I must have read my invitation wrong, but I thought last Thursday’s gathering in western Mills County was supposed to be a groundbreaking celebration for the new U.S. Highway 34 - Missouri River bridge project.
I didn’t know it was going to turn into a summit to discuss Nebraska’s move to the Big 10 Conference and the future rivalry between the Husker and Hawkeye football teams.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin all chimed in on the Big 10 issue during their opening remarks. Heineman said he and fellow Nebraskans are looking forward to having the Huskers join the Big 10 and playing Iowa every year.
Judge responded by welcoming Nebraska to the Big 10 on behalf of Hawkeye fans and actually predicted the Hawks and Huskers will meet at the end of this season in the BCS National Championship game. Her prediction drew a loud round of applause from folks from both sides of the Missouri River.
Harkin also acknowledged Nebraska’s move to the Big 10, but said as an old Iowa State guy, he’s going to miss the Nebraska - Iowa State rivalry and those unexpected Cyclone victories over the Huskers every now and then.
“About once every 15 years, we tip over their apple cart,” Harkin said. “I’m going to miss that.”
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As the politicians took their turns talking at last week’s ceremony, they all made a point to recognize the efforts of Glenwood banker Larry Winum, the driving force behind this project for nearly 20 years.
The accolades Larry received were all well deserved. I found it appropriate that Larry was seated next to retired Nebraska state senator Paul Hartnett of Bellevue at Thursday’s ceremony. Sen. Hartnett and Larry have been on this project from the get-go. Over the years, the new bridge had become a political football and I’m certain the bickering and lack of progress was a source of frustration for both of these guys.
The good news is that once the Highway 34 bridge gets built, all future disagreements between Iowa and Nebraska will get settled on the football field.