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 www.sandhillsjourney.com for more details on that.