Out-of-staters who consider Nebraska nothing more than a fly-over state will be asked beginning Monday to consider a different view — the view of the more than half a million sandhill cranes who see it as a destination location.
The Nebraska Tourism Office is starting its first campaign of 2019 by promoting the "unmitigated awesomeness" of hundreds of thousands of cranes gathering, eating, dancing and exchanging their rattling bugle calls in the Platte River Valley.
The main "honestly, it's not for everyone" campaign begins in April.
The tourism office will send out ads and TV commercials, the first to formally use the "Honestly, it's not for everyone" message that has informally gained so much attention — both nationally and internationally — for the state.
The migration is a one-of-a-kind experience, and the tourism folks think people in Denver, Sioux Falls, Kansas City, Wichita and Topeka might want to see it.
"It's truly one of the most outstanding migrations in the world, and it draws international audiences," Tourism Commission Executive Director John Ricks said.
Last year was the first time the Nebraska's tourism office promoted the crane migration outside the state, sending out information and invitations from January through March, Ricks said. It increased tourism web traffic 740 percent over the previous year and upped lodging tax collected by 10 percent.
People came because they were invited, he said. And adding Denver will likely double the audience.
February and March last year were the highest room tax collections ever for those months, with data dating to 1980.
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Just because people in those targeted cities are nearby doesn't mean they know what's going on as the cranes fly in.
"You know, I lived in Colorado for 17 years, and I don't think I ever heard of it," he said.
Ricks and his staff will travel to Denver this week to do a media event at the Denver Press Club focused on the cranes for 25 to 30 journalists.
"We're taking people from Grand Island, Hastings, Kearney, North Platte ... basically the strip of land on the Platte where the birds come in," he said.
People from Rowe Sanctuary, Crane Trust and the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce will join them. A panel discussion will include expert Joel Jorgensen, Nebraska Game and Parks nongame bird program manager.
It will be an opportunity to "bring the birds to them," Ricks said.
And the journalists will be exposed to other Nebraska favorites: Runzas, Omaha steaks and Reuben sandwiches, in addition to ice cream, apple cider and other state products.
"We're really excited about the support from the industry, how everybody has kind of pulled together. And (we) know that this is a heck of an opportunity to capitalize on a period of time when there's not much competition out there," Ricks said. "And we need that."