Inside the Tourism Industry – Pt 1

Located in the heart of Nebraska, Kearney’s central location and proximity to I-80 has made it a destination for travelers, family reunions and many events and conventions. Kearney is a great place full of attractions and history, but one of the best features is the people!

Tourism in Buffalo County helps our community in many ways, bringing people into our attractions and businesses as well as providing approximately 1,600 jobs in Buffalo County. Take a look inside the tourism industry as we introduce you to some of the people that are helping make tourism thrive in our community.

First up is Mark Foradori, the Marketing Coordinator at Kearney’s most visited attraction, the Archway. Let’s learn a little more about Mark and how tourism affects his work.

How many years have you been working in the tourism industry?
I have volunteered and been employed by non-profit organizations that help attract tourism to Kearney for about 20 years.

What role does tourism play in your job?
Tourism is absolutely vital to my current job as Marketing Coordinator at the Archway.  Between 50,000 and 60,000 people stop at the Archway every year and we welcome visitors from all over the world.  About 70% of the people who visit the Archway come from out of town and stop at the Archway to learn about our local history.  While they are here, we talk with them to find out where they are from, help them with their travel plans, and tell them about dining options, cultural events, and activities they might like in the Kearney area.

What makes Kearney such a great destination to visit?
Kearney is truly rich in history, culture, and creative activities for visitors of all ages.  From the Archway, to MONA, to the Classic Car Collection to the Trails and Rails Museum, and the Kearney Area Children’s Museum, to name only a few, Kearney has a tremendous range of activities to choose from.  Kearney residents generously support all these organizations and they attract visitors from all over the state and the country.  These organizations make Kearney a culturally vibrant community and, as an industry, make a significant contribution to our local economy.

Beyond the cultural organizations, Kearney has a wealth of great dining and nightlife opportunities.  We have smart coffee shops like Kitt’s and Barista’s; unique, locally owned lunch stops like Tru Café and the Food Truck Café, and a variety of dining options, from Thai cuisine at Suwanee, to the traditional Midwest menu at Alley Rose and the locally sourced, innovative selections at Sozo’s.  Visitors can enjoy live entertainment at Cunningham’s or Platte Valley Brewery.  See the films that the rest of the country is talking about at the World Theater or catch nationally renowned musical performers with the Kearney Concert Association at the Merryman Center.

Of course, Kearney’s hospitality community is second to none.  We have so many choices for hotel and motel accommodations.  The conference and convention accommodations are excellent.  The standards for customer service are exceptional.  And, Kearney’s location in the center of the state makes it the ideal meeting place for conferences and conventions from all over Nebraska.

Kearney already attracts a wide variety of sporting events. With the addition of Patriot Park, Kearney is poised to expand its role in playing host to these kinds of activities.

What do you like to do in Kearney when you aren’t working?
I enjoy being a “tourist” in our community.  My family likes to sample the newest brews at Thunderhead and McCue’s, catch the great local musicians at Cunninghams, see movies at The World, and enjoy a variety of restaurants.  We like to catch the performances at Crane River Theater and Kearney Community Theater.  For a city our size, Kearney sometimes has too many things to do.  It makes it difficult to choose.

What is your favorite summer activity?
I enjoy Kearney’s parks during the summer.  I like flying kites with my son at Yanney Park and, of course, everybody loves the Kearney Area Arts Council’s free summer concerts in Harmon Park.  The bike trails are pretty fabulous and my electric powered bike helps with the hilly sections.

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink in town?
That’s like naming a favorite child.  We always think we eat out more often than we should, but the variety of great places is too tempting to pass up.  We like some for the atmosphere, some for the food, sometimes we want something simple and quick and at other times we want to make dinner a special occasion.  The cool thing about Kearney is that we have so much variety and you can find exactly the right place for the type of meal you’re craving.

What is one thing you have to pack when you go on vacation?
My wife and I have a whole list of things I have to pack including my keys and some money.  They are kind of long stories, but I have set off on major vacations and forgotten each of those things at one time or another.  Somehow, we muddled through and still managed to have a great time.

Travel bloggers Steve and Ann Teget of PostcardJar.com 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.

Exploring the Oregon Trail in Nebraska


By Erin Fairchild, herheartlandsoul.com

Located just two and a half hours from Omaha, Kearney has a population of 33,520 people. We loved the atmosphere there and how it was a blend of small town meets small city. There was fun stuff to do but also lots of wide open spaces. There’s also some ridiculously good food. We already want to go back!

For more on Erin’s Kearney adventure, click here.

The Museum Above the Interstate

By Nan Miller, nanmillertimes.com

Join Nan Miller as she takes you through the Kearney Archway on one of her many stops in Nebraska.

Once you enter the museum, you’ll be transported back in time to the building of the transcontinental railroad, you’ll take a walk with the pioneers over the Oregon Trail, hear Mark Twain’s account of a cross-country stagecoach trip and visit a traveler’s campground to hear stories of life on “America’s Main Street” the Lincoln Highway.

Click here to read Nan’s full post.

A Traveler’s Guide of the Sandhill Crane Migration

By LeAnna Brown
WellTraveledNebraskan.com

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!

Classic Cars Galore – The Walking Tourists

By Tim Trudell, The Walking Tourists

More than 200 classic cars await to be discovered at the Kearney Classic Car Collection. Featuring vehicles from the early to mid-1900s, from Model T Fords to convertibles, the museum on Highway 30 – aka the Lincoln Highway – needs to be on your travel bucket list. The collection, donated by a Nebraskan who sought to keep his cars together to be shared with the public, provides a unique look into a piece of Americana.

Travel bloggers The Walking Tourists share their visit to the beautiful museum. Here’s more.

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”.

Sandy

 

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!

Sandy

The Incredible Sandhill Crane Migration

By Mark Gordon, mgordoncommunications.com

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.