Omaha World-Herald. May 14, 2021.

Editorial: Nebraska Passport program provides fun, helps local economies

Tourism is a big deal for Nebraska, pumping $3.5 billion into the economy in 2019. That might surprise people who think the Cornhusker State has little more to offer visitors than, well, corn.

Savvy Nebraskans know better, of course. And those who participate in the state’s Nebraska Passport program each year discover dozens of interesting sites and experiences that were hidden in plain sight.

Now in its 12th year, the Nebraska Passport, from the Nebraska Tourism Commission, is a kind of statewide scavenger hunt. Participants try to visit as many of the 70 stops as they can during the five months of the program, which runs May 1-Sept. 30.

This year, you can walk across the Missouri River on the Meridian Bridge at South Yankton, play board games at the Spielbound café in Omaha, and hike the Wildcat Hills in the Nebraska Panhandle.

You can eat and drink your way across the state — from a coffee shop in a former bank in Bayard to a winery in St. Paul to a candy store in downtown Omaha. Passport stops include plenty of other places to shop, learn about Nebraska’s history and enjoy the outdoors.

The program is free, though participants have at least the cost of driving to stops. And since the point is to boost tourism and its economic benefits for local communities, it’s nice to support the businesses and attractions by actually buying something.

Participants can pick up a physical stamp in their passport books or a digital one in the passport app on their phones. Prizes are issued depending on how many stamps you collect. Information on the 2021 stops and Passport booklet ordering is at

Last year was a tough year for Nebraska’s tourism industry, the state’s third biggest economic sector. Still, 1,188 people filled their passports with all 70 stamps and were rewarded with an assortment of T-shirts, license plate holders, magnets and vouchers for Nebraska lottery tickets.

The number of passport “champions” was actually up from 914 in 2019, and the number of stamps issued rose as well, although other measures were down during the pandemic.

Such passport programs can be successful in introducing people to new experiences. Nebraska also has a wine passport and a beef passport.

The real rewards for participants come in the experiences that bring a deeper appreciation of our state and its people.

It’s one thing to stop at these places and see what they look like. It’s another to meet the store owners or restaurant servers or museum guides and learn why their business or community history is important to them.

For example, a visit to the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art in David City, a stop on last year’s passport, brought more than a look through the two rooms in the gallery. A couple of retired teachers who help run the museum offered a private tour of their personal collection housed in the storefront next door, and then recommended a barbeque sandwich at a nearby shop.

A trip to the beautiful Southeast Nebraska Memorial Cancer Garden in Humboldt led to meeting the woman who came up with the idea of creating this tribute to cancer victims. She told how she won approval from city leaders to use park land for the garden, how she and other volunteers planted the flowers and other landscaping, and her ideas for expanding in the future.

And a stop at the Kimball Bakery resulted in more than a tasty donut purchase. The proud owner, who opened her shop just before the pandemic hit last year, was thrilled to give interested visitors a tour of how she had renovated the old building on Kimball’s main street.

Nebraska offers many interesting stories, unique experiences, stunning sunsets and more. The state’s passport program is an excellent way to find them — and support your fellow Nebraskans.


Lincoln Journal Star. May 14, 2021.

Editorial: Farm-to-school network great idea that took too long to occur

Unanimous first-round approval for a bill aimed at Nebraska schools buying their produce, dairy and meats from in-state farmers brings with it hope that maybe bipartisan politics aren’t dead.

LB396 -- a bill introduced by Sen. Tom Brandt of Plymouth and championed by Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, a legislative odd couple in many ways -- would create a statewide farm-to-school network that would put more locally grown products on school lunch trays.

Brandt said that about 90% of vegetables currently being used in Nebraska school lunches comes from out of state. That said, this has the potential to be a financial boon for Nebraska farmers.

It’s hard to argue with the concept -- and the bipartisan consensus that led to 43-0 first-round approval -- but we question why local schools haven’t always purchased from in-state farmers and why such an apparent no-brainer requires state legislation.

