Summer Bucket List

As you start filling your summer up with events save a spot for a stop in Kearney. Whether you come from hundreds of miles away or are looking for fun close to home, set your sites (and your GPS) on Kearney this summer.

Kearney delivers a variety of experiences, from outdoor recreation and sporting events to concerts and outdoor markets. With all those options decisions can be difficult, so we compiled a list of the 7 must-do events to add to your summer ‘Bucket List’.

Buffalo County Fair 2019 – July 24-29
  1. Buffalo County Fair – When you say summer, one of the first things that pops into my head is walking down the midway to get my ‘fair food’ fix. There is way more to the Buffalo County Fair than funnel cakes! But that is a personal highlight. Also topping that list, concerts are a big draw during fair time. This year you can take your pick from artists, Rodney Carrington, Rodney Atkins with Locash or the Midwestern rock band, Red Wanting Blue. Lastly, what fair is complete without a ride on the Ferris Wheel?! The carnival is open for six days for you and your kiddos to enjoy.
  2. Kearney Water Trail – One of the first of its kind in Nebraska, the Kearney Water Trail is 2.3 miles of easy and enjoyable float through town, with public access points at the northeast corner of Yanney Park off 11th Street and along Central Avenue behind Midway Auto. Bring your own kayak or rent one at from Kearney Paddle Sports. Just call ahead to make your reservation.
    UPDATE July 2019 – Due to recent flood the water trail is closed until further notice.
  3. An Outdoor Performance – I love it when the arts and outdoors come together! Bring a lawn chair and enjoy one of the many free concerts/performances we have this summer. The Rockin’ the Bricks concert series in Downtown Kearney brings great music, food and drinks, and lots of shopping and activities for the whole family. Or hit up the Concerts in the Park series, a summer tradition 40 years in the making, Sunday evenings at Harmon Park.

Lastly, your ‘bucket-list’ will not be complete without taking in the outdoor performances by the Crane River Theater Company. This year they will be performing ‘You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown’ at Yanney Park Amphitheater. It is sure to be fun for the whole family!

  1. Splash Pads – Hot days and splash pads, what a perfect combination! There are multiple locations around town to splash around! Cool off this summer at Yanney Heritage Park, Nina Hammer Park, East Brooke Park or Dryden Park.
  1. Cunningham’s on the Lake – Summer nights sitting on a patio with a cold beverage, looking out on the water…does it get any better than that?! If that sounds like your kind of fun, we have just the place. Cunningham’s Journal on the Lake opened last summer and has instantly became a local favorite. Kick back, relax and choose from over 45 different local and regional brews or craft cocktails. With great food and unique atmosphere, you definitely don’t want to miss this one!
    UPDATE July 2019 – Due to recent flood Cunningham’s on the Lake is closed until further notice. In the meantime, visit their downtown location for great food, outdoor garden and other events.
  1. Nebraska Firefighters Museum and Education Center – You can’t leave town without taking in some local history, and the Firefighters Museum is just the place. Their mission is to safeguard and preserve Nebraska’s proud firefighting heritage. Experience antique fire trucks and equipment, and enjoy hands-on with their fire prevention exhibits and activities.

This summer the Firefighters Museum will be celebrating their 10 year anniversary! (also Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday) Join the celebration, August 17th! There will be a Fire Truck Show & Shine, BBQ competition, kids games, entertainment, demonstrations and more.

  1. Kearney Night Market – Gather downtown “on the bricks” Thursday nights this summer for the Kearney Night Market. Celebrate local entrepreneurship while enjoying Kearney’s historic downtown. At the Night Market, you’ll find everything from a Beer Garden, fresh food, craft vendors, coffee, Sno Cones, BBQ, and much more!

Tourism Matters in Buffalo County

It’s National Travel and Tourism Week and Kearney, along with other communities across the country celebrate how travel matters to American jobs, economic growth and personal well-being. This year’s theme, “Travel Matters,” highlights the innumerable ways in which travel makes up our community culture and economy.

Tourism is Nebraska’s 3rd largest industry and supports over 36,000 jobs and generate $3 billion in annual spending. Buffalo County is the 4th largest convention location behind Omaha, Lincoln & Sarpy County. Kearney’s diversification depends on our vibrant and healthy tourism industry.  Tourism in Buffalo County supports over 1,600 jobs creating $115 million in annual tourism spending for Buffalo County.

“Tourism is seen every week in Kearney by way of people traveling here for sports tournaments, special events, conventions or to just visit,” stated Roger Jasnoch, Director of the Kearney Visitors Bureau.  Kearney is fortunate to be the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World, hosting 600,000 Sandhill Cranes each year during their migration and to be located on Interstate 80, one of the busiest interstates in America.

