Each spring, thousands flock to Grand Island with a specific event in mind. From viewing the Sandhill Cranes to horse racing at Fonner Park or Rodeo Grand Island, there is truly something for everyone.

This past weekend, Grand Island was able to get some dirt on their boots at Rodeo Grand Island. Cowboys from across the country came to town to compete in seven events including bareback, tie down, saddle bronc, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding. There were plenty of thrills at this action-packed event and we’re already counting down the days until next year’s rodeo.

Over the next few weeks, the Sandhill Cranes can be found along the Platte River between Chapman and Overton and it’s truly a sight to see. These birds stop along the river to feed and condition before making their way back north to their nesting grounds. Peak viewing times occur at dawn and sunset in March.

The Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center has called the crane migration “one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the continent,” and it appears that the rest of the country agrees. In 2017, an estimated 46,500 people visited Central Nebraska, 43,300 were from other areas of the state or country, to witness the migration.

Earlier this week, the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center announced that they would be closed to guests through April 5th amidst state precautions of increase in the COVID-19 virus. For visitors that still wish to see the cranes, there is a public viewing deck along the river, roughly three miles south of I-80 exit 305.

For a different view of beauty along the Platte River, be sure to check out Stuhr Museum’s Wings Over the Platte Art Exhibit. Wings Over the Platte showcases local, regional and national artists who have been inspired by life along the river. The exhibit is currently open through April 5.

Already this year Fonner Park has been bringing in large crowds, and we aren’t expecting that to change. Everyone’s favorite Dinsdale Dashers will be returning this year. The grandstands will be packed as thousands watch the camels and ostriches’ race across the finish line. And if that’s not enough, Fonner Park will also host a Runza Family Day complete with Runzas, games and T-Rex racing on April 11; the Bosselman Pump and Pantry Stakes on April 25; and a Kentucky Derby Party with a hat and bow contest on May 2.

You can expect Spring to go out with a bang at Zombies in the Heartland at Heartland Shooting Park on May 29-31. This unique event is known for being the largest zombie shooting competition in the country and has attracted competitors from more than 20 states.

Bringing shows and visitors to Grand Island is important to our business community and is a big driver to the local economy. In 2018, direct travel spending in Hall County was at $148.5 million, up 4.8%; direct employment was at 1.6 thousand jobs, up 2.5%; direct earnings of employees and owners of businesses that are attributable to travel expenditures was at $31.9 million, up 4.9%; and the direct tax revenue was as $12.6 million, up 2.3%. Talk about big numbers for our community. Some believe Nebraska may not be for everyone, but we know Hall County is.

Cindy Johnson is the president of the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact her at (308) 382-9210 or cjohnson@gichamber.com

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