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My 2017 Eclipse Experience at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

August 27, 2017

Lucky me, I live in the path of totality!

Eclipse fever descended upon the Wyobraska region in the past month. It was a welcome distraction from politics to spectate all the worrying about how many people might come and whether we were properly prepared. (Gas up your cars! Stock up on food and water and toilet paper! Order extra medical supplies! Be nice to the tourists!)

I rather wonder if all the fuss about traffic scared some people off. I got a text message from a friend in Colorado on Friday asking if the traffic in Scottsbluff was bad because of the eclipse on Monday. (It wasn’t in the least.)

I wish I’d done a blog post about all the places to view the eclipse in this area. I think it might’ve helped people find us among the sea of options. Sounds like a big chunk of Colorado went to Wyoming. We here are a pretty (Nebraska) nice place to visit, and the people who did were pleased. (I find it interesting that people were surprised that they were not charged for parking, another example here.)

But I was having a hard enough time deciding where to go myself.

At first, I’d thought about viewing the eclipse from the roof of the Midwest Theater where I work. It’d have a good view of the skyline all the way around, and I wouldn’t have to risk driving anywhere. But, there were photosensor streetlights around. And the roof would probably be hot.

Then a shindig was planned for the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center where Bugman works. Sounds nice, but what would the traffic be like? Was it worth the travel across town?

Another interesting option – viewing the eclipse at Riverside Discovery Center (our local zoo), to see if the eclipse would have any impact on animal behavior. (It didn’t, really.) I found out too late that Legacy of the Plains Museum was looking for parking help for the day, too.

The deciding factor: I saw a newspaper blurb that Agate Fossil Beds National Monument was seeking volunteer help for parking and visitor greeting activities the day of the eclipse. They probably would need the help! Crowds could exceed normal visitation rates by orders of magnitude at the small rural park. Also, Agate had a bit more totality than Scottsbluff (about 2:20 compared to about 1:45).

But, there is no camping at Agate, and I wouldn’t want to get up early to potentially wade through a lot of traffic of Monday. BUT . . . we have a friend who’s a ranger at the park and lives onsite. He said we were welcome to set up a tent in his yard Sunday night! Score!!

rangers pointing at things

How could you not want to spend time in the company of these adorkable people?? #rangerspointingatthings (photo credit Agate Fossil Beds National Monument)

Also, Bugman applied for a research permit so he could go into a restricted area and set up recording equipment to see if the darkness of the eclipse would have any effect on insect behavior. The Niobrara River runs through the park, and lots of moisture means lots of insects!

As the day approached, I congratulated myself on my decision, as the cloud forecast for Scottsbluff looked a little iffy. Things looked better around the Agate area.

I began planning for the event. Agate Fossil Bed National Monument is rural, so it’s best to be as self-sufficient as possible.

no services

We packed camping supplies (food, headlamps, first aid kit, tent, sleeping bags, chairs, bottles of coffee), along with a garden bounty of tomatoes and cucumbers to share with the other folks we’d be yard-camping with.

We headed north on Sunday afternoon with a full tank of gas, early enough to get set up before a 5 p.m. volunteer orientation meeting. Already, there were rogue tents and campers dotting the edges of Highway 29.

rogue parking

Sunday afternoon, campers were parked next to the road maintenance gravel pile on Highway 29, and cars were parked / tents pitched behind it.

This park-by-the-roadside strategy for eclipse viewing had emergency managers on edge. Hot vehicle parts have been known to start devastating grass fires in this part of the state. Luckily for all of us, there had been some decent rains in the previous week, so things weren’t quite as tinder-dry out there as they could have been.

Still, Agate’s website warned of the danger.

fire danger

Another alert on the Agate website:

limited cell coverage

We put our cell phones in airplane mode. We would have zero cell service for the duration of the eclipse. It felt a bit unnerving, but it was wonderful, too. A break from political news!!!

As we pulled into Agate, it became clear it would be a popular place for eclipse viewing. Preparations had been made. A portion of the Daemonelix Trail parking area was roped off for incident command. Several sections of the park along the road had been mowed and barricaded, and portable toilets were stationed near the barricades. We passed the visitor center to get to the ranger residence area where we’d be staying. The visitor center was swarming with people, and a mowed section of grass had already been deployed as overflow parking.

