Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What's wrong with this picture?

Before you read any further, click on this link to an Omaha World Herald story concerning needed changes in Nebraska's liquor laws regarding craft breweries. I won't quote the whole story here, but after you've read it, click back here and get my take on it. Then join in with your point of view in the comment section.

The response by Hobert Rupe, director of the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission is wrong on many, many levels. It just goes to show what happens when bureaucrats forget they are there to represent the interests of the citizens not to protect their little fiefdom or act as toadies to big business.
So far as he can tell, Nebraska's craft beer industry is doing just fine. “I was a little bit incredulous that there was a problem when you have 20 breweries and 14 more opening,” he said.
So, rather than listening to the people who know - those who have struggled through the maze of unfriendly regulations, he comes up with a quote like “It's worked since 1936.” Mr. Rupe might I ask - anything different in today's economy since 1936? Any modernizations in technology that might make it easier to regulate the taxation of breweries since 1936?

State governments across America are beginning to understand the economic impact of small, local craft brewers. Their own organization, the Council of State Governments wrote in an article entitled "The Macroeconomics of Microbreweries - Craft Beer Makers May be Small, but They Boost Jobs, State Revenues"
Craft brewers provided almost 104,000 jobs and created $8.7 billion in retail sales across the country in 2011. According to state brewing associations, craft brewing contributed $3 billion in total economic impact in California in 2011. In Texas, it generated almost $76 million in sales and $16 million in state and local tax revenue.
In order to capitalize on the trend, states are streamlining regulations and smoothing the way for craft brewers to come online. Why?
“Craft is what I like to call delightfully inefficient,” Havig said. “There’s a lot of tiny producers, all have really inefficient brewing processes. With those delightfully inefficient processes, we require a lot of people, a lot of time and lot of materials and we produce really interesting $5 bottles of beer. … These are good, solid, family-wage jobs.”
What could be better for rural Nebraska? Lots of tiny producers, each employing just the right number of locals, using locally produced raw materials, providing "good, solid, family-wage jobs."

At the Nebraska Travel Conference recently concluded in Norfolk, we learned that the Nebraska Passport Program had around 20,000 participants in 2013. And what was the most popular tour? Tap Into It, which featured eight of those 20 breweries that were currently online in 2013. When those visitors traveled to those small rural towns scattered throughout Nebraska, do you think the only thing they did was stop and have a beer? While I have no way of backing up my claim, I'll bet many also ate, maybe filled their car up with gas, visited other attractions, purchased some locally made goods, maybe even spent the night. All which contributed serious economic activity into local economies.

So just what are craft brewers asking for that has the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission up in arms? For starters, how about a reduction in the excise taxes on beer? Though Mr. Rupe claims that Nebraska's 31 cent a gallon excise tax is "about middle of the pack" nationwide is pretty close to the truth - we rank 21st according to the tax foundation, our surrounding states are at the other end of the spectrum: Colorado, 46th with .08 cents; Iowa, 31st with .19 cents; Kansas, 32nd with .18 cents; Missouri, 49th with .06 cents; Wyoming, 50th with .02 cents. With Governor Heinemann's current push to reform Nebraska's tax structure, with the understanding that lower taxation actually brings an increase in revenue, it's high time we applied this theory to craft brewers.

What else are they asking? The ability to distribute their own product, just like grape growers do when they turn their raw materials into wine. That's the issue that Rupe pointed out has been working since 1936. And guess who is lobbying hard for the status quo?
Joe Kohout of the Associated Beverage Distributors of Nebraska said that the current system is “an effective way” to collect taxes and a way to encourage diversity, since distributors offer a wide variety of products.
Requiring craft brewers to try to pry open the door of a beverage distributor which by nature favors quantity over quality, "encourages diversity?" Really?

Though it wasn't covered in the article, I'll tell you another change that needs to be made to Nebraska's liquor laws. Develop a "native" liquor license for Bed and Breakfasts and small local restaurants. Very inexpensive as compared to the full liquor license, even a wine and beer license, and it only allows the on or off sale of Nebraska produced wines and beers. Visitors are looking for authentic local experiences, which is why they choose a Bed and Breakfast and a small hometown cafe as opposed to a chain restaurant. Economically these folks operate on a tight margin. It's just not feasible for them to pay hundreds of dollars for a full liquor license, when in reality they probably won't even sell that dollar amount of alcohol. In addition to only including Nebraska produced wine and beer, it could also be tied to gross revenue of the establishment, maybe on a sliding scale. There are a lot of ways that it could be done, and it would benefit not only the individual business, but the local community and the wine and beer producers across the state.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Stories: Timeline 1920 - 1949

Excerpts from the Sutherland Centennial, 1891-1991.

