Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Holds Annual Conference In Cairo

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Holds Annual Conference In Cairo
2018 Byway Enhancement Award presented to Sandhills Heritage Museum. (L-R) Linda Teahon, Terri Licking, Kathie Martindale

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway (SJSB) held their annual conference on Saturday, January 26 at the Senior Center in Cairo. Theme for this year’s conference was “Grass and Water: Roots of the Sandhills”.

The theme was chosen as both segments are vital to the region’s vast cattle herds, which can be seen along the 272 miles of the byway that stretches from Grand Island to Alliance on Nebraska Highway 2. The two elements were also part of the program. Grass was celebrated beginning Friday, January 25 at the Grand theater in Grand Island with the showing of the documentary, “Ocean of Grass” by Georg Joutras. Its three-night run from Friday to Sunday had 837 in attendance.

Joutras, a professional photographer from Lincoln became friends with Laron McGinn, an artist whose works grace homes and galleries around the world when they were both exhibiting at the Burkholder Project in Lincoln. McGinn’s family ranch is in Custer county, with some of its holdings seen along the SJSB. McGinn invited Joutras to the ranch.

After almost three years, a 240 page book that precluded the movie, and 100 hours of film whittled down to 84 minutes, the story of life on a Sandhills ranch debuted at the Kansas City film festival, then in June, the Nebraska premier was at the Tiffany theater in Broken Bow where it was seen in all three theaters over an expansion of almost a month. Since then the film has been seen in cities across the state, Colorado and Wyoming. Over 28 media reviews from paper to TV segments are highlighted on the website.

Cairo residents hosted the SJSB members at the Roots museum prior to their annual meeting.

“The byways in Nebraska turn 20 years old this year; hosting this film whose location is on our byway ‘kicked’ off our 20th anniversary in style,” stated Charity Adams, SJSB treasurer and who was instrumental in visiting with Joutras and the Grand theater foundation board to secure the film.

During the convention the next day, after the annual business meeting and lunch which was catered by the local restaurant, The Vault, Joutras was to have been the keynote speaker, but he caught the flu so his comments were sent to Adams via email and read.

Water was highlighted by Tammy Hendrickson, curator of the Custer Co. Museum at Broken Bow. Through the Smithsonian ‘Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program, the museum hosted their WaterWays exhibit during August. They were also the only one of the six Nebraska sites that incorporated student’s in the exhibit.

A grant written by Hendrickson and obtained, allowed her to approach the county schools to do educational videos on water. She showed the videos produced by students from Ansley, Sargent, Broken Bow and Anselmo-Merna. The topics varied from irrigation water to the recreational water of the Calamus and Little Blue rivers as well as the importance of the Loup river system and the Ogallala aquifer.

The Sandhills Heritage Museum board chair, Kathie Martindale, gave a presentation on the new museum in Dunning which will celebrate its second year this year but was twenty years in the making.

Award presentations concluded the conference. The 2018 Individual Friend of the Byway went to Kevin Howard, past tourism director of Alliance who is now tourism director for Cheyenne county and calls Sidney home. 2018 Business of the Byway went to Security State Bank of Ansley. The community opened up and hosted the November meeting of the SJSB and showcased the revitalization they are doing in their community. No one from the bank was present to accept the award, but Bryan Trimble, bank president was given it by SJSB president Terri Licking when she visited February 1.

The line forms outside the Grand Theater on Friday night for the premier of ‘Ocean of Grass’ , hosted by the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. The first night of three saw close to 350, and had 837 total for the 3 nights.

The final award of the day, Byway Community Enhancement, was presented to Sandhills Heritage Museum of Dunning for the outstanding work they are doing on preserving the history of their area. At their ribbon cutting in August, Governor Pete Ricketts along with his wife and two children came to help them celebrate their grand opening.

Officers and board of directors for the SJSB for 2019 include Terri Licking, Thedford, President; Bill Burdett, Cairo, Vice-President; Twila Philips, Mullen, Secretary/grant writer; Charity Adams, Cairo, Treasurer. Officers are on the board as our Mitch and Patty Glidden serving as one, Mullen, Linda Lacy (Past president), Ashby and new directors are Linda Teahon, Dunning and Kathie Martindale, Brewster.

The SJSB is a 501©3 whose monthly meetings vary in location on the byway and are held the second Wednesday of the month. February’s meeting will be via Zoom, with Ravenna Chamber in charge. If you would like to attend the meeting let one of the officers know, your email is required