We pulled up to our friend’s house. A rental RV dominated the driveway, and a large tent bloomed next to it in the yard. Tables and lawn chairs claimed the portion of the driveway nearest the open garage door. Bugman and I set up our little tent near the gigantic one.

I felt privileged to be able to put down stakes in the private section of the park.

private area

With camp set up, we headed over to the visitor center for the 5pm volunteer training, which turned out to be a meeting primarily for volunteer astronomers who would be hosting a star party that night. Our training was at 5AM! Oh well. Got my volunteer packet, anyhow!

volunteer packet

Got our eclipse glasses! Sweet!

I didn’t include it in the picture, but I also got a volunteer badge on a cord. I was oh-so-grateful when a fellow yard camper caught my Wayne’s World reference when I called it my “backstage pass.”

We headed back to “camp,” where another couple of tents had been set up in the yard. I attempted to fly a kite while Bugman took the opportunity to set up and tweak his equipment in our friend’s backyard.

golden hour equipment testing.jpg

Ah, the golden evening light on the high plains!

repurposed sock.jpg

Yes, Vickimom – that is one of the socks you gave him for his birthday being repurposed as a wind screen for a microphone. 😀

With the wind dying down and the equipment check complete, we headed back to the driveway to be social and share a meal with the motley crew assembled for the occasion.

RV tent and tables

The party space: RV, giant tent (ours is hiding behind), tables, garage.

One of our fellow eclipse visitor had brought wine glasses and paint pens, so everyone could make their own souvenir. Great idea!

wine glass painting

Bugman works on his wine glass.

my wine glass

I based my eclipse glass design on a vague recollection of a myth about the sun and moon being doomed lovers who seldom meet, and also on the fact that Bugman and I would celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary the day after the eclipse.

good food

So much wonderful food! Grilled meat and vegetables, pasta salads, garden veggies, pies and ice cream! And good company!

That night as the sun set, the stars began to come out in a way they do not in Scottsbluff. The lack of light pollution around Agate meant a wonderful view of the Milky Way. We passed around a pair of night vision goggles, and the star field was overwhelming. We saw a couple of satellites pass over, including one that intrigued us with its intermittent flash. I later learned about the effort to track these flashing “tumbling satellites.” A couple of jet planes roared over us, and I thought of the National Parks Service’s effort to map noise pollution.

The night was cool and breezy, but the mosquitoes still found me. Bugman and I retired to our little tent, where there was just enough room for us to lie shoulder to shoulder. It was cozy, but I just could not sleep. Too many sounds.

The flapping of the tent in the night breeze. The coyotes. Other people snoring or coughing. The creaking of my air mattress.

Sleeping in a tent is not one of my superpowers.

I napped intermittently until my watch told me it was 4:30 a.m. – time to get up to go to our 5 a.m. debriefing meeting at the nearby maintenance building. My stirring roused Bugman, too. We dressed and ate breakfast, cracking open hardboiled eggs on our kneecaps.

But the predawn scene seemed odd. No one else was stirring. I happened to glance at the clock on my phone and did a double-take. 3:55 a.m.?!?? I don’t use my watch very often, and apparently the last time I did was during daylight saving time. Argh! Up and dressed and breakfasted a whole hour early! Oh well.

Bugman and I leaned back in our camp chairs, draped ourselves in a blanket, and sipped bottled coffee while staring up at the still-night sky. Bugman saw a few shooting stars, and we saw a few more satellites skim overhead.

Our overhead field of view began to shrink, not because of the sun’s approach, but because of a rising bank of fog.

Headlights poked through the mist as a ranger in a park vehicle rolled past on the way to set up a barricade. A neighbor strode briskly down the road in the direction of the maintenance shop. The morning was beginning in earnest.

As Bugman and I prepared to head down to the debriefing meeting, my headlamp went out – dead batteries. Darn it! I couldn’t find the fresh batteries I thought I’d packed. Instead, I grabbed the emergency flashlight/beacon out of our car.

5am volunteer meeting

A 5 a.m. debriefing meeting the morning of the eclipse: park rangers, EMT personnel and volunteers ringed the perimeter of the maintenance shop. The friend on whose lawn we camped is the ranger at far left. He was on duty from 10 p.m. the night before all the way to 2 p.m. after the eclipse (after having completed another shift earlier on Sunday).

