An hour before their wedding, Jacob and Maddison Tejral had to make their first tough call as a couple.
The February 2019 blizzard had arrived, their party bus had just canceled and some of the groom’s extended family was stuck 40-some miles away in Lincoln, where their reception was supposed to begin in a few hours.
They and their wedding party were at the Alma Lutheran Church in Mead. When the party bus canceled, they knew driving to the Pla Mor Ballroom in Lincoln in whiteout conditions wasn’t going to happen.
“It meant the roads were not safe for people to be out on,” Maddison said. “We had to make a quick decision to have our reception somewhere.”
That’s when seemingly the whole town of Mead came to their rescue.
Maddison’s mom, Kristen Nygren, called the Mead Fire Department, where, a few years earlier, the building had been remodeled, with firetrucks and ambulances on one side and rooms for special occasions on the other.
Scott Selko, the president of the volunteer fire department, and his wife, Dalene, who books the fire hall, jumped into action.
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“I called my daughter Keshia, and said there’s going to be a change of plans,” Dalene Selko said. “We’re going to the firehouse to get it ready.”
Keshia’s husband, Lyle Havelka, knew of a DJ who lived in town. Another Mead resident, Judy Rasmus, didn’t know the couple, but volunteered to make two cakes.
They used tables and white tablecloths stored at the firehouse to set up the reception. There was some liquor left over from a recent wild game feed and Mead Days, and others in town pitched in so the newlyweds could have a bar.
They were able to catch their caterer, Starvin’ Marvin’s BBQ in Wahoo, before the driver left for Lincoln with reception food; owner Ken Houfek delivered it to the fire hall.
“When they got there, it was just like they had planned,” Dalene Selko said. “People just started showing up and getting it done. We would help anybody in a small town like this.”
Back at the church, Maddison said her and Jacob’s meltdown about the reception ended quickly. They were able to concentrate on the ceremony itself.
They’d invited around 550 people, but only 150 to 200 made it through the snow.
“When I saw all the people at the church, I just said: ‘This is the real important part,’ ” Maddison said.
After the ceremony, Pastor Andrew Deitzel announced that the reception had been moved. Wedding guests were giving the couple details about the new party plans in the receiving line.
The fire department stepped in and provided a party “bus” with an ambulance, driven by Mike Coyle. Everyone in the wedding party climbed aboard for the four-block trip.
After they arrived at the fire hall, DJ Jason Lee introduced himself and quizzed them for information for a speech. Rod and Peggy Wimer helped the Selkos, Havelkas and others to serve food and tend bar.
Coyle and volunteer firemen Adam Miller, Joel Konecky and George Robertson kept sidewalks clear throughout the night.
“It’s all about community coming together,” Maddison said. “None of it was possible if it wasn’t for the Mead Fire Department.”
The Tejrals said the party continued until close to midnight; some guests had nowhere else to go in the worsening conditions. About 13 people spent the night on pew cushions in the basement of the church.
Coyle and Nick Raver plowed a route all the way into the country so Maddison’s grandpa, Leland Nygren, could host some guests. Maddison and Jacob spent the night at the Selkos’ home.
The next day, the Pla Mor opened its ballroom for a second reception. They’d already decorated, and the wedding cakes had been delivered on Saturday morning before the storm. The rest of Jacob’s family got to be part of the fun.
Neighbors Jay and Jenna Hanson plowed driveways to make sure people from Mead could make it to Lincoln, too.
“We just had snacks and cakes and we did our first dance,” Maddison said. “It was very casual. I got to wear my wedding dress twice and Jacob wore his tux.”
The couple, who met at Chadron State and now live in Pleasant Dale, can’t believe how it all turned out. It will be a story for their grandchildren some day.
“I’m going to tell them how special it was,” Maddison said. “What we thought was the worst day became the best day. We wouldn’t change any of it at all.”