It’s National Art and Humanities Month

October is National Art and Humanities month.  Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway has always been a destination for incredible art.  The Byway is home to several public art galleries and museums.  The 2017 Sandhills Van Tour will feature art galleries, private artists’ galleries and museums as a part of its focus on Art and Humanities.  More information on the tour is located at Follow the Rails Art Trail.

For more information on how you can participate in focusing on arts and humanities during the month of October visit Americans for the Arts.

Below is a list of just a few of the places you can viist to pay tribute to Arts and Humanities month.

Grand Island – Studio K

Cairo – Cairo Roots Museum featuring the works of Solon Borglum and the new book of the Balcom and Green Photography collection.

Broken Bow – Custer County Museum

Thedford – Thedford Art Gallery

Mullen – Mullen Art Center

Ashby – CaLinda’s Pot Shop


2016 was an eventful year for the Visitor Center or the Barn as we like to call it.  Prior to our opening Memorial Day weekend a few things were done in preparation for the season:


Don Cantrell and his crew performed a prescribed burn on the native grass areas to rejuvenate the mixed prairie grasses and wildflowers.  Don also sprayed the property for dandelion control.  Plants, flowers and shrubs were cut back to prepare for new growth and gravel paths and planting beds were weeded.  The outdoor kiosk was updated with new informational material.  An OPEN flag was purchased and installed to the northeast of the Barn that can be easily seen from the highway and has been very useful in letting travelers know when we are available.


The Broken Bow Visitor Center was the host site for the April and May SJSB monthly meetings and notably, thanks to the hard work of our tremendous SJSB staff, Senator Al Davis’ efforts and a grant administered by the Nebraska Department of Roads, six beautiful interpretive panels were received and placed around the property.  Another was funded by the Sempra U.S. Gas and Energy Co. and installed at the observation deck on the hill south of the Barn.  On an extremely hot day in June, a nice open house event was held at the visitor center to commemorate the completion of this project with about 60 people in attendance.  Our guests were offered the opportunity to ride to the observation deck to experience the beautiful views offered of the surrounding terrain.


Later in June the Customer Economic Development Corporation hosted its annual summer picnic at the Barn with over 80 people attending, awards presented and an excellent band performing for the evening.  In September a volunteer appreciation luncheon was held with most of our 35 or so volunteers who staff and maintain the facility in attendance.  Again rides were offered to the top of the hill at the observation deck and all but a couple who hadn’t had the experience made the trip.


We extended our season to the end of September and that decision proved to be well worth it in terms of adding visitors; 301 stopped in after Labor Day.  We also opened for the three days of the Follow the Rails Art Trail event in October and had an artist from Colorado who has ties to Broken Bow displaying several of her works.  We hosted a very successful wine and cheese reception on Friday evening of the FRAT weekend.  In total 110 visitors were counted during the weekend.  For the season, including FRAT, 1752 people signed our guest register which was substantially more than for 2015.


Plans for 2017 include:


Adding a vintage tractor display.

Re-siding the Barn with maintenance free siding and trim.

Starting construction of a replica sod house off the path to the southwest of the Barn.

Participation in NE150 events.

Participation in Neclipse events.

Additional art exhibit events.


Broken Bow has made tremendous strides in the last few years in terms of new businesses, attractions and infrastructure improvements and we are pleased to be a part of the progress the area is experiencing on our Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.


Thank you, Rick


Broken Bow – Here in central Nebraska, when one hears ‘canteen spirit’ one reflects on the herculean efforts of so many volunteers that greeted and fed our troops when their train would stop at the North Platte Depot during WWII.


‘Canteen spirit’ is synonymous with volunteerism.   Custer County and the surrounding area has that same ‘canteen spirit’ for an event that will bring thousands to the area.


Volunteers are rallying behind Jeff and Lisa Johnson of Anselmo, owners of the Lonesome River Ranch, LLC. who will host the 20th annual Cattlemen’s Ball of Nebraska. Playing on the number seen on Custer County license plates – this year’s theme is ‘4 A Cure’. No one has been immune from this deadly disease that has taken so many lives. This is a benefit to memorialize and to help those still in the fight.


