» The Kansas City Zoo, which used Omaha's zoo as a foil two years ago in urging voter approval of a zoo tax, has opened its new penguin exhibit — with help from Omaha.
“We sent three king penguins and four rockhopper penguins,” said Dennis Pate, CEO of Omaha's renowned Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. “It's always a challenge to open a new exhibit, especially with animals you didn't have in your collection before.”
In 2011, K.C. Zoo officials argued that people shouldn't have to go to Omaha to see penguins. The campaign logo was a penguin, and when voters approved the sales tax to inject $14 million a year in revenue, K.C. Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff exclaimed: “I think we've got Omaha on the ropes!”
Hey, no hard feelings from the Big O, where the zoo drew 1.7 million visitors last year. The K.C. Zoo has attracted about 700,000 a year, up from a low of 400,000.
The Kansas City Star reported that in opening its $15 million penguin exhibit on Oct. 25, the zoo “is lucky to have more than 40 of the iconic birds.”
The Star said zoo officials had learned there is usually a three-year waiting period for penguins so other zoos have time to breed them. But Omaha and other zoos, impressed with Kansas City's plan, agreed to send existing birds.
Pate said it was more than professional courtesy for Omaha, which has about 90 penguins.
“Zoos have to work together,” he said. “We had too many males, so moving some helped us out. And as part of the transaction, we got two unrelated females from an aquarium in Texas.”
Wisthoff, the K.C. Zoo director, spent 27 years at the Omaha zoo and has said it is held “in the highest esteem down here.”
The K.C. Zoo already was receiving $3.5 million in tax revenue before the sales tax. The Doorly Zoo receives no direct city tax support, but the City of Omaha has sent the zoo keno gambling revenue — $1.6 million in next year's budget.
» Kate and Matt Heebner not only welcome Halloween trick-or-treaters to their home in the Field Club neighborhood, but also throw an annual theme party for friends and relatives.
Previous years have meant characters from Peter Pan, the Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter, and this year it was Star Wars.
Ben Jordan, 22, one of Kate's cousins, had his Luke Skywalker costume ready when he started feeling pain at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he is a senior. But by 6:30 p.m., the son of Patti and John Jordan was undergoing emergency surgery to remove his appendix.
Ben is recovering this weekend at Methodist Hospital, where his attending physician happens to be one of the folks from the party — Darth Vader, aka his cousin, Dr. George Dittrick.
» Mutual of Omaha says its iconic Wild Kingdom is “roaring back to life” with its new online series starting Sunday.
Each Sunday for the next four weeks, a “webisode” will be posted at WildKingdom.com at 6 p.m. CST. It is hosted by Stephanie Arne, a former Henry Doorly Zoo intern in Omaha who won a national competition to be the show's “Wild Guide.”
In the first episode, “Reef Madness,” Arne dives to explore efforts to save coral reefs off the Florida Keys. Other shows are from the South Dakota Plains, the Everglades and California.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the debut of the televised “Wild Kingdom” show.
» One of the three other finalists for Mutual's Wild Guide, Omaha native Regina Busse, has made the top five in a similar adventure competition.
|Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.|
More than 3,000 candidates from 99 countries applied to be Chief World Explorer for the U.S. travel website Jauntaroo.com. You can click on to see Reggie's cool video (from Turkey) and vote for your favorite finalist.
» The decades-long tradition of Husker fans applauding the opponent off the field, win or lose, continues to surprise and delight visitors.
Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald, whose Wildcats defeated Nebraska two years ago in Lincoln, recalled that tribute in advance of today's game.
“Incredible sportsmanship,” he said in the Chicago Tribune. “They were high-fiving our guys, congratulating them. That was a first for us after a Big Ten road win.”
» The newest U.S. senator, Cory Booker, 44, of New Jersey, made a memorable visit two years ago to Omaha, where he praised the city's young professionals.
Then the mayor of Newark, N.J., Booker said at a conference that he had “not seen another city in America” doing what young professionals in Omaha are doing — not just networking for job advancement, but also embracing a transformative vision for their community.
A former Stanford University tight end and Rhodes Scholar, Booker, a Democrat, took office this week after a special election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Booker and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, a Republican, are the two African-Americans in the Senate.
» Followup: Richard Waxman of Omaha, who made a full-time job out of seeking a full-time job in his 60s, has landed one.
A retired Air Force colonel, Waxman has become director of quality for Turner and Associates, an Omaha technology firm.
He told me for a June column that he wasn't in financial distress but gets his sense of self-worth from a job. He quipped that he might die of a heart attack at 88 — bending over to tie his shoes while getting ready for work.