One-hundred-forty-six drivers roared into Arnold last week for the 21st Annual Sandhills Open Road Challenge. Coming from all parts of the nation, many of the drivers participated in all three racing events – Thursday’s Loup2Loup, Friday’s Half-Mile and Mile Shoot-out and Saturday’s main event. For the first time in SORC’s history, all three events were live-streamed.
In past years, a very old bag phone (yes, they still exist) was the only way for KBBN radio to broadcast at the Mile and Half-Mile Shoot-out site outside of Callaway. Even then, there was just barely enough signal to get the job done. The lack of signal made it impossible to offer video of the event which had been offered at the other two races in Halsey and Arnold.
“From our point of view, it was disappointing because it is a very exciting event. A lot of people want to make it down, but can’t. It’s something they have never seen before – not only in Nebraska, but around the world,” said Gavin Higgins, news director for KBBN.
Station manager Jeremy Shipe talked to SORC about the possibility of broadcasting a video for all three days. He was told things would be put into motion to have a conversation with Great Plains Communications on how to solve the problem. In talking with GPC District Manager Ian Taylor and asking if there was a possibility of running fiber, SORC Board President Clay Mohr found out that the site was within half a mile of being on the end of the fiber.
Taylor worked with his team and the GPC management team to determine how to provide this service, as well as with GPC’s Economic Development Committee that oversees donations and sponsorship opportunities for the communities they serve. They came together quickly and made the decision to make it happen.
The work involved a 2-mile underground fiber deployment to get from GPC’s existing fiber location to the site of the Shootout. There was also engineering work, including mapping, splicing, and fiber activation. Having access to the Internet over fiber, along with assistance from Central Nebraska Streaming, KBBN was able to livestream the event over a fast, reliable connection.
“Having an active livestream provides more exposure for the event and the community,” said Taylor. “This type of modern connection and communication tactic takes the event to the next level, allowing SORC to deliver their mission and vision to an even broader audience while promoting Western Nebraska as a great place to live and work in communities that care. Great Plains Communications serves over 90 communities across Nebraska. As such, we realize our responsibility as a community partner and take giving back seriously. The company donates a significant amount of income back into sponsorships and worthy causes across the communities we serve. In addition, our employees donate a great deal of time volunteering for causes in their towns where they live and work. This specific event promotes not only the community of Arnold, but also Western Nebraska. Visitors and participants help to contribute to the economy and bring attention to the area as a great place to live. In addition, SORC donates all money back to worthwhile causes including scholarships, local fire departments, and more. GPC is honored to be a part of helping to provide the fiber connection to live stream this worthwhile annual event. “
“This is the big thing the drivers will be excited about,” said Mohr. “Our drivers and their families – especially those who can’t be here for the race – really enjoy following along. Without Great Plains Communications, it wouldn’t be possible. We’re just so appreciative of what they did for us.”
“We will be able to pair it all together with radio broadcast, along with video broadcast. People will get the visual and great announcers,” said Shipe. “(KBBN General Manager)
Dave Birnie has been there every year for 21 years. “It makes us really happy that people are out there listening to these interviews, not only family. We pass that information along on the radio and drivers know what is going on. When the drivers pull up, they have KBBN on and that is really cool to hear as well. Not being able to use a more premium connection presented a big problem, but par for the course, when you are working with Arnold, they are go-getters. If this all comes together, another bag phone retirement will be taking place. We will be able to continue to do this with the help of Great Plains.”
Replays of the Loup2Loup Race in Halsey, Shootout near Callaway, and the SORC are available on Youtube (KCNI/KBBN) and Facebook (sandhillsexpress).