“The ball benefits Nebraska’s Fred and Pamela Buffet’s Cancer Center, with 90 per cent of the net after expenses going to the center and 10 per cent remaining in the area,” stated Karen Evans, one of the co-chairs of the event. The Johnsons were approached to host in the fall of 2015 and when they said yes in April of last year, the wheels started turning on preparing for up to five thousand or more in attendance.


Past balls have had up to forty committees segregated to handle all aspects of the two-day event that is set for June 2 and 3, 2017.


The Broken Bow Country Club hosted for the first time all committee’s members, between forty and fifty enthused volunteers filled the room.


The event will take days of prepping, setting up, feeding the estimated 120 or so volunteers that are needed daily prior to the event.


“The Ball is for all, not just the cattle producers. Dress is casual, comfortable footwear because the tents filled with activities galore will need plenty of foot power to get around.”


Diane Scott is the chairperson of the volunteers. “It is estimated that between 600 and 800 volunteers will be needed for the set-up, the days of, and the clean-up after. Thanks to modern technology, I have enlisted the aid of the school and other ‘techies’ to use forms where volunteers will be able to go onto the website and sign up, but for now, if you would like to volunteer, email me at Put Cattlemen’s Ball in subject line.


All volunteers must buy the Top Hand ticket for $100 if they help during the event. “This is a fundraiser to help eradicate cancer. “We are hoping to keep expenses around 40 per cent, last year’s expenses were over 45 per cent of the gross. In the 19 years of the Ball, over $13 million has been raised for the Buffet Cancer Center and the host areas.”, stated Dick Miles, past president of the Cattlemen’s Board, and one of several board members on hand to answer the myriad of questions.


A few of the other co-chairs that you may ask for more information include Cody Schmick, Sadye Flynn, Lisa Finney, Tim Mason, John Smith and Neal Neth. All donations all welcome as four auctions will occur throughout the event as well as a golf tournament and ribbon painting on the 2nd. Some great musical entertainment will add to the fun. Art show and sales, serenity garden, Promise petals, will also help raise funds.


Go to view the promo and see some of the ranch that will be the site for this year’s ball. Go to for more information on all the events happening to help raise funds ‘4 A Cure’ at the Lonesome River Ranch, 43581 Drive 818, Anselmo, Nebraska June 2 and 3.

Follow the Rails Art Tour Completes Sixth Year

The late Charles Kuralt called Nebraska’s Highway 2 “one of America’s 10 most beautiful highways” exclaiming, “This road will take you to one of the last unexplored frontiers where vast treasures can be discovered.”

For the last six years, volunteers along 272 miles of Nebraska Highway 2, what is known as the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway (SJSB) between Grand Island and Alliance have encouraged visitors to enjoy the vast treasures of art inside and out during their ‘Follow the Rails Art Trail tour.’

This self-guided tour, always in October showcases the myriad of artistic mediums from the residents and guests as well as the fantastic fall foliage along the way.

“This year we had 14 communities that hosted 36 sites dedicated to the arts from the usual paintings, pottery, woodworking, photography to the unusual – floral, culinary including wines, beers and honey to the musical talents of locals,” stated SJSB president Linda Lacy, Ashby. The communities this year from east to west included Grand Island, Cairo, Ravenna, Mason City, Ansley, Broken Bow, Merna, Anselmo, Thedford, Mullen, Hyannis, Ashby, Antioch and Alliance.