At the meeting, we learned that overnight, more than 200 people had arrived in the park. While Agate was technically closed, and no camping is allowed, these early birds were allowed to park in the mowed field referred to as Buckley Field, to prevent them from drifting elsewhere and causing a problem for neighboring ranchers.

Bugman and I would be on parking / visitor information duty. Here’s the parking map that was included in our volunteer packets, which was also handed out to park visitors on eclipse day. I had stamped my map with the special eclipse stamp at the visitor center the day before.

parking map

The little white squiggle to the right of the visitor center is the private road where the ranger residences (where we stayed) and maintenance shop are located.

The meeting over, we shuttled our car over to the staff/volunteer parking area next to the visitor center. We could see a line of cars stretching down the road and over the hill, queued for the North Visitor Center Parking area. People took the notice on Agate’s website to heart.

first come first served.png

When we met with the ranger in charge of parking, Bugman and I were assigned to work the RV parking lot just north of the visitor center.

talking strategy in the fog

Bugman talks parking strategy with a park ranger just before cars are allowed into the lot.

Because he “looked like he could be more aggressive” (*eyeroll*) Bugman was assigned to be the one directing the RVs into their spots, while I got to go stand out in the field to be a human post the vehicles would need to drive around to ensure they swung wide enough to pull straight into the parking spots.

All for the better. We were close to the visitor center and our car with all Bugman’s equipment in it, and we didn’t turn out to be too busy with RV parking (people had heeded the “limited RV parking” warning) so I had plenty of time to lollygag and take photos.

here they come

Here they come!

a line of cars

A panorama of the line of cars waiting to get into Agate Fossil Beds National Monument at 6 a.m. on the morning of the eclipse.

rangers pointing at things

Silhouetted against the dawn, #rangerspointingatthings

one star of the show arrives

One of the stars of today’s show arrives: the sun.

morning light

The morning light on the dewy High Plains landscape was magical.

dewy spiderweb

Dewy orb-weaver web

foot traffic

At 6:30 a.m., the foot traffic was constant

morning shadow

My morning shadow on the prairie grasses.


Selfie! Not the most flattering picture of me. My outfit that day was focused on practicality, not fashion.

It didn’t take long for parking lot 1 to fill up. The other parking volunteers moved on to assist at the other parking lots, but Bugman and I stayed put to direct volunteers and people with handicap placards and RVs and buses and EMTs to the right locations. Still, I found time to look around.

wee cactus

A wee cactus starting among the grasses.

funnel web

Dewy funnel web.

I enjoyed talking with people as they came in. It was really a positive atmosphere. Everyone was excited. One man I spoke with had traveled the world and seen multiple eclipses. A woman from Colorado was wowed by the beauty of the western Nebraska scenery and vowed to come back for another visit. A group in a huge fifth-wheel trailer had driven all night from Lincoln to escape the clouds there. One RV that pulled in (towing a boat!!) had several animals living inside. I could hear the chatter of what sounded like a cockatiel.

I answered visitor questions to the best of my ability. One repeated question was, “where can I get coffee?” There were a couple of food vendors set up in the park, so I assumed there was coffee there, until I wandered over to take a bathroom break, and saw this sad, sad sign:

no coffee

Who serves sweet rolls without coffee? Dang, somebody missed the chance to make some bucks!

I wound up getting sucked in to restroom maintenance the couple of times I stopped in to use the facilities. There was always a line, and the toilet paper was always running out. It was hot inside the jam-packed visitor center, and the folks working and volunteering inside were running ragged trying to keep up.

The volume of visitors to the park became apparent when rangers made a sweep to count the spots left in the regular visitor center parking lot, which had been reserved for handicap parking. There were 36 spots left. A line of 36 cars from the queue backed up on River Road was allowed in to filter through the pedestrians to park on the paved parking area. (A few people who had arrived earlier and parked in the grass lots further away made sure to inquire about why those 36 cars got special treatment and parking near the visitor center.) Once the paved lot was full, visitors were directed to start parking along the freshly mowed sides of River Road.

Maybe 4,000 people had been expected at Agate for the eclipse. By the time of totality, the greeters stationed at the River Road entrance to the park had tallied over 11,000 visitors! (The typical visitation for a whole year at the park is about 14,000) Holy! Cats!

