E. Benjamin Nelson
Governor State of Nebraska
October 9, 1997
Dear Ms. Sarsfield:
I am delighted to provide you with information about Nebraska for your "Postcards From America" project. You have a delightful year ahead of you!
And you have given me a very difficult task! It's hard to know where to begin in telling you about this great State of Nebraska. I'm glad you'll be visiting our State Capitol Building because it is indeed a stunning structure. Did you know Nebraska has the only Unicameral system of state government in the country? While you're at the Capitol you'll learn more about that. In Lincoln you should stop at the National Rollerskating Museum, the only museum of its kind in the world. Sheldon Art Gallery has a very nice collection of 20th Century American art housed in a building designed by Philip Johnson. The State Museum of Natural History has the world's largest mounted fossil elephant; we call him Archie!
Omaha has Boys Town, the famous Henry Doorly Zoo with the world's largest indoor rain forest, Joslyn Art with its incredible Western art collection, the birthplace of Gerald Ford and Malcolm X, the Nebraska Furniture Mart (the world's largest furniture store under one roof)...and the home of Warren Buffett!
Nebraska City has Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, a lovely 52-room mansion that was home to J. Sterling Morton, the man whose passion for trees led to the founding of the internationally celebrated Arbor Day.
Red Cloud was home to Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather. Her childhood home, and several buildings mentioned in her books, are open to the public. It makes a fascinating tour.
McCook is, of course, on my list because it is my home town! It was also the home of Senator George Norris, the man considered to be the father of the Tennessee Valley Authority. His home is a branch museum of the Nebraska Historical Society. McCook also boasts the only Frank Lloyd Wright building in the state; however, it is a private home and not open to the public. I should also mention here that there are some great fishing lakes around McCook.
The Pine Ridge area of northwest Nebraska is also a must-see for your trip. It is a very pretty area with pine-covered buttes and canyons...and great fishing, too! Fort Robinson, now a state historical park, is where Crazy Horse was killed and was the site of the Cheyenne Outbreak which is written about so eloquently by Mari Sandoz, another of Nebraska's famous authors. A troop of Buffalo Soldiers was stationed there during the Plains Indian conflict, making the park even more historically significant.
The community of Kearney has a very nice museum called the Museum on Nebraska Art (MONA). It' s got a great collection of work, all either by Nebraskans or about Nebraska. I think you'll find it quite nice.
The nearby community of Grand Island also has a great museum called the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. There is a re-created Railroad Town with over 60 buildings (including the home where Henry Ford was born) comprising a complete turn-of-the-century community. Another nearby community in central Nebraska is Hastings, which is the smallest town in the country to have an IMAX Theater. The Hastings Museum, the site of the IMAX, also has a display about Kool-Aid since Hastings is where this sweet drink was invented.
Outdoor enthusiasts love Nebraska's Niobrara River. It is a National Scenic River and is popular with those who like to canoe and tube. The Niobrara River cuts through the Sandhills area of Nebraska, which covers nearly a quarter of the state. Also crossing the Sandhills is the Cowboy Trail, a recreational trail which, when completed, will be the longest rails-to-trails conversion in the United States. It will cover 321 miles and connect nearly 30 communities across the northern tier of the state.
For pioneer history I recommend the Oregon Trail Wagon Train near the community of Bayard in western Nebraska. Located on the Oregon Trail near Chimney Rock, this attraction offers visitors the chance to live like a pioneer for a few hours or a few days.
Another interesting place to visit is the Nebraska National Forest near the town of Halsey. This forest covers 93,000 acres and is the largest hand-planted forest in North America. The Bessey Nursery there produces millions of seedling trees that are shipped to other forests all across the country.
Well, Mrs. Sarsfield, although I am not running out of suggestions for your website, I find it nearly impossible to tell you about all the places I would recommend to visit in Nebraska. I hope you have an opportunity to read the enclosed brochures which contain a lot of information about interesting places. I'm also sending along information about famous Nebraskans. As for history, I think the brochure called "Nebraska Information" will provide a good synopsis. It will, as well, provide you with a wealth of information on a variety of topics.
When you get closer to determining the date for your Nebraska visit, I encourage you to contact the Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism. The number is 800-228-4307. Ask for Mary Ethel Emanuel. She can tell you about little-known places (where to find the elusive Sandhills monkey, where to find a violin-maker whose craftsmanship is sought around the world, where to see an original Ghost Dance shirt, where to find a buffalo sculpture made of miles of barbed wire, where to find a folk artist who wields a mean chainsaw). She will also be able to help you plan your itinerary and suggest places to stay and to eat. Be sure to try some famous Nebraska steaks. And be sure to try a Runza--a sandwich unique in the U.S. to Nebraska!
I wish you the very best of luck in your project. You're in for the trip of a lifetime!
E. Benjamin Nelson