February 19, 1920 – Forty new residence houses were built in Sutherland during 1919.
April 1, 1920 – A notice about speeding and a reminder that the speed limit is 12 m.p.h. and 6 m.p.h. on corners and crossings.
May 1920 – Census reports the Sutherland population is 651.
August 21, 1922 – The Platte River Roundup-Pioneer Days exhibition was held August 21-24 in Sutherland. Forty Indians and Deadwood Stage. Season tickets were $2.50, Single Admission $1.00, children half price plus the war tax.
December 1, 1922 – The Community Christmas Tree is set up in front of the Sutherland School.
April 9, 1925 – The Village Board offered a reward of $50.00 for the arrest and conviction of bootleggers.
September 29, 1927 – Fall Festival held in Sutherland. Pulling contests for teams, free picture at theater, prizes for four kinds of corn, beet topping contest, sports for boys and girls, free coffee and cookies, and a free dance.
February 25, 1928 – The Village announces it will install street lights on Front Street. It is estimated it will require 24 Electrollers with 1 large bulb each.
May 17, 1928 – The Village Board refuses an application by Mr. Dick Wilson to put in a pool hall. Public sentiment has always been against this in Sutherland.
June 28, 1928 – The Village Board passes an ordinance establishing the first curb and gutter district. Work started on the new curb in September from the NW corner of Lincoln County Lumber Yard to the SE corner of A.W. Hoatson and Son’s Garage. Then both sides of Walnut St. from 1st to Uhligs Station and from 1st Street on the east side of Locust to the Pastime Theatre and East on 2nd to Walnut.
May 1930 – Census reports show the Sutherland population at 753.
June 13, 1931 – Sutherland has a good band consisting of 25 members. The Sutherland Business Men will sponsor the band concerts every Saturday at 8pm during the summer.
December 1, 1932U.S. Highway 30 will be rerouted so as to pass through Sutherland on Front Street. Work did not begin until late 1933.
September 20, 1933 – Many Sutherland residents went to North Platte the 20th, 21st and 22nd to view a large whale being exhibited in a specially constructed railroad car.
August 23, 1934 – Work officially started on the Sutherland Reservoir.
August 23, 1934 – Sutherland is struck by a tornado that causes considerable damage throughout the town.
August 6, 1936 – Beldora Cochran is selected as Miss Sutherland, 1936.
November 26, 1936 – Ten turkeys will be thrown away each Saturday for the next 3 Saturdays. They will be thrown from the roof of a Sutherland building in the business district. If you are fast, you may catch one. Or if you are tall. Free for the catching.
May 27, 1937 – A lease will be drawn up for a new ball park. Six acres of Farmers Union Co-Op south of the depot and the tracks to develop a field for sports.
July 22, 1937 – Ed Kuenle started working on the City Park Lily Pool. (He was the landscape artist who was in charge of the Sutherland Park for many years.
January 12, 1939 – W.P.A. workers digging clay for road work in Sutherland unearth three skeletons on the Ernest Dringman farm. They were buried in a sitting position and it is estimated they have beenthere from 10 to 50 years. It was established that they were not white, and brass rings were around their arms, buckeye beads all through the dirt placing their race as Indian, gypsy or Mexican. A 10” butcher knife, locket, bits of cloth and leather were also found.
August 17, 1939 – A bounty on Mexican sand burrs is being paid. Children can
collect a penny a pound for any they bring in.
October 12, 1939 – Marshall P.J. Hartman notes that there is a problem with boys shooting out street lights.
May 1940 – Census shows population of Sutherland at 955.
January 8, 1941 – Sutherland has the lowest water rate in the state. 7,000 gallons for $1.00 and each additional 1,000 gallons is 5 cents.
December 11, 1941 – There have been squirrel attacks on three persons in the last few days. Mrs. L.E. Sherwood, Mrs. R.C. Jainicke, and Bob Brownell were the victims. Kenneth White and Eldon Gordon have been authorized by the board of health to shoot the squirrels inside the city limits.
April 30, 1942 – Sutherland escaped damage from a major hailstorm that dropped stones eight and nine inches in diameter on the Weaver place on Sarben road. In august another storm dropped hail ten inches in diameter in the O’Fallons area.
July 16, 1942 – The white fence made of boiler tube around the city park is being removed by the Union Pacific section gang. It will be shipped to Cheyenne where it is to beutilized in the nation’s war effort.
December 14, 1942 – Air Raid sirens sound for the first blackout drill of the war.
November 7, 1944 – Sutherland voters reject a proposal to reinstate prohibition in Nebraska.
September 13, 1945 – The Nebraska Department of Roads promises to build a highway to Wallace.
December 29, 1948 – A huge snowstorm began that blocked all major roads, stranded trains, people and livestock for weeks. This became the “Blizzard of 49” as it did not stop snowing until the spring.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The road to recovery

Last Wednesday, I took what I hope will be the last step in my recovery from that unfortunate "accident" in July of 2012 that resulted in a crushed heel.

