those hours have been greatly diminished, cut by more than half.

Bunyan said each reopening phase has — thus far — come two months apart, so library hours may be revisited in early November.

The main library is currently open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. And the McGrady-Brockman House for historical and genealogical research is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. those same days.

To schedule an appointment for a library visit, or for more information, call 812-886-4380.

Rotarians to honor first responders with free lunch

Vincennes Rotarians are recognizing the area’s first-responders from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today by providing a free lunch to all those on the front lines of emergencies.

Streets surrounding the Fortnightly Clubhouse, 421 N. Sixth St., will be lined with emergency vehicles this afternoon, but there’s no reason to be alarmed. The only smoke and flames to be found will be coming from the large charcoal grill on Seminary Street.

Last year was the first time the local service organization hosted the event, and they estimated more than 130 emergency workers stopped in for the free burgers, sides and desserts.

Rotarian Lacey Lane, an event organizer, said “it was such a positive experience, we couldn’t wait to do it again this year.”

“We know it’s not much, but it gives us a chance to say ‘thank you’ to them,” she added.

While most first-responder events typically cater specifically to police, fire, and EMS, the Rotary Club extends the offer to military and dispatch personnel, as well as security guards.

Organization members say it is important to them to acknowledge all who serve.

And to Lane, emergency personnel across the board are deserving of more thanks than they typically receive.

“There are so many professions that just don’t get recognized and honored enough for what they do, and first responders are definitely on that list,” she said.

But because of COVID-19, Rotarians say extra precautions are in place to keep first responders healthy and on the job.

Food will be individually wrapped ahead of time this year, and the volunteer servers will be wearing masks and gloves. Social distancing, too, will be practiced inside the Fortnightly Clubhouse.

Too, they say, first responders have the option of using a drive-by pickup service to take their meals to go.

Even those who choose to sit down for the hot meal likely won’t have much time to stay and socialize with friends and colleagues because most first-responders will arrive to the luncheon in uniform and on duty.

Nearly 20 years beyond Sept. 11, 2001, the smoke and debris cloud still rises in the American consciousness, the memories of first responders running toward danger still lingers.

And small gestures of gratitude still abound.