Two teenagers walk alongside the pool at the Beatrice Big Blue Water Park. They wear shorts and sweatshirts in the gloom of Thursday’s 50 degree weather.
When the pool opens on Saturday, Callen Behrends and Ian Scheele will carry the gear of lifeguards, but for now, they’re two of the many on clean up duty. They help wax the slides and clean debris from the water—ringed by the sights, familiar to them, of diving boards and picnic tables.
It’s where Behrends first learned to swim when he was 4 years old. Scheele, a recent graduate of Beatrice High School, learned to swim at the Beatrice YMCA, but they hold something in common: Donna Arena was their teacher.
As manager of the water park, Arena is now both of their bosses.
“Having her be our swimming teacher and now our boss is exciting,” said Scheele, who’s worked for the water park for four years. “Donna is a great boss. She really makes us all feel like a family.”
People are also reading…
Behrends, a 15-year-old, is new to the pool staff. He said Arena helped instill a passion for the water in him.
“I’ve always wanted to be a lifeguard,” he said. “I’ve been swimming ever since I learned how… It’s nice to know Donna will always have our backs.”
Arena, Behrends and Scheele are all looking forward to the water park opening for the summer. This Saturday, as the week’s cold and rain turns to partly cloudy, 90 degree days this weekend, the park will throw open its gates.
The park will stay open seven days per week, from 12 to 7 p.m., weather permitting.
Arena said the park has a couple of new picnic tables this year, but everything else is recognizable from previous years. She said she’s looking forward to the rush of patrons, especially the kids.
“Just the excited faces when the kids walk in,” she said. “They’re always laughing and giggling. They’re ready to swim.”
The water park will see from 200 to 300 visitors on any given warm day, Arena said. With the higher numbers, she said the pool can at times be a hectic space. But in all the flailing limbs and splashing water, Arena finds familiar faces.
“While I’m walking around the deck, they’ll say, ‘Hey Donna! Look, I’ve progressed since last year,’” she said. “I’ve been here for long enough that they know me, and they want to show me what they can do… It’s so exciting because you see someone who can’t swim at all, and they conquer their fears.”
Scheele, who’s come full circle since his early days learning to swim from Arena, has become a teacher in his own right.
“I’m excited to see all the kids again,” Scheele said. “It’s fun because a lot of the same ones come, and you build a relationships with them. I’m also excited to get back to teaching swimming lessons.”
Prices for the park are no charge for kids aged 3 and under. Youth between 4 and 17 can get in for $5. Adults 18 and above must pay $6 at the gates, and entry for grandparents costs $3. The park charges $2 for its twilight hours, between 5 and 7 p.m.
Arena stressed that children 5 and under in the pool should be within arm’s reach of their guardians at all times.