You might remember... after a wonderful day of tanking on the North Platte River, I celebrated in a way I had done hundreds of times before, by jumping off of the river bridge into the water. Unfortunately, the water channel had changed and I hit a shallow sand bar rather than the deep hole I was aiming for.

It was two weeks before I could even have surgery, then another twelve weeks no-weight bearing, then several more months in a boot and in physical therapy learning how to walk again.

This past July at my one-year check up, I was told that I had progressed as far as I could expect. The pain, stiffness, swelling and the ability to predict storms was going to remain where it was. My only hope of further recovery would be to have the hardware removed.

So after clearing my schedule for a couple of weeks, last Wednesday, I underwent the surgery to take out eight pins and a titanium plate.
It doesn't look like much, but I am very happy to have it all out.

Right now I am in the very uncomfortable stage of recovery. In pain, using a cane and a walking boot. It's been a long year and a half, and I hope to quickly move beyond this stage and get back to walking and hiking with less pain.

Here's looking toward a more productive coming year!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Stories: Timeline 1899 - 1919

Excerpts from the Sutherland Centennial, 1891-1991.

January 1899 – Sutherland was suffering from a measles epidemic that resulted in the deaths of several children.
July 4, 1899 – W.C. Blackmore held a fireworks disply to celebrate the fourth.
March 22, 1900 – A petition is being circulated to change the name of this precinct from O’Fallons to Sutherland. “Such a change would be convenient, but it would lose some of the historic features of the old name.”
May 1900 – Census reports Sutherland population at 406.
October 4, 1900 – Many citizens of Sutherland and Wallace went to North Platte to hear Teddy Roosevelt speak.
November 20, 1900 – Sutherland was visited by a traveling “mindreader”.
December 4, 1902 – An article appeared in the paper on “coal rustlers”, these persons were stealing coal due to a shortage that was occurring due to heavy snow.
December 18, 1902 – A shortage of coal was temporarily broken with the arrival of a forty ton carload. Coal was loaded on wagons and distributed to 65 families.
July 9, 1903 – An automobile passed through Sutherland en route to the east. The people fled to their houses and no casualties were reported.
September 3, 1903 – A brass band is being organized in town. Instruments are ordered. There is talk of building a “pest house” where they can practice.
April 12, 1905 – The Village of Sutherland is Incorporated and this act allows the organization of the Village and the appointment of a Board of Trustees.
April 27, 1905 – The new Village Board prints the first two ordinances of the Village. #1 defines the boundaries of the Village of Sutherland and #2 provides for regular meetings of the Board and for maintaining and caring for records and ordinances.
May 11, 1905 – Nearly the entire population turned out at the depot to watch the train bearing President Theodore Roosevelt pass through. The President waved to the crowd from the rear platform as the train passed through.
May 14, 1908 – A small cyclone passed through Sutherland. It caused damage west of the Sutherland House. The damage was primarily to houses.
September 2, 1909 – A major fire occurred in downtown Sutherland.
May 1910 – Census reports the Sutherland population at 978.
July 28, 1910 – Headlines announced the worst heat wave in years. Temperatures were 110* locally.
September 22, 1910 – A bunch of gypsies invaded Sutherland and started to pester citizens in the usual gypsy manner. Marshall Gentry bumped into the outfit and finally got it to move onward.
April 27, 1911 – The “South Side Tigers” will have a ball game on ground leased from J.L. Case. There will be a grandstand erected and the diamond put in good shape. The team received new uniforms that were brown with local businesses advertised on the back in white. The ball field was also fenced and named Veach Park.
July 11, 1912 – A major fire occurred early Sunday morning that was discovered by an arriving train crew. About a third of the businesses were lost and the State Bank and Burklunds brick building were the only ones left east of Walnut Street.
July 11, 1912 – Governor C.H. Aldrich visited Sutherland.
August 1, 1912 – Plans began to build a water system between buildings for fire protection.
September 19, 1912 – The village posted signs setting the speed limit within the city at 8 m.p.h.
November 14, 1912 – Another major fire destroys the frame buildings west of Walnut Street.
June 11, 1914 – A Sutherland Chautauqua was held from June 11th to June 20th.
November 26, 1914 – Vernon Connett was murdered by Ray Roberts near Sutherland.
April 22, 1915 – The paper discusses the towns’ reputation as “The prettiest small town in western Nebraska along the Union Pacific.”
October 21, 1915 – The South River Bridge will cost $35,000.
July 25, 1918 – The Village announced that the Sutherland Light Plant will run from 1:00pm to 11:00pm. This was amended in September to power being furnished during the forenoon on Mondays and Tuesdays pending a vote of the patrons on which half days they would rather use the electricity for washing and ironing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ah Huntsville!

