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Out of the Morgue
P is for Potter, and more in 2007
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In 2007, Hoisington Police officers confiscated this 3- to 4- foot long alligator from a citizen and took it to the Brit Spaugh Zoo. Also that month, they found another smaller alligator in the yard of Lonnie VanScyoc. Both animals growth had been stunted, according to the Great Bend Parks Director Mike Cargill. - photo by Tribune file photo

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.

Some may remember in 2007 seeing news reports of customers standing outside bookstores at midnight at impromptu release parties as faithful readers of the Harry Potter series waited to get their hands on the first copies of the last story in J.K. Rowling series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Perhaps, some reading this today was one of those parents indulging their young readers with a special trip to buy that special book.
An Associated Press story, “J.K. Rowling bids her boy wizard goodbye with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” appeared in the Friday, July 20, 2007 edition of The Great Bend Tribune, accompanied by a photo of costumed fans waiting outside a London Bookstore to be some of the first to own the much anticipated book. No book was to be sold until one minute past midnight that Saturday.
With the simple statement, “Harry’s story comes to a definite end in book seven,” Rowling worried readers that perhaps Potter would die in his attempt to defeat his evil nemesis, Lord Voldemort.
Thanks to the success of the series, seven movies would hit the big screens, with one of them, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” appearing that week at The Village Cinema in Great Bend.
Earlier this summer, the Great Bend Public Library featured a day-long Harry Potter movie marathon, featuring each of the Potter movies in order, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of Rowling’s first book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” which the AP article shared had been published in 1997 and released in London with a print run of less than 1,000 copies.

A is for Alligator
Closer to home, Hoisington resident Lonnie VanScyoc may have felt as though he fell into the pages of a fantasy story himself when he happened upon the alligator. It wouldn’t be the only one found in the Central Kansas town that week.
“Hoisington police officers have confiscated two alligators in the past two weeks. One from a citizen keeping a 3- to 4-foot gator as a pet and a 14-inch alligator found in a yard.”
VanScyoc told of how the small alligator jumped out of the grass near where he was mowing. He called 911, and the operator was sure he had to be mistaken. Then, two weeks later, the Hoisington Police were called to a domestic dispute where they found the larger alligator pet.
Police took the alligators to the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo where Great Bend Parks Director Mike Cargill determined their growth had been stunted. Several internet sites today state that often, alligators are purchased on the black market as impulse buys, and their owners do not know how to properly care for them. Often, they are dumped into waterways when they get too large to care for, but can’t survive in the wild in the Kansas climate.
In 2013, then Brit Spaugh Zoo director Scott Gregory accepted a new alligator from a professor at Barton Community College which had outgrown its space and needed somewhere else to roam. While it is unknown if it was one of the two Hoisington alligators mentioned in the 2007 article, it is yet another example of how alligators end up in Kansas. Today, that alligator has been joined by another male alligator, and together they are Alvin and Allister.

Z is for Zoo
Speaking of the Brit Spaugh Zoo, this week in 2007, work began on the Central Kansas Raptor Center, and a chain link fence was erected around the zoo. Both projects were undertaken in hopes of the zoo eventually becoming AZA accredited. The accreditation would help the zoo to be able to get the kind of animals that draw visitors in, but over the years it has proven to be like reaching for the gold-ring at the merry-go-round. At the time that the fence went up, the city fought rumors that the zoo was closing, or that it was going to begin charging admission. Neither did or is expected to happen anytime in the foreseeable future.
The zoo, owned and operated by the City of Great Bend, this year at least temporarily abandoned its quest for AZA accreditation, but will continue to meet USDA requirements. This year, visitors can expect to see a new bison exhibit built, and improvements are being made to the bear enclosure.

F is for Fashion
Also this week in the Great Bend Tribune, results of the Pawnee County 4-H Fashion Revue were announced, and photos of the winners appeared throughout the week, in that contest and from several other projects featured at the Pawnee County Fair that year. Winners of championships in the Constructed Fashion Revue were Roxy Foster, Karlee Rainbolt and Alysia Cook. Their participation in 4-H may have helped them achieve more out of life if the national 4-H council statistics are taken into account. Youth who participate in 4-H are five times more likely to graduate from college. According to facebook, Foster went on to study at Allen Community College, Sterling College and Pittsburg State University; Rainbolt studied at Kansas State University, and recently married, becoming Karlee Vosburgh; and Cook went on to study at Ft. Hays State University.
Today, check out the results and pictures from this year’s Pawnee County 4-H Fashion Revue in this newspaper.