Custer County Ready for Tourism & Passport Program; Red Barn to Open July 1

Custer County Ready for Tourism & Passport Program; Red Barn to Open July 1
The Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Visitors Center aka the Red Barn located on the east side of Broken Bow is set to open July 1.

CUSTER COUNTY—Custer County is open for tourism this summer and welcomes the public—locals and out-of-towners—to explore all it has to offer! As COVID-19 restrictions continue to change and Governor Pete Ricketts announced the next phase of Directed Health Measures (which began June 22), travelers are anxious to hit the road.

Safety measures such as wearing masks, washing hands/sanitizing, social distancing, and staying home if you are not feeling well are still encouraged by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. However, as business and gathering capacities increase, tourism organizations such as the Nebraska Passport Program “inspires Nebraskans and tourists to travel throughout the state collecting stamps to earn prizes, while also supporting Nebraska’s tourism destinations.”

Secretary of the Custer County Tourism Visitors Committee Rick Maas spoke with KCNI/KBBN this month and said “the situation with tourism is problematic right now.” However, Maas feels encouraged and is ready to welcome travelers to the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Visitors Center, also known as the “Red Barn,” beginning July 1. He said although it has not been officially open yet, the Red Barn has already welcomed 32 visitors so far this season with many from out of state.

The Red Barn located on the east side of Broken Bow on Highway 2 usually opens Memorial Day weekend but due to COVID-19 the opening date has been pushed back to comply with state restrictions.

The Red Barn will be open Wednesday, July 1 through September 30. Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Tourism is Nebraska’s third largest industry and has a huge economic impact on the state. “According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic and international travelers to Nebraska spent $4.9 billion in 2016 and generated $735.1 million to federal, state and local governments,” according to a Nebraska Tourism Commission press release from 2018.

“I think looking forward to next year when things settle down, you’re going to see tourism—which has a huge impact on the economy—it’s the number three industry as far as revenue in the state goes—so it’s pretty significant and a lot of people don’t even realize how significant it is,” Maas said.

Rick Maas, who previously served two terms as the Custer County Tourism Visitors Committee chairman, said the Red Barn has about 40 volunteers this season and said many of the volunteers are in the vulnerable age group so they are encouraging everyone to be careful and take precautions when visiting.

If people do not feel comfortable traveling too far from home, there is still plenty Nebraska has to offer and right here in our own backyard.

“Even staying at home—if you just travel around this county it’s so beautiful. You go over to Callaway and Arnold and just the terrain is just fantastic. That’s why I live here! There’s plenty to see just around here, a lot of stuff that I haven’t seen. I need to make it a point to get around to every part of this county because we’ve got a lot to offer and a lot of beautiful country,” Maas said.

Two Custer County businesses have been selected for the annual Nebraska Passport Program including BrewBakers Coffee House & Gifts in Arnold and the Bonfire Grill & Pub in Broken Bow. Get your passport at the Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce office and enjoy the adventure! The program began June 1 and will continue through October 31.

BrewBakers in Arnold
Bonfire Grill in Broken Bow. Photo courtesy of Bonfire Grill

“The Passport Program has been bringing in a lot of traffic in the doors and is an amazing program. I feel more states need to hop on the bandwagon and give this a try!” said
Bonfire Director of Operations & Marketing Hannah Wolf.

Maas said the Passport Program receives about 350 applications each year to be a passport location and only selects 72. He hopes to see the Red Barn on the passport in the future!

For questions, contact Rick at 308-870-0165 or visit

Passport Stops by Town:
Brewery 719 (Alliance)
Steph’s Studio (Alliance)
BrewBakers Coffee House & Gifts (Arnold)
Cellar 426 Winery (Ashland)
Salt Creek Merchantile (Ashland)
Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum (Ashland)
Honeybees in the Heartland (Auburn)
Mignery Bronze Garden (Bartlett)
Tall Tree Tastings (Beatrice)
Our Specialtea (Blair)
Harmony Nursery & Daylily Farm (Bradshaw)
Bonfire Grill & Pub (Broken Bow)
Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park (Burwell)
Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center (Chadron)
Platte County Museum (Columbus)
242 House Restaurant & Bar (Cozad)
Hudson-Meng Education & Research Center (Crawford)
Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art (David City)
Rock Island Railroad Depot Museum & Jefferson County Historical Society (Fairbury)
The Tow Line Co (Fremont)
Genoa Indian School Interpretive Center (Genoa)
Pony Express Station Museum (Gothenburg)
Sin City Grill (Grand Island)
Bakers Candies (Greenwood)
Bigfoot Crossroads of America Museum & Research Center (Hastings)
One of the World’s Largest Covered Porch Swings (Hebron)
Village Pizza (Hemingford)
Henderson Mennonite Heritage Museum & Park (Henderson)
Lost Way Brewery (Holdrege)
Southeast Nebraska Cancer Memorial Garden (Humboldt)
Lavender Market & Lavender Littles (Imperial)
Barista’s Daily Grind on 2nd Ave (Kearney)
Nebraska Firefighters Museum & Education Center (Kearney)
Classic Car Collection (Kearney)
Fort Kearny State Historical Park (Kearney)
Kimball Bakery/Merrycakes (Kimball)
Beyond Golf – Bar + Kitchen (La Vista)
Nebraska Brewing Company (La Vista)
The Most Unlikely Place (Lewellen)
Gallery Nine (Lincoln)
International Quilt Museum (Lincoln)
Jilly’s Socks ‘n Such (Lincoln)
The Farmer’s Wife Boutique & Coffee Co. (Lindsay)
Faith’s BackRoad BBQ (Lynch)
The Madrid General Store (Madrid)
Mac’s Drive Inn (McCook)
Harold Warp Pioneer Village (Minden)
Lewis & Clark Interpretive Trail and Visitor Center (Nebraska City)
Tree Adventure at Arbor Day Farm (Nebraska City)
Niobrara State Park (Niobrara)
Simpler Thymes Flower Farm (Norfolk)
Pop Corner (North Platte)
Prairie Friends & Flowers (North Platte)
Double Dips Ice Creamery (North Platte)
Driftwood (Ogallala)
The Next Chapter (Omaha)
Mulhall’s Garden + Home (Omaha)
Lo Sole Mio Ristorante Italiano (Omaha)
Made in Omaha (Omaha)
Potter Sundry (Potter)
Branched Oak State Recreation Area (Raymond)
Rosita’s Restaurant (Scottsbluff)
Cappuccino & Company (Scottsbluff)
Chapters Books & Gifts (Seward)
French Door Antique Mall & Creative Boutique (Sidney)
Auntie D’s Gift & Coffee Shop (Valentine)
Bolo Beer Co. (Valentine)
AquaPop (Wayne)
Wilber Czech Museum (Wilber)
Chances “R” Restaurant & Lounge (York)