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