O’Brien EMA Director To Be Laid To Rest Friday

Anne KoontzO’Brien County, Iowa — Longtime O’Brien County Emergency Management Agency Director Anne Koontz will be laid to rest Friday, following her sudden death earlier this week.

Koontz, who lived in Sanborn, had served as County EMA Director since 1984, when she replaced John Redinius as head of that agency.  In addition to being County EMA Director, she had served as a Volunteer EMT with the Sanborn Ambulance Team in past years, as well as serving on multiple committees, boards and task forces, including the O’Brien County EMS Task Force, which has met over the past couple of years in an attempt to find solutions to staffing problems being encountered by the county’s local ambulance services.   During her tenure she also taught emergency management classes for Northwest Iowa Community College and also at the county, state and federal levels.

Before becoming O’Brien County EMA Director, Anne served as Executive Director for Sioux-Lakes Emergency Medical Services, a position she held from 1979 until her appointment as O’Brien County Emergency Management Director in April, 1984.

Having been EMA Director for more than 30 years, Anne was instrumental in helping EMA Directors in neighboring counties get up to speed when they assumed the Director roll in their counties, and O’Brien County Sheriff Michael Anderson says those Directors have all stepped forward to offer assistance in continuing the projects that Anne had in progress at the time of her death, until a successor can be found.  Anderson tells KIWA that a representative of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security has even stepped forward to offer any assistance that may be necessary.

Anne passed away Monday morning at her home in Sanborn.  Her funeral service will be at 10:30 am on Friday, at First Presbyterian Church in Sanborn, with burial at East Lawn Cemetery in Sheldon, Iowa.  A full obituary is available by clicking here.

Pizza Ranch Assists In E. Coli Investigation

Pizza Ranch wagonOrange City, Iowa — Pizza Ranch restaurants are working with public health officials investigating 13 cases of illness attributed to a specific strain of E. Coli O157 bacteria, according to Pizza Ranch Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Achterhoff.

Achterhoff says nine of the affected individuals reported having eaten at nine different Pizza Ranches in seven states.  Achterhoff says there are also individuals multiple states away from the nearest Pizza Ranch that reported not eating at Pizza Ranch that have the same strain of E. Coli O157, though health investigators have not been able to pinpoint how they contracted the strain. The last reported illness related to this outbreak reported eating at a Pizza Ranch on January 30th of this year, according to Achterhoff. He says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have told Pizza Ranch that it believes the outbreak is concluded.

Achterhoff says that Pizza Ranch removed their Skillet Dough mix immediately from use in response to information suggesting that this product was a possible common factor in the illnesses and subsequently expanded this product withdrawal to include their Original Dough mix.  He says that it appears the source of bacteria originated from an outside supplier, rather than at Pizza Ranch restaurants.  He says several states collected products from Pizza Ranch restaurant locations to test for the presence of E. Coli O157, and that none of those collected products contained the bacteria.

Achterhoff says Pizza Ranch independently ran over 40 tests on different products to test for the presence of E. Coli O157 and it was not found in any products tested. He says they provided public health investigators with a list of all of their ingredients as well as contact information for their ingredient suppliers. He says they also contacted the supplier of their dough mixes regarding the issue, with the request that they cooperate with state and federal health officials. Pizza Ranch has also ceased using this outside supplier to supply its dough mix, according to Achterhoff.

.In addition, Achterhoff says they have instructed all Pizza Ranch locations to complete a special, precautionary cleaning of all surfaces and equipment used in dough preparation or service. He says their franchisees and team members responded with professionalism and great attention to detail. As a result, he says, they continue to have absolute confidence in the quality and wholesomeness of every item they serve.  He added that all Pizza Ranch locations are open and serving their full menu.

Achterhoff says the company has no higher commitment than the safety of their guests and their people.  He says they will continue to work with public health officials at the local, state and federal levels on this issue and on a daily basis to fulfill that promise.

Tulip Festival Court’s Costume, Parade Marshal Announced

Orange City, Iowa — The costumes to be worn by the queen and her court at the 76th Tulip Festival in May have been announced. Also announced at the ceremony yesterday was this year’s parade marshal.

The annual Orange City Tulip Festival Extravaganza was held at Prairie Winds Event Center. The event featured a luncheon and program.Tulip Court 2016 in costume

Queen Ava and her Court will wear the authentic 1880’s Protestant dress from South Beveland for this year’s festival. Queen Ava is wearing the formal dress and her Court is wearing the informal dress. This is the first time the informal costume has been introduced at Tulip Festival, as the Tulip Courts of 1981 and 1993 wore the formal South Beveland costumes.

The Court’s costume is made of a black woolen fabric, while Queen Ava’s is made from a black flowered brocade fabric. Queen Ava’s bib, or “buek” in Dutch, is made of a mulberry colored floral fabric, and the Court’s of a floral cotton fabric. The bib is covered by a scarf, or “doek,” made of the same fabric.

The costume’s skirts are covered by hand-shirred aprons, with Queen Ava’s apron made of a black woolen fabric and the Court’s made of a black and white striped cotton fabric. Queen Ava’s costume also includes a petticoat made of plain color flannel.

All five members of the Tulip Court wear an ear iron, or “oorijzer,” made of jewelry’s brass. A white under cap is worn over the ear iron. The most prominent piece of the hat is a rounded “hul,” held in place by pearl hat pins. Queen Ava’s is made of a white lace fabric and her Court’s are made from a white eyelet fabric. The hats are also adorned with two large, gold-head hat pins.

