Clouds bar star buffs from view of nebulae

A crescent moon and patchy clouds teased Steve Gallaway on Saturday night.

“I’ve been watching the moon appear and disappear,” said Gallaway, an amateur astronomer and a member of the Central Missouri Astronomical Association. “It’s like the Cheshire Cat smile — it’s there, and then it’s gone.”

Fifth-grader wins art competition

Bryan Page, a fifth-grade student at Derby Ridge Elementary School, won first place for his pencil drawing of inventor Elijah McCoy, in his second year entering the U.S. Cellular Black History Month Art Competition.

When the contest began last year Page received second place for his portrait of Bessie Coleman, also a pencil drawing. Coleman was the first black woman to receive a pilot’s license.

School board to discuss grant, salary proposals

If a grant proposed by Smithton Middle School faculty and technology services is approved, Smithton students will be able to improve their writing skills through the use of technology.

The Columbia School Board will hear this recommendation and others when it meets at 7 p.m. today at Lange Middle School.

For Alana’s benefit

Those traveling past Henry Clay Boulevard in Ashland on Sunday likely saw the hand-lettered signs pointing the way to “Alana’s Benefit.” By 11 a.m., the Ashland Optimist Complex down the road was bustling as members of the surrounding communities set up for an event to raise money for the medical fund of 15-month-old Alana Barner of Ashland.

The event consisted of a luncheon with live and silent auctions. Alana’s parents, Bart Barner and Patti Cuddihee-Barner of Ashland were there with her 5-year-old brother, Wyatt. By noon, the Optimist Club gymnasium was nearly full of friends, family members and community members who had come to show support.

Marijuana ticketing increases

Although Columbia police officers have made plain their disapproval of the city’s new marijuana ordinance, they are enforcing the law with zeal, and the numbers show it.

Columbia police have ticketed more people per month for misdemeanor possession of marijuana since voters approved Proposition 2 in November, but most are not being prosecuted. First-time offenders are given a second chance as part of the municipal court’s marijuana deferral program.

Break plans changing for MU students

Spring break is getting a makeover.

What was once considered an opportunity for coeds to overindulge on the sunny beaches of Florida, California and Mexico is being reinvigorated to include more adult destinations such as Las Vegas and Europe as well as volunteer opportunities in cities across the country.

Holden, Blunt tout obscure credit fact

JEFFERSON CITY — Bob Holden and Matt Blunt might espouse different political philosophies. But the former Democratic governor and the current Republican one seem to share a penchant for citing an obscure financial fact to try to bolster their political aims.

Holden used to frequently trumpet Missouri’s “Aaa” credit rating while claiming it showed his sound, conservative management of the state’s money. Holden would typically couple that with his call to increase state tax revenues to shore up the budget.

Missouri town threatens to sue local plant over foul odor

CARTHAGE — Leaders in this small southwest Missouri community are threatening to sue a local plant because of a foul odor they say is hurting the town’s quality of life.

“We’ve had it,” Carthage Mayor Kenneth Johnson said of the smell many believe is coming from the Renewable Environmental Solutions plant.

A Life on Stage

To those who knew him, Jerome Wheeler was the consummate collaborator — a songwriter, musician and playwright others found impossible to turn down. At the time of his death on Feb. 20 of congestive heart failure, Wheeler was involved in several projects, including a plan to document on video the music and culture of the mid-Missouri river community.

But at a memorial service at Unity Center four days after he died, Wheeler’s 27-year-old daughter, Ruby, spoke about his role as a father. This was a change of pace for Wheeler’s friends and creative partners, who knew little about his family life. But as Ruby made clear, Wheeler’s dedication to the arts often came at the expense of his children and wife, whom he divorced in 1991.

Catching up with local artists


William Helvey’s interest in art began when he was required to take a fine arts class at Mount Vernon High School. Helvey came to Columbia in 1967 and exhibited his first solo show three years later. Helvey’s work has been featured in more than 80 solo exhibits. Recently retired from his position of state communications director/director of media center at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Helvey, 62, still teaches art classes at the Columbia Art League and from his personal studio.

