Ocean of Grass Film Shown at Grand Theater in Grand Island, Nebraska Sponsored by Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway

The acclaimed film Ocean of Grass to appear on the bigscreen at the Grand Theater in Grand Island, Nebraska, January 25, 26 & 27th. This film about the American cattle ranch, an icon of the United States, projects an enticing historical vision of hard working people living close to nature onthe plains of the west. The McGinn Ranch first settled in the 1880’s, is such a place. Moving into its 5th generation, the ranch encompasses all that makes America great: an appreciation of heroic effort, the love of family, friends & country, and doing whatever it takes to survive. It is a landscape of individuals with unique personalities.

OCEAN OF GRASS is an organic journey about life rolled up into the ranch experience. The conflicts and issues in the film are real but not overblown. In the end, the film is an honest and personal look at being who you are and treating all creatures and the land with respect.

Audiences have called the film ‘masterful’, ‘zen-like &meditative’, ‘a genre of its own’, and ‘spectacularly filmed’, and a ‘real, true look at ranching’.

It is also an experiential, immersive documentary capturing a year in the life of a 130 year old Nebraska Sandhills ranch, The cinematography submits to the lyrical and timeless feeling of the American Great Plains, and presents the intriguing personalities of those who choose this sparse, rugged lifestyle. The film narrative is provided by the ranchers who have called this area home for generations.

The screening of this Nebraska Film is sponsoredby the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. The Byway is pleased to host this unique film and to welcome Georg Joutras. As part of the experience, Mr. Joutras will conduct a Q & A session on Saturday, January 26th, 2019 at 1:00 pm in Cairo, Nebraska during the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Annual Meeting. The public is invited to register for lunch and participate in the Q&Asession. 

Please purchase tickets to the movie online at Eventbrite or buy at the door at the Grand Theater, Railside, Grand Island, Nebraska.

To purchase movie tickets and register for the Q&A session with Mr. Joutras please click here.


Each spring, something magical happens in the heart of the Great Plains. More than 80 percent of the world’s population of sandhill cranes converge on Nebraska’s Platte River valley—a critical sliver of threatened habitat in North America’s Central Flyway. Along with them come millions of migrating ducks and geese in the neighboring rainwater basins.

Click here to watch a video showcasing this enchanting display…

There are two crane species in North America. The sandhill crane is the most abundant of the world’s 15 species of crane. The whooping crane is one of the largest cranes and the most endangered in the world with a wild population of less than 300 individuals.

There are many places to learn more about this amazing spectacle but here are links that will help you plan an incredible viewing opportunity…




Nebraska National Forest-Bessey Tree Unit

As you make your summer travel plans be sure to include a stop at the Nebraska National Forest – Bessey Unit, just west of Halsey, on the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, for wonderful views, hiking trails, and outdoor adventures!

Millions of Nebraska trees took root thanks to Bessey

  • Special for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Feb 3, 2019
Bessey 1940s HI REZ PENDING

One might not expect the United States’ first and largest planted forest to be in Nebraska, but the 222-square-mile Nebraska National Forest holds that distinction.

Established in 1907 near Halsey, the forest is a testament to the passion and drive of botany professor Charles E. Bessey, the father of modern botany and a pioneer in agricultural extension.

Born in Ohio and educated at Michigan State University, Bessey came to the University of Nebraska in 1884 with a vision for students to learn by observation and experimentation. He replaced a curriculum then heavy on library reading, lectures and recitations with lab and field studies.

Acclaimed for his devotion to his students, Bessey taught more than 4,000 of them over a 45-year career, many hundreds of whom made significant contributions to the sciences. Bessey’s students developed the disciplines of plains ecology and range management and advanced the fields of agronomy, plant genetics and crop physiology.

In 1887, Bessey helped enact the federal Hatch Act to fund agricultural research and create the nation’s first agricultural experiment station. The impacts of his experiments in tree planting followed. The Nebraska National Forest had its roots in the establishment of the Charles E. Bessey Tree Nursery in 1902. The nursery delivered nearly 2 million low-cost trees to Nebraskans for establishing windbreaks, shelterbelts and farm wood lots between 1912 and 1924.

Today, the Bessey Nursery supplies seedlings for spring planting to five national forests in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, as well as the Black Hills National Forest and the Kansas Forest Service. The Bessey Herbarium at the University of Nebraska State Museum holds more than 310,000 plant specimens, providing abundant research opportunities for the state’s future botanists and the international community through its online digital collections.

Medina Street Vault Caters Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Annual Meeting

Cairo, Nebraska is hosting the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Annual meeting on January 26th at the Cairo Senior Center.

This year the Byway worked with the Grand Theater to bring Georg Joutras, Ocean of Grass film, to the big screen.  Movie times are January 25th, 26th & 27th.  The Grand Theater is located in the Railside area of Grand Island.  This historic theater is located near local shops and restaurants.

On Saturday, January 26th, during the Sandhills Journey annual meeting Georg Joutras will answer your questions about the movie.  Everyone is invited to attend the entire meeting or lunch catered by Cairo, Medina Street Vault and the Q&A portion of the event with filmmaker Georg Joutras.  

The Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway’s volunteer efforts provide support for local businesses on Nebraska Highway 2 by producing tourism marketing materials, financing booth space at the Omaha Boat Show, Nebraska State Fair and Agri Eco Tourism conference for people who want promote attractions and their businesses on the Byway.  The Byway also writes and administers grants for many community enhancing projects on Nebraska Highway 2. The Byway is supported by the Annual Meeting, fundraisers like the Polar Bear Tank race and membership by all those who want to support community and economic development on highway 2 with a $25 annual membership.  For more information on memberships please click here.

Fore more information on registering for the meeting or purchase movie tickets please click here.

12th Annual Polar Bear Tank Race

If you are looking for some winter fun that’s out of the ordinary, join us for the 12th Annual Polar Bear Tank Race – March 1-2, 2019. Teams of 4-6 people race down the Middle Loup River north of Mullen, NE in metal stock tanks in a timed event.  Awards for the top three teams in Men’s and Women’s divisions. Prizes also awarded for themes and tank decorations! Teams may also choose to forgo the race and enjoy a relaxing float down the river.

For more information or to register email: pglidde@neb-sandhills.net or call Mitch Glidden at (308) 546-2206.

March 1-2, 2019

Paint the Byway

October is Art and Humanities month on the byway.  The communities of Ashby, Mullen, and Alliance are hosting a very special event called Paint the Byway.

Each community is hosting a canvas painting party on October 13th. Stop in to one or all three locations to paint a pre-designed canvas.  Each location is instructing participants to paint a single design.  If you stop by and paint at all three locations you will go home with a triptych.  A triptych is one canvas that stands alone but added to other paintings makes a congruent three piece art installation.

Canvas painting is led by an art director.  Each canvas is $15.  Painting sessions are on Saturday, 9 am – 11 am and starting at 3 pm.  Painting locations are Steph’s Studio in Alliance, Mullen Arts Center in Mullen and Calinda’s Pot Shop & Art Gallery in Ashby.

Paint the Sunflower in Alliance, Wild Rose in Ashby, and the Soapweed in Mullen

In addition to Saturday activities each community has some addition activities that turn your Saturday fun into a weekend of fun.

Steph’s Studio – 308-762-7655:  Friday artist stop in for specials
Mullen Art Center – 308-546-7016: Friday artist showcase, Saturday canvas painting with entertainment and wine tastings 5 – 7 pm
Calinda’s– 308-458-8051: Several artists on display Friday and Saturday including fabric art by Suzan, western frames and deco by Rod Boots, handmade cards by Nancy Price.  Live music on Saturday evening.

Love the Sandhills and Donate Your Junk

The Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway non-profit organization is a volunteer group that promotes the Sandhills.  This group shares information about the Sandhills online and through a multitude of brochures, events, advertisements and through the Visitor Center Barn in Broken Bow.  

The Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway organization is hosting a Junk Jaunt sale at the Barn in Broken Bow, Nebraska.  If you like to buy junk, stop in September 28th-30th to shop.  If you live near Broken Bow consider donating your junk to this sale.  Your junk will continue to serve the people who love the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway for years to come. Contact Rick Maas to donate your junk for a great cause at 308-872-8331.

Contact Rick Maas at the Barn

SJSB Receives Donation from Polar Bear Tank Race

THANK YOU PATTY & MITCH GLIDDEN, owners of Sandhills Motel and Glidden Canoe Rentals, for the recent donation to the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway!!  For the past eleven years, the Polar Bear Tank Race has been the major fundraiser for our Byway.  Held annually the first weekend of March, the Polar Bear Tank Race was thought up by Mitch and a small group of friends as a way to ‘put heads in beads’ during the slack tourism season.  Teams of 4-6 individuals are put on the Middle Loup River in metal stock tanks at timed intervals in a race to the finish line!  It is always a fun time for the serious racers or those just wishing to participate in the ‘non-racer’ category!  Below, Patty Glidden presents SJSB president, Terri Licking, with a check for $7,500 from the 2018 race.  Proceeds from this unique fundraiser are used as match funds for grant projects to promote the entire 272 miles of the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.  Please put the race date of March 1-2, 2019 on your calendars and start making plans to enter a team, donate a pot of soup or bars to the Friday evening reception, or just welcome tankers to the area!!

Then and Now – Nebraska’s Potash Industry

When motorists drive out Nebraska Highway 2 through the Sand Hills, they will encounter a stark, unique beauty in the landscape and some of the strangest industrial ruins plopped down in the middle of the grasslands near Antioch – or about 15 miles east of Alliance. The ruins are what’s left of a potash industry that thrived there for a few short years around First World War.

The story began in 1911 when Congress passed a law to have the United States Geological Survey find sources of potash in the U.S.  German sources were becoming expensive and politically unreliable.  To read the full story please click here.

And to learn more about the Potash Industry, download this article by Clint Andersen.