Ah, Huntsville. How you surprised and delighted!

I am ashamed for being disappointed that you won the bid to host #SoMeT13US. You were wonderful hosts, and the story of how you energized the entire city, state and region in the voting process is inspiring.
Let me start from the center and work outward. Huntsville's downtown and courthouse square are wonderful. You're going to be seeing and hearing more about this area in the years to come. There are far too many vacant store fronts, and lots of construction on the streets - these will be short-lived I'm sure and this area is going to be a vibrant arts and entertainment district very, very soon. My one complaint, and I know that no one in Huntsville now is responsible for it, but could you possibly have chosen an uglier design for your courthouse? What an eyesore! What were they thinking back in the 70's, anyway?
I thoroughly enjoyed the Harrison Brothers hardware store - in operation for 116 years! Of course, now it's a gift shop operated by the Historic Huntsville Foundation, but they have preserved the look and feel and even the products of the old-time hardware store. They have a wonderful selection of locally produced goods and art, and best of all, they ship! I'm anxiously awaiting the pickled okra, asparagus and various sauces that I purchased.
All of downtown, and in fact, the whole community, is filled with historic markers. It is wonderful to know what happened on that particular spot, in that particular house. What a great way to tell the story of the community. And the historic neighborhoods! Twickenham, Old Town and Five Points - oh my - the earliest home I can remember seeing dates from 1814, coming up on 200 years. There is street after street of these historic homes, all marked with the dates and sometimes the names, and even a guidebook containing listings of the most historic.

They offer tours, too. How about the Huntsville Ghost Walk? Spies, lies and alibis? Civil War Bones? Mischief and Mayhem? All of these sound like great ways to experience Huntsville history.

Just to the north of the downtown is the historic Huntsville Depot, which changed hands numerous times in the Civil War. I had probably the best living-history tour I've ever had through this Depot.
The southern gentleman who guided us was wonderful. You'll want to take the guided tour when you have the chance to visit - and don't miss the civil-war era graffiti on the third floor. Nearby is the North Alabama Railroad Museum, which I didn't have time to see.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Lumberyard - an authentic 1895 lumber yard now converted to an event and wedding venue. We had a wonderful off-site party... no, no, not party... networking event there Thursday night.
East of downtown is the Maple Hill Cemetery - the Civil War Bones tour mentioned above guides you through this cemetery. It is beautiful. There is a self-guided tour available at the cemetery office and they host an annual walk during October. Two things on my list of things to see that I didn't get to were the Weeden House and Alabama Constitution Village. I guess it's a reason to go back!
Further out and up a beautiful drive around a mountain to the east is the Burritt Home on the Mountain. Dr. William Burritt donated 157 acres on the top of the mountain the community of Huntsville upon his death. The beautiful house he built overlooks breathtaking scenery down into the valley. And now for a unique Nebraska connection... the house is constructed of straw bales!
Wide window ledge is a tell-tale sign of straw-bale construction.
This is the second time on my adventures that I have encountered this most Nebraska of construction methods. The first was at the Prime Desert Woodland in Lancaster, CA. For those of you who don't know - the art of constructing homes of straw bales covered with stucco and plaster was pioneered in Nebraska around 1900.
A section of the straw left peeking through.
The historic village that they've created includes homes moved to the site from the surrounding area. They tell the story of the earliest inhabitants and their hard work in creating a life for themselves and their families.

A living history re-enactor at the History Village
The people who operate the Burritt Home on the Mountain have been ingenious in creating sustainability for the historic village - they have included an event center with an amazing view of the valley, which I am sure must be in much demand, and an education center so they can host workshops and trainings. Couple that with the delightful gift shop, and you've got a model of sustainability.
And now on to the showcase of Huntsville, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Before I went there, I was decidedly unimpressed with the thought of visiting, but the sight of the massive Saturn 3 Rocket quickly changed that. I admit I was overawed with the exhibits, the experience at the Space Camp, the rocket launch and their gift shop. It is definitely a must-see for anyone visiting Huntsville.

Our short time in Huntsville has only scratched the surface of all there is to see and do in the area, so I guess I'll have to plan a return trip!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

#SoMeT13US - The 2013 Social Media Tourism Symposium

I will apologize in advance for the length of this post. Be forewarned, you may need to break up the consumption into about three parts!