Lacy went on to exclaim the appreciation to the various sponsors that helped make this Follow the Rails Art Trail or FRAT as it is lovingly referred to by the byway volunteers, the best yet. “Radio stations KAAQ/KCOW from Alliance and KBEAR 92.3 in Broken Bow did fantastic jobs of getting our ads out. I and others did live interviews on their stations as well as NPR, Nebraska Public Radio. KCOW did live remote at the opening reception at the Knight Museum in Alliance. KBEAR sponsored the first ever ‘Bow Arts in the Square’ in Broken Bow which had five vendors for its first time. Gaylean Millsap of Broken Bow was the coordinator and should be commended for her effort. Charity Adams, Cairo, also should be recognized as she did the social media posts, FRAT brochures, website and put together our guide book.”

Other sponsors included the Nebraska Arts Council, Custer Co. Tourism and Custer Co. Foundation, Mullen Tourism Board, Thedford Area Community Foundation Fund, Consolidated Communications, PREMA (Panhandle Rural Electric). Alliance supported with outstanding sponsorships from Gregory’s Insurance, Posh Family Consignment Store, Special Stiches and Studio A, Hoffhaus Garden, Alliance Visitor’s Bureau, Carnegie Art Center, Box Butte Visitor’s Bureau, Rock, Paper, Scissors Hair Salon, Sandhills State Bank and Alliance Chamber of Commerce. Hyannis sponsors included That Stop, Whisperin Angel Inn and Hyannis Hotel. Sandhills Oil from Hyannis, Thedford and Valentine also sponsored as did Ashby Lumber and Flowers and Lacy’s own, CaLinda’s Pot Shop and Art Gallery.

For the first time ever, opening receptions at Stuhr Museum in Grand Island and the Knight Museum and Sandhills Center in Alliance kicked off FRAT Thursday evening before its three official days of October 14 to 16. The Hyannis School again ran a one day bus from Hyannis to Alliance and back on the 15th. Also for the first time, a van load of five paid for the chance to take the tour and leave the driving to Bill Burdett of Cairo. Burdett does ‘Horizons without Borders’, offering amazing agri adventure tours for a van or bus load. “FRAT may not be my usual tour offering, but we had a great time and saw a lot of amazing art. I made five new friends as did the byway. The van riders were also the official judges for the student organizations that did bale art during FRAT. Lodging and meals were all inclusive in the cost and all five would recommend doing this art tour again, some want to come next year in their own vehicles. We made it to all 36 sites which was a little rushed, but we didn’t want to miss anything.”

The next major event for the SJSB will be the Polar Bear Tank Race at Mullen the first weekend of March 2017. Go to for more details on that.

Spring Crane Migration

Each spring something magical happens in the Platte River Valley: More than 80% (500,000+) of the world’s population of Sandhill Cranes converge on this critical sliver of threatened habitat. Millions of migrating ducks and geese arrive with them.

National Geographic named this annual migration event as one of North America’s two greatest natural wildlife phenomena, the other being Alaska’s Caribou migration. In 2014, the Crane Trust documented that a Platte River sandbar on their property serves as the largest crane roost in the world during the sandhill cranes’ spring migration. This one-of-a-kind experience draws beginning birders to scientists from across the country and across the globe.

The month of March is the best time to see the largest numbers of birds, although the peak of the crane migration occurs during the second half of the month. Towards the end of March, you might also catch a glimpse of endangered Whooping Cranes or venture into the Sandhills to watch the colorful mating rituals of the Prairie Chickens.


Nebraska is special to me. I’ve traveled far and wide, and coming to Nebraska, and seeing and hearing the cranes always restores my soul.
— Jane Goodall

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Introduces New Nature Trail

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway

Contact: Linda Lacy, President FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE H: 308 458-8051

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Introduces New Nature Trail

good barn photoThe Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Visitor/Interpretive Center in Broken Bow is happy to announce the addition of an exciting new educational trail, the Sandhills Journey Nature Trail. The public is invited to an Open House on Friday, June 17, from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (CT) to share in the celebration of this new outdoor experience. A short program and ribbon cutting will be held at 1:00 p.m. “The trail will give visitors a chance to learn more about the history, geography, culture, and wildlife of the Sandhills at their leisure when the Visitor Center is closed,” says Rick Maas, chairman of the Custer County Tourism Committee and coordinator for the volunteers that operate the SJSB Visitor Center during the tourism season.