First adventure in son’s plane will be the last

Last week my out-of-town son called to say the weather was perfect for a ride in his airplane. He has had this tiny aircraft for about two years. And although several family members have taken a ride, my husband and I have remained adamant: No way were we going to go up in a machine that could be loaded in the back of our pickup. My son didn’t even try to persuade my husband. He knew how much his father hated flying in big jumbo jets; there was no way he would ever strap himself into a plane that he towered over. But my son kept trying to reason with me, saying something about how safe the aircraft was and how more people die on the highways, blah, blah, blah. But I didn’t relent. My son said I was a wuss, and I agreed.

The call came on Friday. My husband and I were at the lake, where he works one day a week. My son dangled a carrot to entice me — a flight over the house we are building.

A fire away from disaster

Just before dawn on May 8, 1999, a fire broke out on the third floor of the Sigma Chi fraternity house on South College Avenue. The blaze was ignited by a candle in a shoebox lid that had been placed at the opening of a tiny enclosed loft in which two students were sleeping.

Columbia firefighters responded to the alarm at 4:57 a.m. and, within 20 minutes, had extinguished the fire. That wasn’t quick enough to save Dominic Passantino. While his roommate scrambled to safety, the freshman from Leawood, Kan., was trapped by the flames. He died of smoke inhalation.

Enlightened Generation

Barbara Condron knows this world is heading toward peace and happiness, and she knows how it’s going to get there — through the grace of an emerging generation of children born in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Condron is a member of the faculty at the College of Metaphysics in Windyville and author of “How to Raise an Indigo Child: 10 Keys for Cultivating Your Child’s Natural Brilliance,” in which she describes children who seem to have greater capacities of intuition, talent, intelligence and creativity than their peers.

Taking a different angle by making math a game

David Moore, 11, and his friend, Mason Nistendirk, 11, were getting stickers to put on the cards around their necks.

“That was fun,” David said to Mason about the math game that involved pulling plastic eggs with Velcro off a poster board.

Restaurant owners welcome prospect of sidewalk alcohol sales

As the weather warms, restaurants in The District will start to open outdoor dining areas. Coinciding with some of the recent balmy weather, the Columbia City Council on Monday introduced an ordinance that would permit the sale of alcoholic beverages on sidewalks in front of restaurants and cafes.

Carrie Gartner, director of the Columbia Special Business District, said the ordinance would boost business and foster the type of outdoor atmosphere that makes the downtown a fun place to be.

Small salary draws big focus

Today’s issue of Parade magazine, the annual survey of “What People Earn” includes a face familiar to anyone who knows anything about the Latino community in Columbia — that of Eduardo Crespi, director of the Centro Latino.

Parade says “What People Earn” is one of its most popular articles among readers. But when the phone rang in Crespi’s office, he didn’t know what they were talking about.

Fifth Ward focuses on growth, planning

Candidates for the Fifth Ward seat on Columbia’s City Council discussed issues including city growth, a proposed no-smoking ordinance and Missouri’s Sunshine Law at the Columbia Public Library on Saturday. An audience of about 15 residents attended the forum sponsored by the Trail Ridge-Greenbriar Neighborhood Association.

Laura Nauser, a real estate closing officer; Gayle Troutwine, an attorney; and Joseph Vradenburg, an epidemiologist; are running for election April 5 to fill outgoing city Fifth Ward Councilman John John’s seat.

Bike group pushes for Katy to cross state

The Katy Trail’s 225 miles of hiking and biking paths cut through the heart of Missouri from St. Charles to Clinton. If the Missouri Bicycle Federation has its way, the trail might soon grow west another 75 miles into Kansas City.

That prospect excited Judy Knudson, 63, an active Columbia cyclist whose initial rides on the Katy Trail led to two cross-country biking trips as well as a two-wheel jaunt through France’s Loire Valley.

Residents escape fire that claims pets

Four family pets — three cats and a dog — died in a fire early Thursday morning in the 5400 block of Arrowwood Drive. The fire, which started in the garage, caused an estimated $100,000 in damage, including the total loss of a vehicle inside, fire officials said.

Shortly after midnight, a neighbor noticed fire coming from the garage and called 911, according to a press release from the Columbia Fire Department. The owner of the house and her grandson were both in bed when the fire began. Smoke detectors woke them and they were able to safely evacuate the house before fire crews arrived at scene.

State unemployment declines, but still above national average

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s unemployment rate dropped in February but remained above the national average, the state Department of Economic Development said.

Missouri’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell last month to 5.7 percent, the same as it was in December. The national rate last month was 5.4 percent.