PLATTSMOUTH - Real heroes don’t necessarily wear caps. Nor do they fly effortlessly at high speeds without the aid of mechanical devices.

Real heroes are those who respond when called in the middle of the night to extinguish a fire, provide medical help to accident victims, travel overseas to protect the freedoms of complete strangers, cruise the streets to protect residents from criminal activity and/or work around the clock to ensure citizens have basic water and sewer services when floodwaters hit.

Small towns, like Plattsmouth, have many heroes who look like regular Janes and Joes, but are dedicated to helping others. That’s why the 2019 Harvest Festival theme, “Heroes of the Harvest” was so fitting for Plattsmouth, which suffered severe water restrictions from the loss of its sewer and water plants March 14 when the Missouri and Platte Rivers flooded.

Plattsmouth firefighters, EMS members, police and city employers were among many who participated in this year’s festival Sept. 5-8.

Plattsmouth Police Department officer and Plattsmouth Volunteer Fire Department member Jonathan Hardy was one of many who helped victims of the flood. During the festival, he served on the PPD’s bike patrol to ensure celebrants were safe from harm and explained the role of the fire department immediately after the flood hit.

Hardy: “Basically, the morning of the flood we responded to calls from here to Horseshoe Lake and back to Schmidt’s Trucking. We had about 30 people we evacuated by boat. About 15 of them were people working at the sewer treatment plant. One lady was also trapped at the condos [by the river]. We basically ran more water rescues that day than three years prior, and they were actual rescues. Our skills were tested but our guys performed exceptionally. There were no injuries of people rescued or fire department members.”

Hardy noted the work of fellow firefighters, Drew Wampler, Chris Kerns and Greg Clifton, who boated March 14 to the water plant to shut off fuel and prevent damage to the electrical units.

PVFD Chief Mike Wilson said department members worked 24-7 to aid flood victims.

Wilson: “It helped that we had two boats. We utilized the boats but also had to utilize private airboats as well. We basically spent four days with rotations of different people with so many different things going on.”

He stressed, however, that none of the department members viewed themselves as heroes.

Wilson: ““I always tell them, first is your family, then your employment and then the fire department. The fire department will always be there, but you must take care of your family and you must support your family, but fire service must be available. We enjoy when people do recognize us, but we were just doing our jobs. It was the public in general. Everyone was just so great pulling together whether it was helping the flood victims get food or helping the first responders.”

Usually, the department organizes water fight competitions for the festival. When the city put restrictions on water use, the tradition had to be canceled.

Wilson: “W discussed it at the April meeting and decided to retract the water fights. We didn’t really have an alternate plan at the time.”

Later, members decided to replace the water fights with a demonstration of a vehicle extraction using the Jaws of Life in front of the county courthouse Sept. 7.

Wilson: “EMS responders were down here as well. We put one of our people in the vehicle as if they were in an accident.”

Due to a last minute rescue call, EMS had to leave the demonstration.

The demonstration was not only educational, it raised awareness about the department’s aging equipment, including the Jaws of Life.

Wilson: “The equipment we have for Jaws of Life was purchased in the late 70s or in the 80s. The older ones are gas-powered and some are electric tied to an apparatus, but the electric one only has a 150-foot roll, so its use is limited. There is better equipment out there today. There are battery operated Jaws of Life.”

The department is also in need of 44 new air packs with Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).

Wilson: “The first of 2020, they will expire. We’ve been applying for a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Assistant Firefighter grant the past four years. We’re looking at $350,000 to be awarded to replace the 44 air packs.”

DC’s Waterhole in downtown Plattsmouth is sponsoring a First Responder Fund-raiser Oct. 19. Wilson encourages people to attend the event.

The festival also recognized men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country during a special patriotic flag burning and remembrance ceremony, orchestrated by Kermit Reisdorph and Mike Pauley and members of the VFW and American Legion.

Festival Adviser Terry Little said the ceremony was very moving and well-attended.

Little: “It was a nice-sized crowd that gathered at the Veteran’s Memorial downtown.”

Cass County Historical Society members spent their festival days showcasing the newly-acquired replica of the White Pirogue Capts. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had with them with they stopped at the Platte and Missouri River confluence  July 21, 1803.

Butch Bouvier constructed the 42-feet -long and eight-feet wide replica over a period of eight months start to finish. The project had its challenges, the builder said.

Bouvier: “I had two heart attacks while I worked on it. Do they count as a challenge?”

Bouvier started building Lewis and Clark replica boats in 1984 as a hobby. “Now, I’m considered the authority on Lewis and Clark boats. That’s why I wrote a book about them.”

The book, “Brown Water,” is available at the Nebraska City Lewis and Clark Visitor Center and Cass County Museum in Plattsmouth. Its title derives from the common name for inland waterway boats, “brown-water boats” as opposed to “blue water” coastal and oceanic vessels.

The White Pirogue was constructed of two layers of ¾-inch plywood, Cass County Historical Society Vice President Del Hervey said. The trim is redwood, procured in the mid-80s after Hervey and Bob Curttright build stairs from it at the back of an apartment house.

Bouvier: “Normally we use cedar, but it’s so expensive, so we trimmed it in redwood.”

Hervey said the boat, complete with hoisted flag and mast, will be in the 51st Applejack Parade 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, from 16th Street to Sixth Street on Main Street in Nebraska City.

Unlike the historic explorers whose reputations are known throughout the world, many small-pint Plattsmouth area heroes donned their best superhero costumes for the Kiddie Parade Sept. 7 during the Harvest Festival.

Roslyn Hale took first-place in the Superheroes category with her Superwoman costume; Loretta Kerns as Tinkerbell, George Kerns as Peter Pan and Henrik Green took first-place in the Storybook category; and Temperance Goodman was in second-place Storybook category as Riding Hood with the Big Bad Wolf Juniper.

Local teens showed their thanks to Liquid Trucking and Fast Grass owners for ensuring the pool was open this summer by marching in the parade with a large thank you sign and mini-float. Fast Grass supplied the water and Liquid Trucking hauled the water to the pool so residents could have something to look forward to despite water restrictions.

Trailing behind these entrants was another heroic group, Plattsmouth Teammates presided over by Dr. Larry Stuckey.

Teammates mentor Cheri Larson explained the purpose of the organization, in which adults visit mentees in the local school system for an hour a week to provide them with encouragement.

“A hero is somebody who cares, puts others first and does things right. That’s what Teammates are. They give their time to make a difference in the lives of young adults.”