The nature trail, approximately one-half mile in length, begins just south of the Visitor Center. It winds through grassland prairie, past native grass plots, a pond, a working windmill, butterfly garden, and climbs to an observation deck on the hilltop south of the Visitor Center for a panoramic view of the valley below.


There are seven colorful and informative panels along the trail with smartphone technology allowing users to access information with a quick swipe of the QR code on each sign. There is a welcome sign orienting visitors to the area and the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway (NE Hwy 2, between Grand Island and Alliance). The second stop on the trail is the nature trail panel which outlines the world-class natural wonders of the Sandhills. Another tells the story of the formation of the Sandhills, while others describe the history, culture, and laws that help influence the settlement of the Sandhills. There is also a panel about the wildlife of the Great Plains, birds, and the miracle of migration. The final panel, located at the Observation Deck, is one-third of a mile from the Visitor Center. The panel at this location was provided by Sempra Energy and features the technological advances that changed the Sandhills over the years.


The Nature Trail is part of a plan which began in 2012 when the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway received a Federal Highway Transportation Grant and initiated a project with Ted Eubanks of Fermata to provide an in-depth interpretive plan. The resulting plan encompasses a unique set of stories related to the qualities that makes the byway distinctive, and connects specific sites to themes and corresponding storylines. The panels along the Nature Trail illustrate this vision. Fermata provided the insight, photography, design and production, working with the Nebraska Department of Roads, Custer County Economic Development, the U.S. Forest Service, and Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway representatives.


In addition to the panels at the Visitor Center in Broken Bow, the project provided for a panel at the Nebraska National Forest/Bessey Ranger District near Halsey. This panel is placed at the center of the pedestrian bridge which crosses the Middle Loup River between the Ranger Station and the fishing pond. This informative panel describes the unique nature of Prairie Rivers.


The Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Visitor Center is located east of Broken Bow at 44106 NE Hwy 2. Look for the big Red Barn – phone (308) 872-8331. The Barn is open May – September and the Nature Trail is open year-round. There is also an accessible covered picnic shelter available. The ‘Barn’ is becoming a popular place to book for reunions or special events as plenty of parking is available. Contact Rick Maas for more information or call the Chamber office in Broken Bow at 308-872-5691.CE

SJSB Sponsors Summer Grazing & Birding Tour

2016 NGLC-Sandhills Task Force-Audubon Grazing and Birding Tour


The Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition (NGLC) is once again hosting a summer grazing tour which will be held on June 14th in the Nebraska Sandhills near Thedford.  The NGLC has partnered with the Sandhills Task Force and Nebraska Audubon to bring ranchers and bird enthusiasts together to learn more about successful grazing practices, Sandhill ranch heritage, indigenous and migratory birds, and wildlife habitat.  Proper grazing in the Sandhills provides income for ranch businesses, wildlife and bird habitat, vegetation diversity, and increased water quality and quantity.  Come learn grazing strategies from area ranchers as well as information about birds and habitat from statewide experts.


The full day event will kick off with an optional birding route, followed by registration and breakfast, three ranch visits, and an evening banquet with a special guest speaker.  We will be visiting the Eatinger Ranch, Reed Hamilton Ranch, and the Dailey Angus Ranch.  Please to read about the ranches, explore the agenda, download the brochure, and register online. A brochure is also attached to this email.


Pre-registration is due by June 6th for meal counts and you can sign up online by visiting,  or by,  or by calling/texting Shelly Kelly at 308-214-0065.  You will also be able to register at the door.  The pre-registration cost is $15 for the full event and $10 if you can’t attend the banquet.  You can pay at the door, online, or by mail.


Other event sponsors include Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, US Fish and Wildlife Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, Nebraska Farm Bureau, Bird Observatory of the Rockies, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nebraska Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Sandhills Scenic Byway.


Tentative Agenda




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