State does best when it goes with the flow

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Travelers who normally see Nebraska’s open spaces as something to be endured on their way to Colorado’s mountains came to appreciate them Monday when it came time to view a spectacular celestial event.

Mother Nature obliged, for the most part, delivering clear skies in most locations and definite darkness, complete with 360-degree sunsets, everywhere there was totality.

The Nebraska Tourism Commission reported a 30 percent increase in traffic at www.VisitNebraska.com, and estimates the eclipse created more than $133 million in publicity, in the final days $72 million worth of press worldwide, reaching 7.7 billion people worldwide.

Since the world population is estimated at 7.4 billion, a tourism official admitted there is some “overlap.”

Highways were crowded but orderly as eclipse-chasers left the state, and while we did hear of fatal crashes, that was probably unavoidable due to the volume of traffic in such a short time.

Weather kept some aircraft out of the state, but airports along the path of totality were busy with extra planes: Alliance 195, Grand Island 90, North Platte 60, Scottsbluff 49, Chadron 10, Broken Bow 34, Beatrice 70, and Fairmont State Airfield had 49 aircraft, 475 cars about more than 1,000 people watching the eclipse, according to the State Aviation Journal.

The event “eclipsed” one of Nebraska’s biggest natural draws, the sandhill crane migration that draws 600,000 of the birds and more than 40,000 people to Central Nebraska each year, but that event happens every year.

A University of Nebraska at Kearney study estimated the cranes boosted the economy by $14.3 million in 2017, visitors spending an average of $93.37 per day during their early spring visit to the state.

Frank and Deborah Popper ran into understandable opposition when they suggested the Plains would be best depopulated and turned back into a “Buffalo Commons.”

We have to admit, however, there’s something profound about seeing a herd of bison browsing on native grasses the way their ancestors did a couple of hundred years ago.

The success of the eclipse, the cranes and other natural sights offer a lesson for those who hope to promote our state: we’ll have the most success when we go with the flow of the best the Flatwater State has to offer.

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