We are in the midst of America’s breadbasket, aren’t we? Farming and ranching represent a large chunk of Nebraska’s economy and keep the state economy churning.

Consider that Nebraska’s $5.8 billion in agricultural exports in 2019 translate into $7.4 billion in additional economic activity. Those numbers would only grow more prominently if more crops were to stay within our borders.

“I want to keep our food dollars in Nebraska, not send them to California,” Brandt said last month from the legislative floor.

In addition to providing a boost to local economies, allowing schools to source food from neighboring farmers could also create educational opportunities for students, Brandt said.

K-12 students in rural areas of the state grow up learning about food systems in ways students from urban centers often miss out on, but Hunt said LB396 brings with it the chance to chart the origins of the food they eat each day.

It appears to be a slam dunk -- well on its way to passage -- but we’d still be remiss for questioning the need for appropriating about $100,000 annually, to hire a statewide coordinator for the program.

It seems that Nebraska’s farmers would need no prodding in applying to be included in this networking opportunity. It would put them on the list for school districts. Most, if not all, districts already have someone dedicated to buying produce from somewhere to choose to buy local.

In a $9 billion budget, $100,000 is a drop in the bucket. But that’s real money for a smaller district. This is a worthy project, but it’s a shame it will take additional spending to make it happen.

We like the concept. We like the show of bipartisanship, and we like the idea of Nebraska’s farmers benefiting from a public entity to keep more dollars in Nebraska.

We’re just surprised such practices weren’t already in place.


Kearney Hub. May 11, 2021.

Editorial: KACF joins people with good causes

The fund is named for the Ravenna farmer/rancher who died in 2016 and left $2 million each to community foundations in Kearney and Grand Island.

The generous gift allowed KACF to create the Arthur Klinkacek Community Enrichment Fund, for community preservation and enrichment purposes. Klinkacek’s wishes were to help communities in Buffalo County for years to come.

“The Arthur Klinkacek Community Enrichment Fund really shows how the Kearney Area Community Foundation fulfills its purpose by managing the funds that donors entrust to the foundation and utilizing those funds to benefit the area we live in,” said Carol Pelster, KACF board member and Klinkacek Community Enrichment grants committee member.

Eight different nonprofits were awarded a total of $70,000 in winter grants. They include:

Buffalo County Recreation Area at Ravenna Lake: $10,000 to build a modern concrete restroom and shower facility that also will provide storm protection.

— Crane River Theater Co. Inc.: $5,000 for its “Building Character” program that includes a series of interactive workshops focused on creating young leaders by building confidence and creativity among area middle schoolers.

— Harmon Sonotorium Restoration Committee: $25,000 to update and restore the historic Sonotorium in Harmon Park to encourage more community involvement in what is arguably Kearney’s most beautiful park.

— HelpCare Clinic: $5,000 for a program to ensure HelpCare meets patients’ mental and behavioral health care needs.

— Kearney Area Children’s Museum: $5,000 to transform its agriculture exhibit. Children will see where their food comes from and learn about occupations in agriculture.

— Kearney Whitewater Association: $10,000 for the “Turn Flatwater into Whitewater” project to create a 2.3-mile water trail and park which will enhance outdoor recreational opportunities.

— Ravenna Community Foundation and Ravenna Chamber of Commerce: $5,000 to boost e-commerce and increase communications among community members.

In the spring, three different nonprofits were awarded a total of $25,000 in grants.

Compass received $20,000 to implement a new outpatient therapy program to support children and families healing from trauma. Crossroads Center Inc. received $2,500 to replace dilapidated beds and mattresses. Minden Opera House, Inc. received $2,500 to bring in an origami artist to help create a collaborative work of art to celebrate Minden’s community spirit.

The Klinkacek fund’s next application deadline is July 1. To view guidelines, pre-apply, or find more information, visit