Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fun Times, Good Friends, Great Wine

The Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center hosted the first-annual Christmas wine tasting at the top of the tower last night. The event was also the opportunity to show off the great new educational and historical displays installed just this past week. It’s fun to have a new attraction in town. Most of the events are the “first”, and it will be fascinating to watch as they grow and evolve.

Five wineries were represented last night, all located less than fifty miles from North Platte. Nebraska has a thriving wine industry. The website http://www.nebraskawines.com/ lists 32 wineries and tasting rooms. Historically, before prohibition in the teens devastated all domestic wine production, followed by the drought of the dust bowl days of the 1930’s, many vineyards and orchards dotted the state. Following that devastating time, the ag industry focused on corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa, and many county extension agents were convinced that grapes and fruit weren’t suitable for Nebraska’s climate. In turn, they convinced Nebraska’s farmer’s. Fortunately, a few free spirited and courageous entrepreneurs decided to give grape growing and wine making a try, and the fledgling industry that didn’t exist in Nebraska in the early 1990’s, now has an economic impact of more than $5.3 million, and an important part of Nebraska Tourism.

Now that I’ve given you an education on Nebraska’s wine industry, let’s enjoy the event.

I know it's supposed to be saved for dessert, but one of the first sights to greet our eyes when we walked in was the beautiful chocolate fountain provided by Marcene Franzen of the Holiday Inn Express. Needless to say, we didn't wait for dessert.
Upstairs, everyone enjoyed the delicious hors d'ourvers with the spectacular view of Union Pacific's Bailey yard as a backdrop.
Here Ellen Burdick of the 17 Ranch Winery helps a guest select just the right wine to sample. The 17 Ranch Winery is actually just a part of a working cattle ranch, started by Ellen as a hobby when she turned 50! We are so fortunate she had this vision, because they make delicious wines. My favorite: Traildust. The Mister's favorite: Summer Range.

Notice the display about the Orphan Trains on the wall in the background. This is just one of the many new historical and educational displays recently added to the Golden Spike Tower.
The boys from 5 Trails Winery not only serve delicious wines, but their tasting room in Paxton is revitalizing that small community with live entertainment on a regular basis. The Mister and I will be enjoying Paul Seibert there tonight (Saturday, December 19). My favorite: 2008 Frontenac. The Mister's favorite: the Apple. Tonight I'm looking forward to trying the Trail White.
I readily admit to not being the the best photographer in the world, but this captures the incredible view from the top of the Golden Spike Tower. Bailey Yard is a 24 hour a day operation, so no matter what time of the day or night you visit the tower, the action is going on in the yard. If you get the chance to attend a night time function at the Tower, I encourage you to take advantage of it.
The expert wine makers from Mac's Creek advise the Mister what variety of their wine he will enjoy. My favorite: Mac's Lantern. The Mister's favorite: Celtic Aire.
More friends getting together and enjoying the holiday spirit of the evening.
Dr. Jeffrey Brittan of North Platte's Feather River Vineyard pours a sample of their Saints Reserve. My favorite: Solstice. The Mister's favorite: Angel's Light.
The Mac's Creek boys just waiting for the next customer.
Downstairs in the Great Hall, the educational displays tell the story of memorable events in the history of the Union Pacific railroad and Bailey Yard. Former UP President Edd Bailey is responsible for the locating of the largest railyard in the world here in North Platte.
Beautifully decorated for Christmas, the new educational displays really add to the experience of the Great Hall.
Lots of model trains will fascinate young and old rail fans alike.
One of my favorite displays tells the story of the North Platte World War II Canteen, one of the most heartwarming home-front stories to come out of World War II.
More than 6.5 million service men and women were treated to hometown Nebraska hospitality during the 54 months the Canteen was in operation.
Homemade goodies filled their tummies and warmed their hearts. The generosity of the Canteen volunteers filled their memories in the dark days to come on the front lines. The memories remain strong through the years, as various North Platte agencies receive thank-you cards to this day from service personnel, now in their 80's and 90's showing their appreciation for the outpouring of love they experienced so many years ago.
Thank you for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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