The nice thing was, people were so spread out around the park, it didn’t feel claustrophobic at all (unless you went into the visitor center or waited in one of the long lines for the limited porta potties).

Around 10 a.m – about an hour and 45 minutes before the eclipse – Bugman and I were relieved from duty so we could haul his recording gear out into the restricted area south of the river. We kept our volunteer “backstage passes” and fluorescent vests on, so other people wouldn’t think we were wayward visitors sneaking somewhere we didn’t belong.

We waded through some tall grasses near the river (no rattlesnakes encountered – whew!) and followed a vehicle track to a devegetated area where some invasive thistles had been killed back.

setting up mic.jpg

Setting up the microphone

setting up cameras

Setting up some cameras.

Across the river, we could occasionally catch snatches of the Native American program presented by Kelly Looking Horse. Insects vigorously sang in the dense grass around us. Pollinators buzzed around a nearby clump of flowering plants.

I put on my eclipse glasses and could see the beginning indentation of the moon on the upper right side of the moon. I congratulated myself on choosing to wear a straw sun hat. The holes in the weave made great pinhole projectors.

straw hat viewer tminus16jpg

Straw hat eclipse crescents at t-minus 16 minutes.

sun crescents

Bugman used his fingers to project eclipse crescents onto a notebook.

obscured but bright

Despite the sun being nearly completely obscured by the moon, the remaining sunlight streaming to Earth was still really intense. Yet, the air felt noticeably colder.

brassy light tminus15

At t-minus 15 minutes, the light was turning brassy.

brassy light tminus8

At t-minus 8 minutes, the quality of the light continued to change. Bugman remarked that it seemed like the yellow light of the “golden hour” and the pink light of a sunset were mixing.

straw hat viewer tminus4

Straw hat eclipse crescents at t-minus 4 minutes.

At t-minus 3 minutes, two private planes droned over the park, leaving an imprint on the audio recording Bugman was attempting. I shook my fist at them for their selfish insensitivity. >:-( The only way I would forgive them and not consider them incorrigible douchecanoes would be if they had been taking pictures of the crowds at the park. (I doubt this was the case.)

Here is my favorite series of images, taken looking to the northeast, towards the park ranger residences, at t-minus 15 minutes, 8 minutes, 30 seconds, and 2 seconds. It really shows how the light changed.

nw view 1139 tminus8

nw view 1132 tminus15

NW view tminus30s

NW view tminus 2s

Just after I took that last picture, I heard a roar begin to rise from the crowd across the river. I glanced up and caught sight of the last bit of the sun disappearing on the bottom left side – the “diamond ring” effect.

I don’t think I will ever forget looking up at that fully eclipsed sun. It looked just like the image on the eclipse postage stamps – a black hole surrounded by gentle streamers of white light.


My crummy cell phone camera picture of the total solar eclipse.

Here’s a photo I found later from a weather balloon released by Earth to Sky Calculus. Hey – I’m somewhere in that shadow!

view from space

The Moon’s shadow blots out a 70 mile wide patch of terrain in Wyoming/Nebraska during the great American Solar Eclipse. Photo credit: Earth to Sky Calculus/Josh Stansfield   The camera, a Panasonic GH4, was riding inside the payload of an Earth to Sky Calculus space weather balloon launched from Ft. Laramie WY. Professional photographer Josh Stansfield helped launch the balloon and he processed these unique images after the payload was recovered from its landing site in Nebraska.


All around us, there was a 360-degree dusk on the horizon. I took a crummy cell phone video of the horizon.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly), Bugman’s equipment did not register any significant change in insect behavior. The critters that were chirping in the grass kept on chirping, and no new ones appeared to join the chorus. There were even pollinators continuing to buzz in the flowering plants.

Too, too soon, as I was taking a panoramic image, the roar came again from the crowd, and the light came back.

horizon on sun's return

As I was taking this panorama, the sunlight began to return from the west (right).

As I heard and read in many places, and as I can attest, “That was the shortest [fill in the length of totality] of my life!”

So much hype and build-up for such a tiny fraction of time. I suppose I should have celebrated the return of the sun, but I felt bereft. I needed more time to gaze at celestial wonder.

Across the river, cars were already beginning to make their way out of the parking lot.

straw hat viewer tplus17

At t-plus 17, the straw hat eclipse crescents had flipped orientation from the t-minus images.

