editor, Don McCabe, and I have the privilege of traveling the state’s byways regularly, visiting with farmers and ranchers, and stopping by rural communities in every section of the Good Life. Personally, I’ve appreciated the opportunity to not only visit these towns, but to talk with local residents and learn more about what makes Nebraska villages special.
Our towns are as different as they can be. They were founded for varied reasons and have colorful, often surprising histories. A couple of years ago, I researched some of this history and a few of the interesting slogans and nicknames townspeople gave their communities around the state for a trivia quiz for the Husker Harvest Days program.
I have no idea how some of our towns got their nicknames. Town boosters were often trying to come up with a slogan that would place their village in an interesting spotlight. The slogans were ways to attract new visitors, and maybe new businesses and residents.
I’m not sure if these slogans are factual or if the statements made by the community residents can be rooted in any concrete evidence. Some of the slogans would be difficult to prove, or disprove. I do believe that the townsfolk who live in these beautiful Nebraska communities make their claims proudly and boldly, without regret. I guess it is up to visitors to travel to these towns to see for themselves if the slogans and nicknames hold up.
The other day, I was driving past Greeley, a town that has one of my favorite slogans. My wife’s family has roots around Greeley, so I have a particular fondness for the folks there. You can’t miss the Greeley sign that proudly states, “562 Friendly People and a Few Old Crabs.” I guess if you fall into the latter category, you know who you are.
Valentine is confirmed as “America’s Heart City,” and has been made famous around St. Valentine’s Day. No one argues with Nebraska City’s claim as the “Home of Arbor Day,” and the home of J. Sterling Morton, who heartily promoted the idea of a day dedicated to planting trees.
Burwell is “Home of Nebraska’s Big Rodeo,” although there are a ton of towns around Nebraska that can claim rodeo as part of their culture. Ogallala, the historic cow town of old, makes a strong claim as “Nebraska’s Cowboy Capital.”
Sometimes, towns like to identify with a particular event. If you’ve ever attended Popcorn Days at North Loup, you know why that village can claim to be the “Popcorn Capital of Nebraska.” Curtis’ Easter Pageant is like no other, thus the town’s claim as “Nebraska’s Easter City.”
When we start talking about ethnicity, things get more complicated. Loup City says that it is the “Polish Capital of Nebraska,” but Aston has the Polish Heritage Center. O’Neill is “Nebraska’s Irish Capital,” but Wisner holds a great St. Patrick’s Day celebration and Greeley is known for their “halfway to St. Patrick’s Day” Irish Festival events each September. Czech Nebraskans love Wilbur as the “Czech Capital of Nebraska and the USA,” but Kolache Days in Verdigre also celebrates colorful Czech heritage.
Animals are a big part of town slogans. Wisner considers itself the “Livestock Center of Nebraska,” while Unadilla is the “Groundhog Capital of Nebraska.” Lynch is the “Prairie Dog Capital,” a slogan set into motion when members of the Lewis and Clark expedition spent most of day trying to capture one of these “barking squirrels” in 1804, to be sent back to President Jefferson as a living memento of the great journey West.
There’s no way to prove that Randolph is the “Honey Capital of the Nation,” or that Seward is definitively “America’s Small Town 4th of July City,” but no one can argue that Kimball is most certainly, “The High Point of Nebraska.”
My hometown is Crofton, “Best Little Town by a Dam Site,” Gavins Point Dam, that is. What’s your favorite Nebraska hometown slogan?
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