Stuhr Museum
Grand Island's Stuhr Museum has been ranked by Good Housekeeping magazine as one of the nation’s top 10 living history museums. It's one of the top year-round attractions in Grand Island, the new host city for the Nebraska State Fair. Stuhr's display at the fair will feature dozens of hands-on, historical and artistic activities in the State Fair’s Kidz Zone, including live blacksmithing, Native beadwork, and baking over an open fire. Special, hands-on presentations take place at 2 p.m. each day. (Courtesy photo)

Plant a flag in practically the most landlocked spot on the continent and call it an island.

Not just an island, but a Grand Island.

What yucksters, those pioneers.

Actually, the 35 German immigrants weren't joking.

As it turns out, in 1857, they founded their town a few miles north of an island between two channels of the Platte River. And they borrowed the name from French fur traders who had long called the area "La Grande Isle."

"They had big, big dreams," said Jessica Waite, research curator at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer.

How big?

The settlers believed their central location would surely convince the American people to relocate the nation's capital to Grand Island, D.C.

Instead, 152 years later, their descendants got the Nebraska State Fair.

Here's more information about the fair's new host city:

* Where: A little north of Interstate 80, about 90 miles west of Lincoln. Take the South Locust Street exit (314), the second of Grand Island's three exits, for the most direct route to the fair.

* Number of Islanders: About 47,000, based on 2009 Census estimates, making it the state's fourth-largest city behind Omaha, Lincoln and Bellevue.

* Top three employers: Swift and Company, beef packing plant, 2,600; Chief Industries, steel building manufacturer, 1,650; Case IH, farm implement manufacturer, 1,100.

* Best place to see how an original Islander dressed: Stuhr Museum, ranked as one of the nation's top 10 living history museums by Good Housekeeping magazine (and where you can see actor Henry Fonda's boyhood home).

* How Grand Island got into the Guinness Book of Records: The Harvest of Harmony Parade hosted 130 marching bands in 1996. The parade strikes up its 69th year on Oct. 2.

* Why Jimmy Carter visited the city: Seven tornadoes pounded Grand Island on June 3, 1980, killing five, injuring 200 and leaving widespread destruction. Some of the worst damage was along South Locust Street, not far from the fairgrounds.

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* Nice local architecture: The Liederkranz (403 W. First St.), built in 1911, is a red brick fortress that embodies its German heritage. St. Mary's Cathedral (112 S. Cedar St.), completed in 1928, is a fine example of the late Gothic Revival style.

* Local eats not on a stick: Bonzai Beach Club and Wave Pizza Company (look for the downtown building with a shark on it).

Uncle Ed's Steakhouse on South Locust, you come for what's in the name.

Nathan Detroit's downtown is a popular eatery and sports bar, and just a block away, you'll find the Chicken Coop, which serves food and fresh microbrews from Thunderhead Brewery.

With its vibrant Latino population, Grand Island offers lots of good Mexican restaurants, including El Tapatio on South Locust.

* Where the cranes are: Still in Canada. They'll migrate over Nebraska soon, but the best time to see hundreds of thousands of Sandhill cranes is when they rest in and along the Platte River each April.

* Leave your swimsuit at home: Island Oasis is one of the state's best water parks, but it's closed for the season. Then again, you could take a dip in the Platte.

Reach Joe Duggan at 473-7239 or jduggan@journalstar.com.


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