Bugman packed up his equipment and we hiked back to our car, passing a woman seated on the path who appeared to be praying over some crystals. The volunteer astronomers were all still set up, observing the waning eclipse.

The stream of traffic out of the park was constant by now, vehicles squeezing past pedestrians on the narrow road. It dawned on me that the post-eclipse travel might actually be more hazardous than arrival traffic, as more people were headed out en masse.

We headed back to our friend’s place, ate some lunch, and packed up our stuff. We waited until about 2 p.m. to join the flow of outbound traffic. The ranger who’d worked with us in the parking lot that morning was still managing traffic flow.

Southbound on Highway 29, there were vehicles as far as the eye could see – NOT a normal circumstance for Sioux County, Nebraska!

highway 29 traffic

There was ample evidence in trampled grass, tire ruts, and torn-up slopes of many, many vehicles and people having left the pavement. Some of them were still parked there, the people kicked back in their lawn chairs, watching the traffic parade.

lots more roadside parking

At Mitchell, the traffic on Highway 26 was pretty heavy, too, relatively speaking.

highway 26 traffic

We made it back home to Scottsbluff within a normal transit time from Agate, though.

Wow. What an experience!

Now that I know what totality feels like, I wonder . . . will I find myself in the path of totality in 2024?

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw, except photos as noted

A tri-city Active Living Advisory Committee

June 12, 2017

I want to be able to share the proposal and question-and-answer documents for the Gering-Scottsbluff-Terrytown Active Living Advisory Committee beyond sending emails, so I am posting the documents as PDF and the text of the documents here.

The ALAC proposal will be considered at the 6/12 6 p.m. Gering City Council meeting and at the 6/19 6 p.m. Scottsbluff City Council Meeting. (Terrytown meeting TBD.) UPDATE: the Gering City Council meeting was cancelled due to tornado warnings. When the meeting is rescheduled, I will update again.

Establishment of Active Living Advisory Committee proposal

Establishment of Active Living Advisory Committee

PURPOSE: To provide a forum for community collaboration and input to the tri-cities of Scottsbluff, Gering, and Terrytown: Public Works, Parks and Recreation Departments, Law Enforcement, other city staff, and Elected Officials about “active living” community development and design principles. Active living is a way of life and a community culture that integrates physical activity into daily routines through transportation, recreation, and neighborhood choices that support walking, biking, active play, and healthy options for all abilities and ages. The committee supports the tri-city’s ongoing efforts to improve sidewalks and intersections, calm traffic, and expand the network of bike routes and walking trails and stands ready to serve as a resource and liaison among all groups seeking input and diversified group representation.

POLICY: It is the policy of the Scottsbluff, Gering, and Terrytown communities to seek community input into policies and projects that support healthy and active behaviors and lifestyles. To that end, this Active Living Advisory Committee is commissioned by the tri-cities to provide community input and recommendations as to City development and design that promote active living.

SELECTION AND TERM OF COMMISSION MEMBERS: Committee will consist of members representing broad segments of the community with expertise and interest in active living community design, public health, health care, and multi-modal transportation, including biking, walking, and transit. Geographically diversified community representatives will be appointed by each of the three city councils for a total of eight-an ideal makeup of three from Scottsbluff, three from Gering, and two from Terrytown, with the allowance that this combination may not always be possible. A representative from City Planning, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Public Safety, or Law Enforcement shall serve on the Committee. The Committee shall establish such bylaws, rules, procedures, terms, offices, and reporting as are necessary for the Committee to serve the function identified.

EFFECTIVE DATE: The Active Living Advisory Committee shall be effective on the signing of this resolution.

OVERSIGHT: The City Planning Departments will have responsibility for oversight and support of this committee with Panhandle Public Health District charged with the overall coordination of the meetings and meeting minutes. Meeting minutes will be provided to each of the city councils reporting continuous committee progress.