Some of you who follow me on twitter or Facebook may have noticed the hashtag #SoMeT13US in recent posts. If you’re into social media, you may have followed the hashtag itself.

SoMeT13US is the annual Social Media Tourism Symposium. The US is because there are now symposiums in Australia and Europe. This year social media strategists and community managers involved in tourism from all across America gathered in Huntsville, AL to network with each other and learn from incredible leaders in our industry.

Why Huntsville you might ask? SoMeT is unlike any other bid process you’ve ever heard of. In December, the organizers gather RFP’s from hopeful communities, which are organized into a college basketball-type playoff bracket. Early rounds are the “final 64”, which are reduced in subsequent rounds until it reaches the final four and finally, the championship bracket.

The finals this year were Huntsville vs Missoula. Though Huntsville alone is about 1/3 the population of the entire state of Montana, they only squeaked by with a mere 3000 vote lead.

Huntsville managed to pull off the win by completely engaging their community, state and region. They created the hashtag #MeetMeAtTheRocket, which they plastered EVERYWHERE along with #SoMeT13US and Vote for Huntsville – on sidewalk chalk drawings, in bathroom stalls, on billboards, in company email newsletters, on restaurant tables, in lines at Starbucks and movie theaters. They got incredible media coverage (as did the conference while we were in town). All to encourage everyone to vote on the Thursdays when the match-ups were released.

What they found was that the entire community took ownership of the campaigns. By the end of voting days, organizers would have multiple emails in their in-boxes reminding THEM to vote – these had been forwarded on through other email networks. All to attract around 300 social media professionals to their community for a four day conference. If my spending is any indication, they realized around a $300,000 economic impact and millions of social media impressions from the event. Not bad for a campaign that essentially cost staff time and a little local advertising, most of which was donated.

Social and Tourism

This most social of industries – travel and tourism – has been very slow to get on the social media bandwagon. In an era where everything from retail sales to television show popularity is driven by social media, there are still tourism organizations around the country (ahem…), who are reluctant to embrace the power of social to market their destinations.

Our conservative approach consists of websites (which is good), partnering with our state and regional organizations (also good), and then placing the same ad in the same print publications year after year, even though these have no track record of attracting visitors to our destinations. Three major travel print publications – Conde Nast, National Geographic and Travel and Leisure magazine have just experienced mass lay-offs and reorganizations indicating that things may not be well in the paradise of print travel publications.

Today we are in the age of the over-educated consumer. On average, a consumer seeks 10.4 sources of information before making a purchasing decision – including their travel decisions. A single ad or article in a print publication is not going to reach today’s traveler. They are going to seek reviews on TripAdvisor; postings from their social networks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a host of other services; they’re going to google information and read travel bloggers. Eventually, they might visit your website. What they’re not going to do is see a print ad and make the decision to visit your destination.

So what are we to do? We have got to engage social and empower our fans to do our marketing for us. Travel is inherently SOCIAL! Remember the old cliché of being invited over to your neighbors’ house to watch an endless slide show of their vacation? We’re still doing that, but now it’s on Instagram, Vine, Twitter, Facebook and our own blogs. We want to share our amazing experiences, and we want to learn about the amazing experiences others have had, because we want to have them ourselves!

Here are a few key takeaways from #SoMeT13US:

Think like a Rock Star!

Rock stars appreciate their fans. Rock stars LOVE their fans. They are not seeking new fans. They are rewarding existing fans – ticket specials, early release opportunities, backstage passes, and personal time. Why? Because they know that these hard-core fans will be out there creating the new fans for them!

By creating an emotional relationship with our fans, the relationship is eventually going to translate into sales. We are concentrating on the wrong people! We shouldn’t be expending our efforts to attract new visitors. We should be loving up on our existing visitors. After making sure they had the most amazing experience in your destination possible, reward them for telling their story – showcase their photos, share their stories, shout out to them, provide contests and rewards for them, create special events just for these fans.
  • Visitor stories build brands – start focusing on the authentic stories people trust and believe (and it’s not advertising!)
  • Increasing the number of stories people tell in their own personal networks is MARKETING – it does not have to happen on your channel. These stories build your brand.


  • Motivate – give people a reason to whip out their phone, take a photo, share it
  • What do people share the most? Remarkable things.


  • Photo ops – Give people a remarkable place to take photos.
  • Large frames placed around town framing iconic sites
  • Distribute frames to partners, residents, visitors (with info on sharing with hashtags so you can track and curate it)
  • Large chalk boards in key sites where people can create their own messages and take photos
  • Enable – Wifi – offer LOTS. If people take a photo and they can’t share it easily then and there, they might not share it
Put cheese on the broccoli! Your sales message is the broccoli – visitor stories are the cheese!

