Our adventure with the Nebraska Passport program

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Nebraska State Capitol building. It’s a top attraction in the passport program

Editor’s Note: Please note that Moonstruck Meadery in Bellevue is now closed.

With about 45 days left, Nebraskans continue to travel around the state and visit spots to get that important stamp in the 2015 Nebraska Passport program. We’re (meaning Lisa) no different. We likely aren’t going to challenge anyone for the grand prize in October, but we’ve made a dent.

The passport program highlights 80 businesses or attractions for Nebraskans and visitors to check out. As you do, you get your passport stamped. The passport needs to be postmarked by October 1st to be entered into the grand prize drawing. The major prize is for people who reach all 80 stops. There are 10 categories with eight locations featured in each.

Almost 50 people completed all 80 stops last year. That was more than double the 20 who achieved the mark in 2013. About 19,000 people from around the country participated in the program in 2014.

The top spots on the 2014 tour were: Golden Spike Tower (North Platte), Lauritzen Gardens (Omaha), Lincoln Highway Diner (North Platte), the state capitol in Lincoln, Morrill Hall (Lincoln) and Grand Island’s Chocolate Bar (one of our favorite stops). We visited each of these sites last year.

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The Union Pacific Bailey Yard from the observation deck of the Golden Spike Tower in North Platte

Lisa was more determined to have some success during the 2015 campaign. We started out a bit slow, but have gained momentum. We currently have 40 stamps, with another 12 realistic possibilities.

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Nebraska Passport stop at Moonstruck Meadery in Bellevue

Participants who complete one of the 10 categories will receive a Nebraska Passport T-shirt. If you complete 20 stamps, you’ll get 20 $1 Nebraska lottery tickets. Achieving 40 stamps will result in a travel duffle bag. Participants receiving stamps from all 80 locations will receive a gift basket. The grand prize for submitted passports will be an Omaha Steaks culinary package. Yum!

I think hitting half of the possible locations is pretty good, considering we had limited vacation days (my fault. I changed jobs during the year). If we hit 50 or so, I think we can hold our heads high.

The challenge to get these stamps requires people to travel to all corners of the state. Some places are a good 8 hours from Omaha, so weekend trips don’t always work well. The farthest northwestern location is The Museum of Fur Traders in Chadron. The farthest southeast is Schillingbridge Winery in Pawnee City, a 522-mile drive one-way to Chadron.

We’ve had fun on our Passport tours. We’ve checked out historical places, such as Willa Cather’s hometown of Red Cloud (picked up two stamps), and tried out some new dinner places, including Moonstruck Meadery in Bellevue. Moonstruck has good mead (wine made with honey) and great menu items. We ordered an El Rey pizza – loaded Taco Pizza, with Seasoned Beef, Sausage, Olives, Refried Bean Sauce, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Corn Chips. It made a couple of good meals, since we couldn’t come close to finishing it there.


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Willa Cather childhood home in Red Cloud

Our first stamp actually came from Bellevue. We are members of Fontenelle Forest, so as we planned a hiking visit, we grabbed the passport and had it stamped. Two missions accomplished.

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The boardwalk at Fontenelle Forest

A look back into American history landed us at Fort Omaha and the home of General George Crook. The general was a Civil War veteran and noted leader during the Indian wars. He was said to be feared and respected by Native Americans, as he actually treated them decently. He testified for the plaintiff in Standing Bear vs. Crook trial. This trial recognized Native Americans as humans – in 1878.

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General Crook’s house on the campus of Fort Omaha

Jazz great Preston Love grew up in Omaha. He went on to play with some of the best acts in music history – Count Basie, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, The Temptations and Diana Ross. He returned to Omaha late in life. The Love jazz and arts center is named in his honor and strives to help exhibit jazz music and great art work.

We HAD to make a visit to Tekamah and get a stamp at Master’s Hand. It’s home to Serendipity Chocolate Factory. This is a family favorite. We used to stop on a more regular basis when Lisa’s parents lived in town.

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Chocolates in Tekamah

In Columbus, we marked off a few stamps, including the Andrew Higgins (WWII) Memorial. He invented the sea-based landing craft used by the Allies during the D-Day Invasion.

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Higgins Memorial

Columbus is also home to Dorothy Lynch salad dressing. This is a favorite of many Nebraskans. I remember making sandwiches with nothing more than the dressing on bread. Delicious!

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Dorothy Lynch is a Nebraska favorite

We have another month and a half to get more stamps. Planned trips will give us the opportunity to add stamps – from Cody Park and the children’s museum in North Platte to Petrified Wood Art Gallery in Ogallala.

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Cody Park rail museum in North Platte

It’s been fun and educational traveling around the state using the Nebraska passport program for ideas.

There’s still time to get at least 20 stamps and a free T-shirt. There are about 30 locations within 2 hours of Omaha or Lincoln. Sign up, hit the road and have some fun.

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Fuel up for your stamp tour with a stop at Big Mama’s in Omaha.

For more information on the passport program, please visit the state’s website at www.nebraskapassport.com.