Regularly Scheduled Meetings: Monthly, dates and times to be determined by the group

Responsibilities Include:

  • Active Living Advisory Committee members are appointed by city council members from Scottsbluff, Gering, and Terrytown communities to serve as advocates and advisors to the tri-cities on projects and programs that help citizens safely incorporate physical activity into their daily routines.
  • The committee is charged with:
    • Moving the Action Planning work product strategies to fruition:
      • Safe Active Transportation on All Travel Ways
      • Creating Collaborative Community Ownership
      • Complete Streets: Planning for a Safer, More Connected, Healthier Community
      • Seeking Funding Opportunities
    • Assisting city staff with public education and outreach activities that promote active transportation and an active lifestyle
    • Supporting wellness and health promotion in workplaces, schools, and other institutions
    • Assisting city staff with outreach to specific user groups, such as seniors, teens, the physically disabled, vulnerable and diverse populations to encourage an active lifestyle

ALAC qna final 06092017

Gering-Scottsbluff-Terrytown Active Living Advisory Committee (ALAC)


Final 6/9/2017

What is active living?

Active living is a way of life and a community culture that integrates physical activity into daily routines through transportation, recreation, and neighborhood choices that support walking, biking, and using mobility devices (like wheelchairs, walkers, or canes), and that encourage active play and healthy options for all abilities and ages.

What will the ALAC do?

The primary purpose of the ALAC will be to create and improve communication links and resource sharing – between citizens and government, between and within governments and agencies, between governments and granting agencies – to support healthy and active behaviors and lifestyles. The ALAC will not dictate policy; rather, it will serve as a resource and a liaison to assist active living projects or programs. Specific actions the ALAC may take include:

  • Moving to fruition the action planning work product strategies developed during the Activate Scottsbluff, Gering, Terrytown stakeholder meetings:
    • Safe Active Transportation on All Travel Ways
    • Creating Collaborative Community Ownership
    • Complete Streets: Planning for a Safer, More Connected, Healthier Community
    • Seeking Funding Opportunities
  • Assisting city staff with public education and outreach activities that promote active transportation and an active lifestyle.
  • Supporting wellness and health promotion in workplaces, schools, and other institutions.
  • Assisting city staff with outreach to specific user groups, such as seniors, teens, the physically disabled, vulnerable and diverse populations to encourage an active lifestyle.

Why does active living matter to our community?

  • Public health. Five of the top seven leading causes of death among Nebraskans – cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and diabetes – are strongly linked to behavior, including sedentary living. Living an active life is a personal choice, but it’s a choice that is highly influenced by such things as community infrastructure. Making it easier for people to be active makes it more likely they will choose to engage in healthy levels of physical activity.
  • Economics. In recent surveys, both the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations showed a preference for living in communities that are bikable and walkable. Tourism surveys show a preference for “adventure travel” – including hiking and biking. Improving infrastructure for biking and walking can attract people to our communities and encourage them to stay. Additionally, increased physical activity leads to increased health and a reduction in economic loss due to illness.
  • Safety. Some of the people who are most as risk for injury and death as pedestrians include children and seniors. Neighborhoods that are designed to encourage walking have lower rates of traffic fatalities for both people on foot and in cars. By ensuring that our communities are designed for our most vulnerable citizens, everyone’s safety is improved.
  • Equity. Car and truck traffic is important for our economy, but when our community’s transportation systems are designed exclusively for automobiles, people who are unable to drive for legal, financial or medical reasons have difficulty fully participating in society, including getting to school, a job, or the store. Ensuring that people can travel safely on foot, by bicycle and with a mobility device can help every member of our community live a more productive life. A more walkable, bikable community can help give senior citizens and people with disabilities enough independence to enable them to live independently in their own homes.

Why does the proposed ALAC include all three city governments?

  • Some of the biggest barriers to a transportation network for people walking or using bicycles or mobility devices – including the North Platte River, railroad tracks, and high-traffic roads – occur at jurisdictional boundaries where inter-jurisdictional cooperation is needed.
  • Residents of Gering, Scottsbluff and Terrytown cross city boundaries and may have an interest in and have insight to provide about conditions for walking or using a bicycle or a mobility device where they work, shop and play. Similarly, professionals working within city government can benefit by sharing ideas, plans, programs, lessons learned, and success stories that are unique to this area of western Nebraska.
  • The existing Monument Valley Pathway is a hugely important amenity for our communities, and is an example of tri-city cooperation to develop a healthier and more attractive community. The ALAC can build upon and expand this success.

Why is ALAC needed?