Kearney is home to 1,800 hotel rooms and nearly 300,000 square feet of convention and event space. We are excited to welcome construction of a new Holiday Inn with over 100,000 square feet of attached convention space. The convention business is the cornerstone of Kearney’s hospitality industry.  In addition, the sports market has exploded in recent years. This is a result of venues like, the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, UNK and area high schools increasing our ability to host larger and more frequent events.

Buffalo County has over a dozen attractions ranging from historical, cultural and family friendly, thanks to places such as Fort Kearny State Historical Park & Recreation Area, Museum of Nebraska Art, The Archway, Kearney Area Children’s Museum and the Classic Car Collection. In addition, Kearney has numerous sport and event venues; in fact, sporting events is one of the fastest growing markets in Kearney.  Kearney “IS” the epic center for travel and tourism in Central Nebraska.

The first full week of May is annually recognized as National Travel and Tourism Week, a tradition first celebrated in 1984. It was established as National Tourism Week when the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution in 1983 designating the week to be celebrated in May. In a White House ceremony, President Ronald Reagan signed a Presidential Proclamation urging citizens to observe the week. Localized events are presented in cities, states and travel businesses nationwide to champion the power of travel.

Travel bloggers Steve and Ann Teget of show you 20 things to do in Kearney while you’re waiting on the cranes

By Steve Teget

Sitting in the blind you’re amazed at the noise coming from the river. The cranes get louder and more frenzied, reaching a crescendo you simply weren’t expecting. Suddenly, tens of thousands of huge birds take to the air, wings flapping, the squeaking even louder now. You watch as the flocks head off toward the fields nearby for a full day of feeding. Your heart pounding in your chest, you slowly realize that you’ve just witnessed one of the most amazing spectacles in all of nature.

sandhill cranes

And then, you start to wonder what you’re going to do for the next twelve hours until the cranes return to the river. Well, not to worry, there are plenty of things to do in Kearney, Nebraska, while you wait for the cranes. In fact, we put together a list of 20 fun things to do while you’re there. We’d like to thank the Kearney Visitors Bureau for hosting us and sponsoring this post.

Read more…

NSAA State Speech Returns to Kearney

By Deb Velder, NSAA Associate Director

The NSAA State Speech Championships hosted in Kearney have literally stood the test of time.  From tornados, power outages, blizzards, hail storms, balmy weather, the wind, and even sunny days, the support of the Kearney community has not wavered from their mission in providing the best experience for students, coaches, judges, volunteers and spectators.

Students stand by to see if they made the finals.

Over the two day event, close to 3,000 individuals find their way across the UNK campus in support of the activity.  Numerous buildings and many, many speaking rooms are needed and UNK graciously opens their doors for this event.

The hard work and dedication of individuals such as Lynelle Fritzen, Jake Jacobsen and Aaron Blackman are cornerstones to the success of this event in Kearney.

6 January Events to Hit

By Krystal Webster

Start 2019 off right with these six Kearney events. Check our event calendar for more!

#1 First Day Hike
Hit the trail for a 500 to 600-yard hike at Fort Kearny State Recreation Area. Meet at the trailhead and come prepared with winter appropriate clothing and items. Bring your four-legged friend along (must remain on a six-foot maximum leash).
Make sure to stick around for some hot chocolate!

Tuesday, January 1
Fort Kearny State Recreation Area

#2 The Blacklist Season 6 Premiere Party
Celebrate with us as we kick-off season 6 of The Blacklist with a FREE special double episode at The World Theatre. Tickets are required for entry and can be ordered online at

Cocktail and hor d’oeuvres from 6:00pm-7:00pm with the screening at 7:30pm, followed by a talkback with The Blacklist creator and Kearney-native Jon Bokenkamp.

Thursday, January 3
The World Theatre

#3 Home & Builder Show
This show has products for every aspect of the home building process including outdoor landscaping. This is a wonderful display of the latest products in the industry. No matter what your home budget is, there is something for the basic spec home to the most custom project you are working on. Admission is $5.

January 11-13
Friday: 1:00pm-7:00pm  Saturday: 10:00am-7:00pm  Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm
Buffalo County Fairgrounds

#4 Tri-City Storm Hockey
The Kearney community is the proud home of Storm Hockey, a Tier I junior ice hockey team in the USHL. January brings in three weekends of home games to the Viaero Center, facing off against the Waterloo Blackhawks, the Muskegon Lumberjacks and the Youngstown Phantoms.

$17 for standard seating for adults, $10 for children 12 and under, children 3 and under are free.

vs. Blackhawks: January 11 & 12 at 7:05pm
vs. Lumberjacks: January 18 & 19 at 7:05pm
vs. Phantoms: January 25 at 7:05pm
Viaero Center

#5 RV & Boat Show
This show brings in some of the best family vacation products known to man: RV’s and Boats. Three full days of the best variety in the industry, including fishing seminars, golf instruction, camping, kayaking and boating displays.