Embrace YOUtility

The difference between helping and selling is just two letters. If you’re helping, you’re selling. YOUtility is marketing so useful people would pay for it. Be radically transparent! If you don’t do something so good, and your neighbor down the road does, sell them. Promote your destination less. Teach about your destination more.

Think about your own personal newsfeed. You see a post from a friend, then a family member, then someone you don’t really know, then a page you have liked. As marketers, we’re not only competing against other destinations, we’re competing against EVERYONE! If our posts aren’t educational, engaging, inspirational, they’re going to get scrolled past, and rightly so. Better yet, if it is your potential visitors’ friends and families posting about your destination, you’re golden!

Remember the quote above about 10.4 sources of information before purchase decisions? If you think you’ve got enough info up on your website, you’re wrong! Answer every question anyone has ever asked or thought about asking about your destination.
  • Questions create friction, friction creates uncertainty, uncertainty keeps people from coming to see you.

Empowerment

So, how to implement a marketing strategy that helps you engage real people to become advocates for your brand? You’ve got to empower your WHOLE ORGANIZATION to become social. From the CEO to the receptionist, everyone needs to know how to create compelling content on their own channels. If you can’t get likes, shares and retweets from your own organization people, do you really expect your wider audience to participate? If the entire staff isn’t taking photos at the local events they’re attending and posting them so you can share them out on the official channels, can you expect others to?

From there, get your partners involved. Do they need social media training? Use some of your marketing budget to provide it for them. Then move on to other locals.
  • Basic tourism fact #1: The number one reason for traveling is to visit friends and family.
  • Basic tourism fact #2: Potential visitors trust recommendations from friends and family most of all.
Get your locals engaged on your social media channels!

Implement the tools to help them.

  • After training, create a social media content calendar so everyone knows what the thrust is going to be and how they can help create content to spread the word.
  • Provide showcases – a page on your website, aggregate content on a tumblr page, rock Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube so you are attracting lots of great content to share.

It’s all about the HASHTAG!

Social listening is vital, and you can do it a number of different ways. Google alerts, social mention, twitter searches. How do you make it easier? ROCK THE HASHTAG!

OK, OK, OK, so every little teeny bopper with a smart phone is #hashtaggingeverything #omg #lol. But hashtags are meant to be useful! Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest have all enabled searchable hashtags. Want to see what people are posting about #Nebraska? Click on the Hashtag! #Huskers #GBR. How about #NLD14? #NPNE? #NorthPlatte? #GoldenSpike? #GST? #RailFest14? (hint – for Instagram, on your desktop, you’ll need a third-party app. I recommend Ink361)

Create an AMAZING (and short!) Hashtag, then ROCK IT! Use it every time you post! Make sure all of your staff, partners, locals are using the appropriate Hashtag every time they post. Then monitor it! If someone posts to the hashtag, there better be someone at the other end responding to it if it warrants a response – within about 10 minutes!

Engage the influencers!

There are already people out there posting about your destination. Who are they? Are you thanking them? Are you rewarding them? Are you making it easy for them? I’m speaking, of course, of bloggers. These come in all shapes and sizes – Macro bloggers - People with a blog; Micro bloggers - Facebook posters; and Nano bloggers - Twitters. There are mommy bloggers, family bloggers, travel bloggers, baby-boomer travel bloggers, mommy travel bloggers, family travel bloggers, beer travel bloggers, quilt travel bloggers… you name it, there’s a blog out there for it!

Seek out your local bloggers – they’re there, trust me. They have networks. Ask them for help in finding appropriate bloggers. Think statewide. Nebraska has wonderful bloggers, who love this state, want to see it grow and would be happy to help. Then seek out professional national and international bloggers. TBEX would be a great place to start. Of course, after you’ve found them, check them out. Do they write about what you have? How long have they been doing it? How influential are they? What size of followings do they have on multiple platforms?

Think it’s not worth your while to cultivate travel bloggers? Just re-read the beginning of this post. How long is it going to be before there aren’t any print magazines left? And honestly, it takes little or nothing to cultivate travel bloggers!

Authentic bloggers don’t get paid for their blogging. Let me say that again – bloggers don’t get paid! How long would their audience trust them if they knew hotel x, attraction y or destination z were PAYING them for the words they were writing. Not long. Now, that isn’t to say that you should make travel bloggers pay for their rooms, meals and admission. They will disclose to their audiences what perks they received in your destination.

Now, free travel is nice, but just how do travel bloggers make a living? They provide additional services! Most bloggers are wonderful photographers. Need more photos for your library? While the blogger is in your destination, commission them to take some photos for you. Bloggers are writers! Need some help with your website, or some content for your own blogs? Commission them to write so many words/articles for you. Is there an area of expertise that a blogger can teach about? Hire them to do some training while they are in your destination.

