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Deepwater Horizon and Earth Day 2010
Out of the Morgue
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In this photo, courtesy of the US Coast Guard and Reuters, fireboats respond to the conflagrations aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010.

Each week we’ll take a step back into the history of Great Bend through the eyes of reporters past. We’ll reacquaint you with what went into creating the Great Bend of today, and do our best to update you on what “the rest of the story” turned out to be.

Earth Day 2010 (April 22, 2010) was marred by the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig which exploded two days earlier, killing 11 workers and causing probably the biggest man-made environmental disaster in recent history.  Massive amounts of oil, 4,800,000 barrels by some estimates, discharged into the Gulf of Mexico and drifted onto the shorelines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and far western Florida.  

It took months simply to stop the discharge, and four years to clean up the spill.  

In the end, a lack of governmental oversight, and cost and time saving measures by British Petroleum, the company that leased, operated and maintained the rigs, were determined to be the causes behind the disaster.  

Environmental costs were high, according to Encyclopedia , with more than 800,000 birds perishing, along with 300,000 sea turtles, and 1,400 whales and dolphins which were found stranded for years afterward.  Heart defects and low fertility rates, as well as oil-based compounds found in the eggs of migrating birds have been lasting results.  

BP was ultimately settled with the U.S. government for $20.8 billion in October 2015.  

“It was the largest financial penalty ever leveled by the U.S. government against a single company. However, some observers noted that a substantial portion of the settlement could be written off on the company’s taxes as a business expense and consequently questioned the severity of the punishment. The settlement was formally approved in April 2016.”

On the original Earth Day, April 22, 1970, “20 million Americans took to the streets , college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet.  It is credited with launching the modern environmental movement, and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.” This year, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day was to have been marked throughout the world with celebrations of varying complexity.  Instead, the attention of every nation around the globe is focused on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and large gatherings have been cancelled or postponed until such time governments determine it is safe for people to meet in groups once more.  Still, skies are clearing with reduced human activity, and individuals have recorded many wildlife sightings that are being shared through social media, so perhaps this is a fitting way of marking Earth Day after all.  

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TJ Januousek, in the car, and crew members Brady Moore, Casey Tuggle and Kenny Birt, all from Hoisington High School, go over last-minute details before the start of the first race at the Kansas ElectroRally Thursday morning at Brit Spaugh Park. The event featured electric cars built by Kansas high school students.

On April 22, 2010, Great Bend Brit Spaugh Park was the location for the Kansas ElectroRally where teams from area high schools raced alternative powered vehicles they’d built together in shop class.

The Sunflower Electric Corporation’s Kansas ElectroRally featured cars running off batteries rather than gasoline.  They traveled at speeds as high as 30 mph around a 1,340-foot course that included the swimming pool parking lot and skate park.   

Great Bend Tribune Editor Dale Hogg interviewed James Kuhlman, an engineer with Sunflower Electric.  

“The main purpose is to promote alternative sources of energy to power our vehicles,’’ Kuhlman said.  In addition, “it is an educational opportunity and a fun way for high school kids to learn about electricity.”  

In 2018 and 2019, the Hoisington team received permission from the USD 431 Board of Education to have the race at the Hoisington Activity Center parking lot.  It proved to be an ideal location.  However, the Touchstone Energy ElectroRally that was set to be held April 11 was cancelled. The High Plains ElectroRally held at FHSU will be held on September 4 at the Frontier Buffalo Park.

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Men wearing red high heel shoes set out on the opening lap of the Walk a Mile IN Her Shoes event Saturday afternoon (April 2010) in Jack Kilby Square. The event, sponsored by the Family Crisis Center, was to call attention to domestic violence and raise funds for the center.
Walk for a cause

The first ever Walk a Mile In Her Shoes fundraiser featuring men in red high heels took place at Jack Kilby Square in Great Bend Saturday evening, April 20.  Men donned the heels and made laps around the park to raise money and awareness of the International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence.  Each team of four paid $200 for the privilege.  They received t-shirts to commemorate the event.  

The tradition continues, but it has changed over the years.  No more do men pinch their toes and throw out ankles trying to get the hang of heels. This year, the Family Crisis Center plans to hold a fun event for the ladies, called Red Shoes & Bunco Too.  However, like most gatherings, it has been postponed due to the state shut down.  It is currently set to happen Friday, Aug. 28.  More details are at the Family Crisis Center Facebook page.  

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Jefferson Elementary School fifth graders planted an Osage orange tree at the School on April 23, 2010, in honor of the upcoming Arbor Day observance that Friday. The tree was provided by the Great Bend Tree Board.
Arbor Day

For many years, Great Bend has qualified for the Tree City USA designation thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Great Bend Tree Board.  In 2010, the board presented Jefferson Elementary School with an Osage orange tree that fifth graders planted in observance of National Arbor Day that year. The board had a program of planting new varieties of trees on the school grounds and other locations, then president Charles Waknitz told the Tribune.  

Tree Board members continue to promote the planting and care of trees, and for the past several years have sponsored many new trees planted at the Argonne Forest arboretum in Great Bend’s Veteran’s Park.  The Tribune has reached out to Tree Board members to find out how they will mark Arbor Day this year, and we will be sure to let readers know as soon as we hear back.