January 25-27
Friday: 12:00pm-8:00pm  Saturday: 10:00am-8:00pm  Sunday: 10:00am-5:00pm
Buffalo County Fairgrounds

#6 Crane River Theater’s 10th Birthday Bash
Let’s Party! The evening will feature a sneak peek into the season ahead, a look back at shows of the past, hors d’oeuvres, cake and a complimentary champagne toast. They will also be honoring an outstanding individual, business and organization with the annual Taking Flight Awards.

If you’ve ever attended a Crane River Theater production, come share your memories and find out what’s in store for the year to come! Tickets at

Thursday, January 31
The World Theatre



A Traveler’s Guide of the Sandhill Crane Migration

By LeAnna Brown

Most people, especially travelers, have bucket lists of things they want to do and explore.  Some are big items, some are small, but none the less, they are usually something that they know will leave a lasting impression and memory in their minds for years and years to follow. If you live in Nebraska (shoot, even if you don’t!), if you don’t have “See the Sandhill Crane Migration” on your bucket list, you are doing yourself a disservice!

This often overlooked and underrated annual event is majestic, beautiful, inspiring and everything you need to look at Nebraska travel in a whole new light.

Find out why you need to go this year, where to stay, when to go and more at this “A Traveler’s Complete Guide to the Sandhill Crane Migration in Kearney, Nebraska” article!

Adventures with Sandy Crane

Sandy has been hard at work preparing for the Sandhill Crane Migration. Lucky for you, we’ll keep you updated on what she’s been doing…

Friday, October 26
I am super excited “trill, trill” to show everyone the fresh off the press 2019 Crane Watch Brochure. I shared them with my friends at the Kearney Chamber, Rowe Sanctuary, Fort Kearny and random campers from Oregon.

My relatives will be returning in March and I can’t wait, “flapping of wings”.



Tuesday, October 30

I thought I would watch some home videos of my friends as I wait for them to get here! In just a short few months, this Platte River will be singing again!


The Incredible Sandhill Crane Migration

By Mark Gordon,

In early March we drove to Nebraska, picked up my sister in Lincoln, and then went on to Kearney to see the great Sandhill Crane migration.

If you’ve never heard of the migration don’t feel bad. I grew up in Nebraska and until last year, I was completely unaware of it.

The amazing thing is, it’s one of the greatest animal migrations on earth. Thousands of Sandhill Cranes begin arriving along the Platte River in late February and stay through March. At night they sleep in the River because it offers protection from predators (The Platte, as the pioneers said, is a “mile wide and an inch deep”).  The sound of an animal approaching through the water is a giveaway and the birds can quickly take flight.

We made arrangements to visit a blind along the river in the early morning (think getting up at 5 a.m.). It was a foggy, moonless morning and going out to the blind was something of a test of our dedication. The pathway is unlit (the better not to disturb the cranes) and even the guides admitted it was the blackest night/morning they could recall.

How dark?

Dark enough that had a woman standing in front of me not been wearing a light-colored jacket I would have been hopelessly lost. Dark enough that if I held my hands up in front of my eyes I still couldn’t see them.

As it was, I couldn’t shake the image of one person at the front of the line veering off into the river and all of us following to form a massive pileup in the Platte. The headline would read: 15 bird watchers drown in freak accident after getting lost on path.

The Crane Dance. The Cranes leap into the air, giving themselves extra lift with their wings. They frequently use their beaks to grab a piece of corn stalk, grass or whatever else seems handy and then toss it into the air while leaping.

We shuffled into the blind feeling our way along the wall. They told us there were benches on one side and windows on the other. We touched our way to the benches and then waited for the dim light to show us more than the outlines of the windows. It was a long wait.

Finally, in the dim light I spotted something on the river. Too dark to be sure with my own eyes, I set the camera for a long exposure and took a shot. I knew it would be blurry and unusable, but perhaps I could at least verify the bird sitting in the river.

It worked. And, as I looked at the image on the back of the camera I spotted the familiar white and black neck and head of…you guessed it…a Canada Goose.

In fact, by the time the sun came through the clouds, the cranes had already left the river for the surrounding cornfields. No worry though – there were plenty of cranes to see during the day.

How many are there? At the peak, we’re talking several hundred thousand birds – all congregating in a 75-mile stretch of the Platte River valley. They sleep in the river and then at sunrise or just before  the sun comes up, they fan out to the surrounding countryside, where they feed. The harvested cornfields along the river provide perfect feeding grounds for the cranes, which forage for grain left in the fields and anything else they can eat.

