October 24, 2014

Fans of Bix Beiderbecke mount another push for a postage stamp in his honor


Devoted fans of eastern Iowa jazz pioneer Bix Beiderbecke are launching a movement to have the Davenport native honored on a U.S. postage stamp. Gerri Bowers, the historian for the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society, says they’ve already gotten hundreds of supporters for the effort online.

“I’m very excited about it and it’s long overdue,” Bowers says. “This is our third time so we’re hoping the third time’s a charm.” Bix backers tried to get the composer and improvisational coronet player immortalized on a stamp in 1994 and 1996 with petitions to the postmaster, but never got a response.

Bowers hopes the legions of Dixieland jazz lovers in all corners of the map will log-on this time. “There’s more fans out there and because of the internet, we’re able to reach more people and get more signatures,” she says. At last check, the Bix stamp petition had more than 600 signatures on the website dedicated to the effort on change.org.

Bix’s hometown of Davenport hosts a jazz fest in his honor every summer along the banks of the Mississippi River that typically draws followers from around the planet, including all over Europe, Japan and Australia. Beiderbecke was considered one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s is also called one of the most significant figures in the history of American music. He died in 1931.

Bowers says Beiderbecke was a musical genius. “What he’s contributed to the jazz world, it’s long overdue and it’s much better than all the birds and everything else they put on stamps,” Bowers says. “They’ve got Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington on stamps so, it’s time we put Bix up there.”

Earlier this year, Beiderbecke was featured in an exhibit called “American Cool” at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. His black-and-white picture hung alongside 99 others, ranging from actors James Dean and Humphrey Bogart to skateboarding legend Tony Hawk and boxer Muhammad Ali.



‘Sea Lark’ dance by famed choreographer to premiere in Iowa

Francisco Graciano and Eran Bugge.

Francisco Graciano and Eran Bugge.

Central Iowa will host a rare event in the arts community next month — the world premiere of a new dance created by one of America’s foremost choreographers, Paul Taylor.

Francisco Graciano is a member of the New York City-based Paul Taylor Dance Company and says dance fans in the region will be thrilled to hear the first public performance of this piece will go on stage in Des Moines.

“It’s a very significant thing to have any dance premiered anywhere, especially Paul Taylor,” Graciano says. “Paul’s been making dances for a while. This is his latest opus.”

The dance is called “Sea Lark” and it’s the 84-year-old Taylor’s 141st major work in his six decades of choreography.

The performance will include all ten members of the team as they depict enjoying a carefree sail on the ocean. “Paul has always had a fascination with the sea and for any nautical stories,” Graciano says. “It’s sort of his expression of his love for the sea and the culture that happens out there.”

Legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber was in Des Moines in mid-September to take in a production of his “Phantom of the Opera” at the Civic Center and likewise, Taylor will be there for the dance debut.

“He’s really interested in seeing how premieres go and he wants to oversee every single detail,” Graciano says. “It’s his work going out there and we’re the face of his work so, he wants to make sure everything goes out as planned.”

The troupe will be in Iowa for one show only, November 8th at the Des Moines Civic Center.



Beware of bogus World Series tickets and Ebola email scams

With Game Two of the World Series tonight in Kansas City, many Iowans are planning road trips if they can snap up deals on tickets. Jim Hegarty, with the Better Business Bureau, says if you’re shopping at an online ticket broker, proceed with extreme caution.

“I would really make sure to check their reputation, look for reviews,” Hegarty says. “You can check the BBB to see if they’ve met our standards. Make sure the website has a secure payment processing system.” If you’re trying to buy Royals-Giants tickets through an online auction house, Hegarty says to make sure the seller is legit and has a long history of satisfied customers.

Iowans also need to watch for suspicious email about the Ebola outbreak. Hegarty says scammers are sending out mass emails that bill themselves as containing an important health update. “People are really curious, they want to know what’s going on and they’ll click on those,” he says, “and those can contain malware that can install some nasty stuff on your computer.”

Hegarty says Iowans who want to donate money for relief efforts in Ebola-stricken areas should only do so through reputable charities.


