SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City Explorers continue to find creative ways to bring fans to Lewis & Clark Park.
Every year, the team hires college interns who oversee season-long promotions, ranging from concession stand sales and prize giveaways, to mascot races and t-shirt tosses.
Last year, the X's season was cancelled due to COVID-19. For Connor Ryan, the team's director of media relations, having fans returning to games this year is a sign that things are getting back to normal.
"In terms of the actual baseball games, it feels like sort of back to normal," Ryan said. "But this year definitely feels bigger in the fact that it's back and we're getting back to normalcy."
This year, the team continues to offer on-field and in-stand promotions. Among the fan favorites are "Race the Mascot" and "Candy Fling." With the former, fans compete in foot races with the team mascot, a black dog named Slider.
On top of the season-long promotions, the Explorers offers special game day promotions. One of the most popular has been "Thirsty Thursday," a buy one, get one free special on beer or Pepsi fountain drinks during Thursday games.
Fans also turn out for free merchandise and other items. During "Free Shirt Friday," t-shirts of X's players are given away during Friday games.
"We actually see those t-shirts quite a bit when they come back to the ballpark," Ryan said. "It's a way for them to show off their team fandom when they come back to another game."
This season also features a new twist. Typically, every Wednesday, hot dogs are sold for only $1. Now every night, there will be prizes located in randomly wrapped hot dogs.
"What we're trying to do is get you to buy a hot dog," Ryan said.
And, for Saturday home games, fans have the chance to win a 65-inch flat screen television.
The Explorers have had a dedicated fanbase that follow the team year in and year out since the team was founded in 1993. But Ryan understands that most fans don't go for the baseball, but for the other entertainment and the family-friendly atmosphere.
"You have your die-hard fans that come to a game and they sit there to watch the nine innings of baseball," Ryan said. "A handful of fans are like that."
"The majority of fans, however, could tell you who won or lost, but they wouldn't be able to tell you the final score. They were there for the social interaction and the promotions."
Ryan says that the purpose for all of these promotions is to increase fan interest and keep them coming to the ballpark. But he realizes that some promos might not generate fan interest.
"Sometimes you try to throw a promotion at a wall and see if it sticks and if it doesn't, then you just move on," he said. "But you've always got to be willing to try and shake it up."
WINNEBAGO, Neb. -- A mask mandate has been reinstated on the Winnebago Reservation to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska said in a post on its Facebook page that masks are required for all indoors in public buildings and places of business within the exterior boundaries of the reservation.
During a meeting Monday, the Winnebago Tribal Council voted 6 to 1 to reinstate the mask mandate.
According to a report from Twelve Clans Unity Hospital, as of Monday, there were 12 active cases of the virus on the reservation and six households in quarantine.
On June 25, the Winnebago Public Health Department reported that 70% of community members ages 12 and up had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. Tribal officials touted the vaccination rate as the highest in the state.
The new mask mandate comes as the highly contagious delta variant spreads rapidly across the country. Cases in the U.S. are up around 70% compared to the previous week, hospital admissions have climbed about 36% and deaths rose by 26%, in what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director on Friday called the "pandemic of the unvaccinated."
Nebraska posted its fourth straight weekly increase in COVID-19 cases last week, recording 690 new cases in the week ending Thursday. That was up from 489 the previous week, according to CDC data analyzed by The Omaha World-Herald.
The state's 41% case growth for the week was still only 40th among states, largely because cases are surging across the country. The U.S. as a whole logged 39,700 cases Friday, averaging 29,600 new cases a day on a seven-day moving average. That's up from just under 11,500 cases a day a month ago. South Dakota was the only state in the nation that did not see an increase last week.
Iowa had the nation's seventh-largest growth in cases last week, its weekly numbers up 93%. But both Nebraska and Iowa have relatively low per capita case rates, at roughly half of the U.S. rate. And both continue to tally cases at far lower rates than they did last fall.
Julie Anderson of the Omaha World Herald contributed to this story.