During the day the cranes fan out to the surrounding cornfields and gorge themselves, fattening up for the long flight north.

The birds repeat the routine for a month or so, fattening up for their flight north to their breeding grounds, which can range from Minnesota to Alaska, Canada and even Siberia.  Like Hawks, Eagles and Vultures they soar on thermals, which conserves energy.

I’ve read that under the right conditions, the thick flocks of cranes can make the normally invisible patterns of the thermals visible as they ride the wind.

As spectacular as the Crane Dance is, I noticed that the other birds often seem indifferent to the display. Perhaps the women are sending them a message that the men don’t quite understand?

The birds do perform an interesting dance, leaping and throwing corn stalks, grass or other debris in the air. Although it’s referred to as a mating dance and that, apparently is its primary purpose, I’ve read the Cranes often dance even when they are not trying to attract a mate.

The migration has been taking place for millions of years. Yes, that’s right – millions of years. A fossil found in the Platte dates back some 10 million years ago. Although if you want to be a stickler for accuracy, it was probably an ancestor of today’s genus and not identical to the species we see today. On the other hand though, the oldest fossil of what is clearly a Sandhill Crane is still 2.5 million years old.

As I was watching the cranes land I was struck by how primitive and dinosaur-like they appear. They don’t cruise in like most birds, but follow a maneuver that I can only describe as “falling” from the sky. They form their wings into something like a parachute and basically just allow themselves to drop out of the sky. I could really imagine seeing a Pterodactyl doing this.

That’s a little hard for me to grasp. The dawn of modern man is placed between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago in Africa. Some researchers believe man may have arrived in the Americas as early as 50,000 years ago. Others put it much later

That still leaves the cranes here for 2,450,000 years before man set foot on the continent; and if you include the earlier fossil species, we’re talking about 9.95 million years before man arrived in the Americas.

Times like that are almost impossible for me to fathom. The contrast is remarkable. The earliest archeological records date the first semi-permanent residents of the Platte to about 1,000 years ago.

A blink of the eye to the Cranes.


My First Experience With the Sandhill Crane Migration

By Ann Teget, Postcard Jar

My husband Steve and I travel the U.S. and the world, writing about our experiences on a blog at As a native Nebraskan, I’d heard about the annual migration of more than half a million Sandhill Cranes just a few hours from my home in southeast Nebraska. But for some reason, I’d never taken the time to pull off Interstate 80 and watch these incredible birds or learn about the annual migration that brings them right through the heart of our country and the middle of my home state.

Then, in 2016, for the first time and at age 47, I experienced the cranes’ decent on the Platte River. As I watched and listened from a blind at Rowe Sanctuary near Kearney, all I could think to myself, was why hadn’t I done this before?

Read all about my first Sandhill Crane experience and see why it ranks among my top travel experiences of all time.

Read More Here.


Ann Teget and her husband, Steve, are a married couple who are making the most of midlife. They write authentic stories about extraordinary travel. You can follow along on all of their journeys at or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Painting the Blue Line at NSAA State Cross Country

By Brady Bonsall
UNK Track & Field/Cross Country Head Coach

Every fall, as I am painting the long blue line at the Kearney Country Club, I can’t help but remember my first state cross country meet in 1989. At the base of the hill just east of the 15th tee box, I was hanging on for dear life in third place. By the time we reached the top of that hill, somehow I was in the lead and there was only one kilometer to go. Winning that race as a junior in my first year running cross country was pivotal in determining the trajectory of my life.

NSAA State Cross Country

Although the course was changed in the fall of 1991 to create a more spectator-friendly finish, and the athletes now run down the 15th fairway much earlier in the race, most of the blue line that I paint is the same line the Lyle Clausen painted thirty years ago.

This will be my twelfth year serving as one of the army of volunteers for an event that annually brings competitors from around the entire state on a Friday in late October. The coordination of efforts, including the contributions of many who have been part of this event much longer than me, highlights a major strength of our community as we are big enough to host an event like this but small enough to have so many community members involved, including a great number of student-athletes and athletic training students from UNK.

NSAA State Cross Country

A few times, our ability to complete the set-up process has been in doubt. One time, setting up the fence involved digging through several inches of snow with our hands at every corner to find the blue line. Another time, it was cold and raining all day with about a 30-40 mph wind. That was the day I forgot to use the parking brake on my gator, the wind pushed the gator down a hill, and it came a few feet from ending up in the lake. I was working solo that day, though, so nobody knows about that one! Amazingly, the weather for race day has usually been manageable. Our hope is for the perfect day with the temperature in the 50s, cloudy, and no wind.

As always, I look forward to getting away from my office, painting the long blue line, putting up the fence and signs, and welcoming the state of Nebraska to the city of Kearney!