Website calls Iowa a top place to retire

Wanna-be retirees may dream of swaying palm trees and gentle ocean breezes but it turns out, they should be thinking about Iowa instead. Hawaii ranks as the number-one destination for retirees, according to a study being released by MoneyRates.com, but Iowa is second on the list.

The investment website rates the states based on several criteria like crime rates, economy, weather and senior population growth. Iowa did well in all categories, especially the low crime rate. Perceived retirement meccas like Florida and Arizona ranked 4th and 6th respectively behind Idaho at number 3 and Vermont was 5th.


Jackson County farmer finds entire field of beans stolen

A Jackson County farmer reported an entire field of soybeans was stolen.

A Jackson County farmer reported an entire field of soybeans was stolen.

In the days of the Old West, pioneers had to worry about cattle rustlers, but an Iowa farmer discovered this week someone rustled his entire crop.

The farmer from northeast Iowa’s Jackson County also has a field on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River and he says somebody ripped him off.

Matt Schuster of La Motte says he went to check on his 18 acres of soybeans near East Dubuque, Illinois, and found only bare ground. Roughly 1,600 bushels of beans vanished from the field. That’s about $18,000 worth.

Neighbors say they saw the combine but thought it was a hired hand at the wheel.

Multimillion dollar bridge between Iowa and Nebraska ready to open

After months of work, this bridge connecting Iowa and Nebraska is opening.

After months of work, this bridge connecting Iowa and Nebraska is opening.

A new bridge is opening today connecting southwest Iowa and southeast Nebraska. Officials say completion of the project not only eases travel for motorists but will encourage economic development between the states for years to come.

Scott Nixon, a construction engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation, says it’s been a lengthy, expensive venture. “The total project with Nebraska costs and Iowa costs combined is about $115 million,” Nixon says. “The bridge itself was 61 million.”

Construction began in January of 2012 so it’s been just two months shy of three years to complete. The new route includes about 7 miles of newly-constructed 4-lane divided highway extending west of the U.S. Highway 34 interchange with Interstate 29 near Glenwood, Iowa, to U.S. Highway 75 between Plattsmouth and Bellevue, Nebraska.

The Nebraska Department of Roads completed the work on its side last year. The new bridge over the Missouri River includes a 500-foot steel section that spans the waterway. “Nebraska is paying for a portion of the bridge and Iowa is paying for a portion,” Nixon says. “It’s not a 50-50 split because there’s more bridge on the Iowa side than the Nebraska side.”

The bridge sits on 17 concrete and steel piers. “It was a challenge working in the river,” Nixon says. “The contractor started working on the river in early ’12 and they were still working in late 2013. It was over a year to get the river piers up.”

Estimates show the bridge will initially carry 2,000 vehicles a day, ramping up to 11,000 vehicles a day in the years to come. The bridge is expected to open around 3 P.M.

Photo courtesy of Nebraska Department of Roads.


Paranormal Summit set to convene Friday in western Iowa

They don’t like the term “ghostbusters,” but groups from Iowa and Nebraska who try to track down evidence of spirits floating among us will be taking part in an event in Omaha/Council Bluffs later this week. The gathering is the 4th Annual Paranormal Summit and it’s scheduled for Friday, one week before Halloween.

Sara Gray, a member of the Omaha Paranormal Society, is organizing the event. “We are going to have several presentations by local paranormal investigation teams,” Gray says. “After that, we have a psychic medium who’s going to be speaking and we’re going to go around campus and do an investigation.”

The summit will be held on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, which some believe is a hotbed for ghostly appearances. “All of campus is said to be haunted but the one that’s really been focused on in the past few years has been the Arts and Science Building,” Gray says. “Directly outside of the building about 50 years ago, a girl was shot and killed and the murder is still unresolved. Her ghost is said to still haunt the Arts and Science Building so that’s the focused area.”

Several teams are operating in Iowa and Nebraska which use a host of modern technology to try and find the answers to age-old questions about the existence of ethereal beings. “They’re going to present their most astounding evidence that they have gotten in the past few years,” Gray says. “It should be really interesting. Some of them are using new equipment so they might show off a little bit of that.”

The summit is open to anyone and begins at 6 P.M. Friday at the Milo Bail Student Center on the UNO campus. There is an admission charge.