Winding Muddy wheels

Tiffany Voorheis, 15, pulls her shoulder-length brown hair into a ponytail while her friends, Robin Hargis, 15, and Megan Beckley, 16, squeeze riding helmets over their heads.

“Ah, you’re gonna put your hair up high like that?” Robin asks. “You’re supposed to put it down low, so it hangs outside the helmet.”

Community Sketchbook

Chores take the merry out of Christmas

I’m in the frantic mode of Christmas preparations, so I’m a little cranky these days. I can’t figure out why decorating and wrapping presents is such an ordeal.

Whoever invented the ornament hook has made millions, but if someone could come up with a better way to package these thin metal gadgets, I, and about a billion others, would really be appreciative. I’d even pay double for hooks that come out of the package one at a time. Sure, they look as if they have been placed in a single line, but try taking one out and you get 150. I spend what seems like hours untangling the darn things.

A greater understanding

In Mark Mueller’s chilly but spacious sculpture studio in MU’s Marx Building, one can’t help but notice the life-size molds of human heads that sit on a nearby utility shelf — molds that bear a striking resemblance to Mueller.

Montessori school renovations complete

Bundled under umbrellas or soaking in the rain, nearly 30 parents and Columbia Chamber of Commerce members focused their eyes on a yellow ribbon and a giant pair of scissors.

Clad in gold blazers, Chamber of Commerce goodwill ambassadors officially reopened Columbia Montessori School’s renovated parking lot and playground Friday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Restless Sundays

If you’re not too busy and you visit Cosmo Park on any given Sunday, there’s a good chance you’ll run into the Garners, who go there each week for family fun after Sunday services at the Unity Center and lunch at McDonald’s.

On a chilly November afternoon, 3-year-old Logan Garner used the free time to practice the “Tootie-Tot” song. With a wide smile, he followed the example of his mother, Carolyn, 41, and his big brother, Alex, 7, through the last verse. He stuck out his tongue, touched his knees together, turned his toes inward and kept his neck up, thumbs out, elbows in and rump out while singing the active melody.

Crayton runs for 3rd term in 1st Ward

The biggest reason behind First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton’s decision to seek a third term is the desire to represent those whose concerns generally go unnoticed.

“People who don’t have a voice should have a voice downtown,” said Crayton, who has represented the central-city ward

Pedestrian project puts parents’ and children’s feet to the streets

The PedNet Coalition sponsored a “walking school bus” Friday morning for students of West Boulevard Elementary School. The event was sponsored to encourage kids to walk to school.

Ian Thomas, project director for the PedNet Coalition, said that because of societal changes, only a small proportion of children walk to school.

MU and Northwest Missouri scrap ambitious merger plan

Bittersweet reality set in Friday for Northwest Missouri State University when the proposed merger of the school into the University of Missouri system was officially terminated.

President Dean Hubbard of Northwest Missouri and President Elson Floyd of the UM system met in Kansas City on Thursday and decided to focus their attention on the financial aspect of their institutions, the Associated Press said Friday.

Teens battle it out for rapper clout

To the high beat of drums, fly peeps had fun getting crunked up and getting it done, finding the words to win under the disco lights Friday night in the third annual Rock the Mike Competition.

Competition is hype and with $30 up in the air for the first prize winner, the rap battles were fast and furious and not a place for the weak of heart or rhyme.

Toys for Tots program boosted by parade

An eclectic parade honoring Hickman High School’s state champion football team and raising awareness of the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys For Tots program rolled through downtown Columbia on Eighth and Walnut streets Saturday afternoon.

The parade was promoted by Y107 radio personalities Cosmo and JC, whose show airs from 5:30 to 10 on weekday mornings.

Army taps MU as recruiting test site

Uncle Spam — er, make that Uncle Sam — wants you.

That is, if you’re a senior at MU or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign he does. Using prerecorded telephone messages and e-mail, the Army began a recruiting test project on both campuses Tuesday aimed at about 12,000 seniors and the occasional graduate student.

For some, it’s a gift to share

Shiny red and green packages clad with ribbons and bows slowly filled up the bed of Virgi Martin’s rusty pickup.

“God bless you!” she said over her shoulder as volunteers finished loading the gifts and wished her a merry Christmas.

Roadwork priorities identified

Three Columbia highway projects have been identified unanimously by members of the Columbia Area Transportation Study Organization as priorities the state ought to pursue. The state expects to take in $400 million in revenue during the next several years as a result of voters’ approval of Amendment 3.

Of 11 projects cited in a resolution approved by the City Council, members of the CATSO Coordinating Committee decided Thursday to declare three to be priorities. Those include the reconstruction and widening of U.S. 763, also known as Range Line Street, from Big Bear Boulevard to U.S. 63 and an extension of Stadium Boulevard on the east side of the city from U.S. 63 to Interstate 70 near Lake of the Woods.

Sapp development stymied amid zoning concerns

Two weeks after proposing a joint planning and zoning process between Boone County and the city of Columbia, representatives of developer Billy Sapp are expressing reservations about the plan.

At a Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission work session Thursday night, Sapp spokesman Don Stamper said he and his boss are concerned about requirements in the county’s process that do not have to be met in the city’s process.

Democrats look to future elections

After a disappointing election season, local Democrats say they are looking to the future and that their support has only grown stronger.

The Boone County Central Democratic Committee held a public meeting at the Daniel Boone Library Thursday night to get feedback from members of the community and to strategize for future campaigns.

McCaskill happy with job as auditor

JEFFERSON CITY — Claire McCaskill, the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Missouri governor, is happy with her job as state auditor and plans to pursue re-election to the office in 2006.

“A campaign like that is a little bit like childbirth,” McCaskill said Wednesday about her bid for governor. “You have the baby, and it’s so painful, and you think, ‘I don’t know if I ever want to go near my husband again.’”

North Pole just a phone call away

For one day this year, jolly old St. Nick will answer phone calls from children in Columbia.

Columbia Parks and Recreation and Paquin Tower will co-sponsor the Santa Hotline on Saturday. Children ages 3 to 10 can call the “North Pole” from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to speak with Santa, Mrs. Claus or one of the elves.

Mo. Rep. Bishop dies at 35 of illness

JEFFERSON CITY — State Rep. Dan Bishop of Kansas City died Thursday in Arizona after an illness, House colleagues said. He was 35.

Mr. Bishop, a Democrat, won the election in November to a second term from District 38 in Clay County, and colleagues had recently elected him vice chairman of their House caucus.

Best of the Vine

Spitting is appropriate when it comes to deciding America’s top wines.

Wine testers are in Columbia at MU’s Eckles Hall this week to distinguish the top wines for the fifth annual Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition. From a pool of 500 wines, less than 1 percent of the wines will receive the award in final judging today.