The Devil is in the Details

Having trouble getting social? Here are some step-by-steps:
  • Get mobile. Mobile just surpassed desktop/laptop (as in 57%) in web use. Start by making sure your website is optimized for mobile.
  • Explore the main tourism-centric channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare.


  • Choose the ones you’re going to work on and ROCK them!
  • Create compelling content – this means photos, photos, photos! Be helpful, tell stories, teach. Post regularly and often!
  • Connect – Find your advocates – partners, locals, bloggers, social media aficionados. Reach out to them. Let them create content for you.
  • Create some campaigns, contests, events - projects that will tie social to your entire marketing program. This includes hashtags!
What are you waiting for? Get social!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Honor: A Tribute to Veterans

Another fantastic tribute to our veterans from artists who have graced the Nebraska Outback House Concert stage.


As long as Old Glory flies in American skies, we must honor our soldiers who died.

Ghosts of the American Road is the latest brainchild of internationally acclaimed songwriter Kevin Higgins and his talented musical partner, Barbara Malteze. Between them, they have logged over 320,000 miles on the odometer on their Toy Box and collected seven Texas Music Awards along the way. Inspired by Kevin's cinemagraphic compositions, the two have conceived well-orchestrated arrangements, weaving their individual vocal styles over guitar and piano to embellish the melodic poetry that has become their signature sound. This is "American Music", where all styles come together at a distinctly original musical crossroads.

Thank you to all the veterans who are "Home Free"

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cattle trails in western Nebraska

I'm adding this blog post in support of the one about Ogallala's Front Street.

The National Great Western Cattle Trail Association is holding its National Convention in Ogallala November 8 and 9. It's just a further example of the importance of Ogallala in western history, and what a great attraction Front Street is.

You can find the great story by North Platte's 10/11 news team by clicking here.

Sunday Stories: Sutherland Roots II

Excerpts from the Sutherland Centennial, 1891 - 1991.

The first businesses of the village were: Hardware store on Front Street owned by Elmer Coates, and sold to Orville Hostetter and his brother in 1893. He sold to E.C. Brown and C.B. McKinstry in the fall of 1896; John Coker Hotel run by Wilson W. Yates; Bank of Sutherland built in the spring of 1893 by E.C. Brown, President and C.B. McKinstry Cashier; first elevator was built by C.F. Iddings in 1892; General Merchandise of George C. White; Dry Goods Store of George C. McKay; Lumber Yard and Grain House belonging to C.W. Holtry; John Reed was the Village Blacksmith; Mr. Campbell served as Postmaster and Depot Agent; and the first newspaper, The Free Lance, was run by Charles Purnell until he sold it to C.M. Reynolds. The first grocery store was built in 1892 by Frederick L. Datchier on Front Street and is believed to have burned and he quit business.


In 1899, Sutherland had the only bridge crossing the North Platte River in the area and Hershey had the nearest doctor, Dr. Eaves. Sutherland had the pharmacy and a depot. There was an annual 4th of July celebration, with an open air dance in the park until daylight.


Sutherland was incorporated as a Village under the State Laws of Nebraska in April 1905. The first officers of the Village Board were: Chairman John R. White; Clerk W.F. Elfeldt; Health Officers James R. White and Dr. G.O. Gordon; Street Commissioner Hans Jorgensen; Treasurer W.C. Blackmore; and Councilmen James W. White, G.O. Gordon; G.L. Button, and A.W. Peterson.


The first church was the Methodist Episcopal established in 1886 at Cody Siding with the Rev. Crago as pastor. Data is scarce as records were burned in a fire in 1888. They built their first church building in 1899 on land purchased from Charles and Anna Burklund.

The Presbyterian Church was formally established on March 12, 1893, by Alex Robertson, David Hunter, and John Coker. The 24 x 32 feet church was erected in 1892 at a cost of $1,000.00 with an active Sunday School started at that early date.

The Lutheran Church was built on its present site in 1895.

In the spring of 1897, dreams of a village park began. A committee composed of Frank Carpenter, W.C. Blackmore and E.C. Brown was chosen to meet with the Union Pacific officials. With the help of John Keith who had great influence with the railroad, they secured land next to the mainline south of the business district.


Sutherland’s first fire department consisted of a double handled pump and 200 feet of inch hose located and owned by Sutherland Hardware on the southeast corner of Block Five. Later more pumps were added, as was hose at the J.H. McNeels and more at E.C. Browns’ Sutherland Hardware.