The South Beveland dresses are accessorized with red, five-strand necklaces and black velvet purses. Queen Ava also wears knitted arm warmers and a gold broach.

The 2016 Tulip Court also presented their traveling road show titled “Tournament of Tulips” for the first time. The road show, which the festival royalty wrote and will present to various organizations, schools and residential care facilities this spring, tells of the events and attractions at Tulip Festival and gives a detailed overview of their South Beveland costumes.

An additional highlight to the Extravaganza was the introduction of this year’s parade marshal. The Tulip Festival Steering Committee is pleased to honor Brian De Jong as the parade marshal for the 76th annual event.

A native and lifelong resident of Orange City, De Jong rode floats and carried cheese in the Dutch Heritage Walk as a young boy.

De Jong’s involvement with the festival since has proven significant, as he’s volunteered in a variety of capacities. He’s carried province flags in the parades, pushed “De Bloomenmarkt” cart in the Dutch Heritage Walk, assisted with the Night Show, Dutch danced, and guided city bus tours.

His longest-standing role as a Tulip Festival volunteer, however, is his time working in the Windmill Information Booth. “My favorite job at Tulip Festival? I loved so many, but if I were to narrow it down, it has to be the Windmill Information Booth,” says De Jong.

De Jong has sold tickets, given directions and answered Tulip Festival questions in the Windmill Information Booth for more than 20 years. “I love meeting the many visitors – finding out where they are from, how they heard about the festival, and seeing the excitement they have while visiting,” he says.

“Brian’s dedication to Tulip Festival is remarkable,” says Mike Hofman, Chairman of the 2016 Steering Committee. “He is a great ambassador for the festival, and we are grateful for the many ways he has served our community’s celebration.”

In addition to riding in each of the festival’s six parades as the 2016 parade marshal, De Jong will continue his role with the Windmill Information Booth, coordinating volunteers and greeting thousands of visitors.

Osceola County Receives Home Base Iowa Designation

Sibley, Iowa — About 60 people braved the gusty winds north of Sibley on Wednesday to see Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds preKim Reynolds at CapArmssent the Home Base Iowa designation to Osceola County at the Capital Armament or Cap Arms production facility. Home Base Iowa is an initiative designed to provide a welcoming atmosphere to military veterans who are leaving the service, to provide them encouragement to live and work in the Home Base Iowa communities.

Reynolds says she was happy to present the designation to the county.

Cap Arms was presented as a Home Base Iowa success story. Clint Gerner, their CEO says that they encountered a very welcoming and supportive community when they moved to Sibley. The company was founded by three veterans in St. Paul Minnesota. He says they continue to “pay it forward” by using a veteran-centric hiring policy. He says they try to hire at least 50 percent veterans.

Lt. Governor Reynolds says the Home Base Iowa designation is a great marketing tool for Osceola County. She says Osceola County offers several incentives to veterans as part of the Home Base Iowa designation, from discounts to loan incentives at county banks. At the statewide level, veterans are offered an income tax exemption, says Reynolds.

She says Iowa is now seen as a national leader with veterans’ organizations. The Lieutenant Governor says the over 2000 veterans have been hired since the program started in 2014. According to her, it works so well because it’s a public-private partnership.

Home Base Iowa Director Jason Kemp also spoke at the meeting, telling people about the Home Base Iowa web site at homebaseiowa.gov. He says it’s a great place for employers and veterans to connect. He says one of the benefits of the site is that it helps veterans translate their military experience into skills that employers are looking for.

Also speaking at the meeting were Osceola County Supervisor chairman Mike Schulte, Supervisor Phil Bootsma, and Osceola County Economic Development Director Mike Earll.

Golden Easter Egg Hunt Starts Friday

Sheldon, Iowa — A long-standing Easter season tradition will take place once again this year in Sheldon.  The 23rd Annual Sheldon Chamber and Development Corporation Golden Easter Egg Hunt is right around the corner.

SCDC Chamber Executive Allison Cooke tells us what the Golden Easter Egg Hunt is all about.

Cooke says if the egg is found on the first day, the prize will be $750 in Sheldon Dollars, with the prize dropping each day that the egg remains undiscovered.

She says the first clues for this year’s hunt will go out this Friday morning.

Cooke says the Golden Easter Egg Hunt has become a much-loved tradition in Sheldon, and she says it’s fun to watch people hunt for the elusive egg each year.

She says the Golden Easter Egg will be hidden on public property, and that no digging will be required to locate and recover it.  She stressed that it will not be on anyone’s private business or residential property.

A new clue can be found daily at 10 am at each participating business, listed below.

Golden Easter Egg Hunt

Wood Running For Sheriff

Todd Wood For SheriffO’Brien County, Iowa — A longtime Sheldon City Police Officer filed papers Wednesday morning to run for Sheriff of O’Brien County.

Officer Todd Wood sat down with KIWA Radio, and explained what motivated him to seek the Sheriff’s position.

Wood talked about his employment background in law enforcement.

Prior to his law enforcement career, Officer Wood worked in the finance industry, a background he thinks will serve him well as a county department head.

We asked Officer Wood what he would like voters to know about him before they cast their ballot.

Wood is currently visiting the towns throughout O’Brien County, meeting with the citizens, letting them get to know him, and getting their input on what they’d like to see in a Sheriff for O’Brien County.  This past Saturday, Officer Wood spoke at both the Republican and Democrat County Conventions, introducing himself to voters from both parties, and asking for their support.

Wood will be on the ballot for Sheriff of O’Brien County in the Republican primary June 7th.