By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
“Living the Dream” is the theme of this year’s Chase County Fair Parade Aug. 16. The Grand Marshals, Jeff and Connie Pribbeno, can point to their family history that makes that dream a reality for many in Chase County.
Ancestors on both sides of the family have been very active in ranching, business and organizations since the first one arrived in 1888. Jeff and Connie have continued that tradition.
It all started when Sherman and Susie McCoy, farmers from Iowa, homesteaded 12 miles north of Imperial on the family ranch in 1888. Sherm had ridden a train to the end of the tracks at Elsie, then walked 30 miles to find his land. He then built a sod house and brought his new bride out.
Five children were born on the McCoy Ranch, including Mary, who married Alfred Oscar (Bud) Stenger.
In 1938 Bud and Mary moved to the ranch to live. It then became the Stenger Ranch, where they raised daughter Babette.
The Pribbeno name was grafted onto the Stenger Ranch when Bill Pribbeno escorted Babs Stenger Damon to a party and was proposed to by her daughter, Lori.
Bill was a farmer on the South Divide. He and Bud formed Stenger-Pribbeno Ltd. in 1965.
A little later than that, Mello and Katie Langenfeld moved from Iowa to Imperial to establish Midwest Sales and Service, followed by Midwest Farm and Auto Tire, Chief Power Caterpillar and Langenfeld Motors.
They parented two daughters and four sons, including Connie.
Connie and Jeff began dating their sophomore year at Chase County High School, and married in 1974. Jeff attended Doane College for a year before joining Connie at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He obtained an agricultural economics degree in 1976, while she received her degree in education in 1977.
Then they returned to Chase County.
“We saw an opportunity for a growth potential and a bright future for Chase County,” Connie said. It was at that time that center pivot irrigation really took off.
“I wanted to be involved in the family business,” Jeff added.
That family business has changed names several times, due to the fact that the ranch has been passed down on the maternal side of the family.
The McCoy Ranch was renamed Lone Star Ranch for the schoolhouse across the road.
When Bill and Babs were married in 1965, it became the Stenger-Pribbeno Ranch. When Jeff and Connie took over, they changed the name to Wine Glass, honoring a brand Bud had bought, to give the ranch a permanent name.
Jeff and Connie still actively run the ranch, with son Logan as operations manager. He and wife Brianna moved back to Imperial from California for that purpose.
Son Max and wife Emma live in Windsor, Colo., where he is a production associate at Cornerstone Home Lending and she is a veterinary technician at Fort Collins Vet Emergency and Rehab.
Wine Glass Ranch has won many conservation awards, and was also recognized by Ak-Sar-Ben as a 100-year ranch, being in the same family for 100 years.
In addition to the ranch, Jeff established Imperial Beef in 1996 with three other partners, and sold it to the Foote family in 2007.
He also established Open Country Adventures in 2004, which promotes guided pheasant hunts on his property. “After the 2002 drought I was looking for a business that didn’t rely on rainfall,” he noted.
OK, that was the history lesson.
Bud Stenger founded the rural fire department, was involved in rural school consolidation and was active in the Nebraska Stock Growers and Nebraska Wheat Growers Association.
Bill Pribbeno served in the Navy, was a partial and then full owner of First State Bank and traveled to Africa to sell wheat as a member of the Nebraska Wheat Growers Association. His biggest love was Imperial Rotary, Jeff noted.
Mel and Katie Langenfeld were both very active in Imperial Lions Club, Imperial Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce and St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
Katie was a registered nurse at both Chase County Community Hospital and Imperial Manor. She volunteered to take blood pressures at Imperial Community Center and was on the Imperial Library Board.
Jeff and Connie have also been very active in the community. Jeff’s primary interest has been his 40 years on the Imperial Airport Authority. He has also been president of the Young Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Cattlemen and Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation, and has been a member of the LEAD program and Nebraska Wheat Growers Association.
Connie was a teacher at Champion Grade School for seven years before teaching kindergarten at Imperial Grade School for 20 years.
Her list of community activities is too long to list. However, she has been president of the Nebraska Reading Association, helped found the Imperial Grade School Foundation Science Camp, was an Imperial Migrant School teacher and belonged to many education associations as well as many Imperial organizations that involve children.
She and Jeff were very active in Chase County’s centennial, he from the aerial end and she from the board end.
Jeff sees the future of Chase County as a food center for the area.
“I envision our growth as food processing, not just food production but the next level,” he explained.
“We have to continue to add growth to attract young couples to the area. Irrigation and livestock development have been doing that, but now we need to go to the next level.
“Our wealth is in the people who work here and in sharing the knowledge of business owners. We’re very progressive and encourage that,” he stated.
Connie wants to see “the same kind of growth and success of future generations as we enjoyed during the time we spent here.”
Jeff accepted the invitation to be Grand Marshal of the fair parade, although he considers himself a very private person.
“With Logan back I started to think of the culmination of our careers. We’re not done but I reflected back and being the Grand Marshal of the parade is a recognition of that,” he said.
So, what is “Living the Dream?” For Jeff, it’s “Being able to live in a small community and work in conjunction with Mother Nature.”
Former teacher Connie’s focus was on youth. “We’ve raised our children in an environment where they are safe, well educated and given a great start in life.”