In 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression, extreme temperatures and drought, Sutherland was considered booming. The mile of Lincoln Highway through Sutherland was being paved and the Sutherland Reservoir was under construction. 350 people were directly connected with the building of the reservoir and at least 150 indirectly, bringing about 1,000 people to the area. About half of the men boarded at the reservoir site while the rest made their home in Sutherland. The payroll each week was around $6,000 and wages varied from 50 cents an hour to $1.20.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Front Street fails to sell at auction, for sale again.

Updated: After failing to sell at auction on November 4, this wonderful attraction is now listed for sale again by Schow Realty.

The real and personal property are valued at $470,000. The auction price dipped to $200,000 and still failed to attract a bidder. Just read the article below to find the Trip Advisor reviews that tell how much visitors LOVE Front Street! Sadly, if it doesn't attract a buyer, it will be auctioned off piecemeal next spring.

According to the Omaha World Herald article, Front Street attracts 48,000 visitors each year, and they do very little advertising - with a little effort on Social Media, this could rise significantly! So, c'mon someone - this is a bargain, and if you want to work hard to put your own stamp on it, you can take Front Street into the future!

Ogallala became famous as a wide-open, lawless end-of-the-Texas-trail town in the 1870's. That spirit has lived on throughout the years at the Front Street Steakhouse and Crystal Palace Saloon. Now, it's time for a new chapter in the life of the iconic attraction. The current owner is part of the original group of investors who built the attraction in the 1960's. He's ready to move on, and that spells opportunity for another investor to continue the tradition into the 21st century.

My favorite memories of Front Street are taking friends and family to the Crystal Palace Review each year. These incredibly talented young people perform in the longest-running summer stock theater in Nebraska. The show celebrated its 50th consecutive year in the summer of 2012. Three Miss Nebraska's have been part of the cast, and the shootouts, music and humor are unforgettable.

We're not the only ones who have enjoyed it, either. Just check out the reviews for the attraction on Trip Advisor. Not only are they a favorite for leisure travelers throughout the summer, they also cater to bus groups, and there's a unique meeting and banquet hall for a unique setting for your special event. The attraction is located right along the Lincoln Highway Byway, and there is an active local tourism promotion organization to partner in being successful.

In 2010, the operation was offered for sale, but the Rezacs have continued to operate it and now have chosen the auction way to pass the attraction on to the next generation.

Local all-star auction company Schow Realty and Auction have the sale, and you can read all of the details for what is included on their website. The auction takes place at 10:30am MT on November 4 at Front Street, 519 E. First St., Ogallala.
Here are the details:
  • Offered as a going business - turnkey.
  • Steakhouse with seating for 100.
  • Saloon and stage area with seating for 140.
  • Fully equipped kitchen.
  • Event center upstairs featuring 2 large bar areas and dance floor.
  • Museum showcasing the “Old West” and cattle drive days when Ogallala was the end of the Texas Trail.
  • Tourism highlight for thousands each year!
Besides all of that, there are two leases - Makenzi's gift shop and Silver Eagle Art Gallery, so you're already on your way to success!

Plus, I'll mention here the amazing partnerships that can be had at the Nebraska Tourism Commission. If there are any folks who want an attraction like this to succeed, it's them, and they will do everything they can to help you be successful.

So, c'mon and join us down at Front Street (anyone who has ever been to the stage show will understand that!) and be a part of the Nebraska Tourism Industry. You know you've been looking for that unique opportunity, and this certainly is that!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Haunted Sutherland - for a good cause

Like many small towns across America, the Legion Hall is a center of activity.
Sutherland's Otto V Johnson American Legion Hall has been vital to Sutherland for many years. It has seen wedding receptions, graduation parties, birthdays, dances, household auctions, community meals for as long as anyone can remember.
As can be seen from the above photo taken in 1961, not much has changed at the Legion Hall in many years. It is sadly in need of updating. Recently, Sutherland farmer and rancher Frank Fleecs donated more than $30,000 to upgrade the heating and air conditioning in the building.
Now, more needs to be done, such as expanding the bathrooms and kitchen. The Sutherland Growth Committee has been hosting a series of fundraisers, as have the American Legion and Auxiliary.
Most recently was the "Sutherland Museum of Horrors" over Halloween. More than 30 volunteers spent countless hours cleaning out the basement and stage, constructing the museum, decorating the exhibits and staffing it during the "tours."
Everyone had a great time, and there were all levels of spookiness and fun. Things the little ones could enjoy and more advanced scares for the bravest among the visitors.
It all went for a good cause, raising more than $2,500.00.

All told, if everyone had simply donated the dollars they spent on all of the decorations, we probably would have been money ahead, but we wouldn't have had nearly so much fun!

Plan on seeing the event again next Halloween, bigger and better than ever!



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