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.

Mullen, Nebraska: A grassland courtship

I had no idea what I was hearing the first time the hollow booming of ready-to-mate prairie chickens reached my ears. I was on a houseboat on South Dakota’s Lake Francis Case when I heard those awesome sounds before daybreak.

At first, it sounded like wind moaning through the trees. But the wind that morning was still. And there were no trees. I grabbed my binoculars and finally located the source of the sound. We had unwittingly moored the houseboat near a lek — the gathering place for prairie chickens that had woo on their minds.

I was mesmerized as I watched the dance of male prairie chickens. Orange air sacs — the source of those hollow moans — filled like helium balloons on each side of the neck. Neck feathers were extended and appeared to be horns. Orange eyebrows glowed in the early-morning light.

Males furiously stamped their feet and made short, little runs, displaying their beauty to any appreciative female watching. Their wings were extended a bit and curved downward, much like a tom turkey holds his wings when he struts. There were occasional squabbles, punctuated by fluttering leaps into the air.

I was completely blown away by the grassland courtship dance.

I have since watched prairie chickens on their leks — or booming grounds — in Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. I have taken photos at several locations. But I never got the images I wanted until Ruth and I were guests of Mitch and Patty Glidden at their Sandhills Motel in Mullen, Nebraska.

April 1st Registration Deadline for Wings over 2 Birding Conference

April 1st is the deadline to register for Wings Over 2 Birding Conference in Mullen, Nebraska.

Don’t miss your opportunity to watch and photograph prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse with professional photographers, Bill Frakes and Brad Mellema and tour guide Mitch Glidden.  This opportunity is developed by the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway with a grant provided by the Nebraska Environmental Trust.  

This event includes:

  • 2 morning viewing opportunities
  • 2 afternoon adventures
  • 3 keynote speakers
  • 3 catered evening meals
  • 2 box lunches
  • 2 morning breakfasts
  • Transportation to bird viewing locations and afternoon adventure locations.

Please register by April 1st online by clicking here.

or contact Twila Phillips at
Sandhills RC&D 308-546-0636

Renowned Photographer Bill Frakes to Speak at Wings Over Two Birding Conference

Bill Frakes, renowned photographer is coming to Mullen, Nebraska to photograph prairie chickens and sharp-tailed Grouse, during the Wings Over Two Birding Conference starting April 12th in Mullen, Nebraska.  Frakes is the keynote speaker of the event on Friday evening. 


Bill Frakes was born and raised in the ranch country of western Nebraska.


“Frakes started his photography career at the Miami Herald where he worked from 1979 to 1992, covering a wide range of subjects from local stories to politics in Cuba.


He began shooting for Sports Illustrated in 1983. He is a frequent contributor to ESPN. He has worked in more than 125 countries for a wide variety of editorial and advertising clients.
His advertising clients include Apple, Champion, CocaCola, IBM, Isleworth, Kodak, Manfrotto, Nike, Nikon, Reebok, Amway Global and Stryker. Editorially his work has appeared in virtually every major general interest publication in the world. Additionally, he directs music videos and commercial television spots.” sited from Up/Closed website


Frakes joins guides, professional photographer Brad Mellema, director of the Grand Island Hall County Visitors Bureau and Mitch Glidden, owner of Sandhills Motel and Canoe Rental on two morning bird viewing opportunities for conference attendees, near Mullen, Nebraska featuring prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse.  


This is a 3 day conference for birding and photography enthusiasts.  In addition to morning viewing opportunities two additional keynote speakers, Greg Wright, wildlife biologist and Mary Bomberger Brown of Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership will speak on Thursday and Saturday evening.


Afternoon outdoor adventure opportunities include trips to the National Forest at Halsey, tanking on the Middle Loup River or a trip to Avocet Wildlife Area.


This conference is developed by Sandhills Journey Scenic Journey Byway with a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust. 


The conference is April 12-14th in Mullen, Nebraska. Please register for this conference by April 1st.


Or contact Twila Phillips at the RC&D office at 308-546-0636


Click Here for complete details and registration options.


Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Wings Over Two Birding Conference Prairie Chicken and Sharp-Tailed Grouse Birding and Adventure Conference

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Wings Over Two Birding Conference
Prairie Chicken and Sharp-Tailed Grouse Birding and Adventure Conference

Mullen, Nebraska: Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway with a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust is presenting Wings over Two birding and adventure conference, featuring prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse in Mullen, Nebraska, April 12th through the 14th.

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, a volunteer non-profit organization, works to encourage travel and tourism on Nebraska Highway Two from Grand Island to Alliance. A feature of Nebraska Highway Two is the abundance of wildlife, namely birds. “Every year I can’t wait to get out to the sandhills to watch the annual booming ground ritual of the prairie chickens. It is a natural experience unlike anything else and I’m most excited to be a part of the Wings Over Two festival this year.” Brad Mellema – Director of Grand Island Convention and Visitor Bureau

The Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Wings Over Two birding and adventure conference is a two-day event featuring Friday and Saturday morning viewing sessions led by Brad Mellema, professional photographer and instructor and Mitch Glidden outdoor outfitter. Afternoon adventure outings are led by Mellema, Glidden and Sandhills tour developer Bill Burdett of Horizons Without Bounds Agri-Tours. Adventure tours include: Avocet Wildlife Area, National Forest at Halsey and tanking on the Middle Loup. Keynote speakers are world renown photographer, Bill Frakes, Mary Bomberger Brown, of Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership and Greg Wright, wildlife biologist.

“The birding conference is a great way to share a few of the secrets that make the sandhills such a beautiful wonder while encouraging travel and tourism in rural communities. The visitors who drive Nebraska Highway Two really get an amazing experience, and rural communities really get and economic boost with tourism dollars” Charity Adams, Economic and Community Development Director, Cairo, Nebraska.

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway encourages those who love birds and those who want to enjoy the wonderful natural wonders of the Sandhills to register early for the Wings Over Two conference as space is limited. Click here for more information and to register or contact Twila Phillips at Sandhills RC&D at 308-546-0636.