  • Coordination and communication. Many existing departments and committees address some of the subjects relating to active living – streets and public works, parks and recreation, engineering and planning / development, police and public safety, school districts, Valley Visions – but none of them are designed to take a comprehensive view of growing an active living culture in our community. The ALAC can create a channel for good two-way communications between city government and citizens to foster well-informed decisions for improving quality of life and safety. So many programs and projects are happening to support active living in our communities, it can be difficult to keep track of them all. The ALAC can serve as an information hub.
  • Fiscal responsibility. Ensuring that the needs of all users of transportation infrastructure –including people who walk, bike or use mobility devices – are considered early in street repair and development projects can save money in the long run because facilities will not be as likely to need to be redesigned later. Liability risk to city government can be reduced as well. Cities have been the targets of wrongful death lawsuits for not taking steps to ensure the safety of people who must cross streets on foot.
  • Stability. Creating a change in culture that will result in a more physically active community will take time. The people who are working on this effort may change. The structure of a committee linked into city governments will help to ensure that the effort is sustained long enough to make a difference.

What will ALAC cost?

There are no direct costs to city government. The Panhandle Public Health District will organize ALAC meetings and communications. Some city staff time will be spent attending ALAC meetings. However, this cost can be mitigated through less staff time needed to gather citizen input. There can be additional cost savings to government if the ALAC can serve as a coordination point for volunteers to assist with such tasks as pedestrian / bicycle traffic counts or communication about sidewalk codes. One of the ALAC’s goals is to develop partnerships through which grants or other public-private funding structures can be used to meet community needs, so the committee can have a positive impact on city project budgets.

Where did this proposal come from?

This proposal to form ALAC came out of the Activate Scottsbluff, Gering, Terrytown stakeholder meetings kickstarted through a DHHS grant through the Panhandle Public Health District. The PPHD has facilitated the working group of committed people – including representatives from Scottsbluff and Gering city governments, public health professionals, citizens and social service agencies – that refined this proposal, which is based on similar committees from other Nebraska communities, including Omaha and Sidney.


Scottsbluff Winter Farmers Market new location

November 4, 2016

When I heard Aulick’s TLC was closing, my first thought was “what about the winter farmers market?” (I’m a big fan of the winter market, and have written about it many times.)

Market manager Jana Richard had the same thought, and she did something about it. She found a new market location – the Village Garden Center building at 1400 E. 20th Street in Scottsbluff (back behind Rack’s liquor store and Backaracks). Yay!!!


The first market was October 15, and the market will continue on the first and third Saturdays of the month through March – meaning the next market is tomorrow, November 5!

As always, there will be a special fundraiser at the market. This time, the fundraiser will be for market vendor Rob Rutherford, who’s had a really rough spell after a bad case of West Nile Virus.

There will also be community info this week: if you missed the Activate Scottsbluff-Gering Open House last night at the Guadalupe Center, there will be a stripped-down version of all the information at the market. You can give feedback about how to make walking and biking better in our community, spin the “cycling safety wheel” for a chance to win prizes, and learn more about the Activate Scottsbluff-Gering Summit that will take place November 17. (Here’s a link where you can register for the Summit.)


Spin the “cycling safety wheel,” and you might win a prize!

But the star of the farmers market show is the vendors. Here are a few photos I captured of the vendors who were at the market on opening day. So many delectables! Eggs, cheese, meat, honey, cake pops, pumpkins, onions, cabbages, garlic, radishes, salsa, rutabega, peppers, squashes, carrots, honey, jam, celery root, kale, chard, shallots, fennel bulbs, beets, leeks, rosemary. And handmade goods, too! Soap, doilies, dish towels, aprons, blankets, dolls, candles, lotion. And flint corn decorations. And essential oils. And, as ever, musical entertainment.



See you there?

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

Activate Scottsbluff-Gering: an opportunity to encourage walking and biking and improve community health

October 28, 2016

Where you live today can be an all-too-accurate indicator of how healthy you’ll be.

This statement from the U.S. Surgeon General sums up something that has long been bothering me about American society – something that bothered me enough in my younger days to go to graduate school to learn about land use planning.

Post-World-War-II, Americans have embraced with open arms the conveniences of the personal car. And why wouldn’t we? Cars makes life easier in a lot of ways!

However, our love affair with the automobile has influenced our policies and shaped the way our cities have been built, to the exclusion of other forms of transportation. It’s very easy to drive places, but often very difficult to walk or ride a bike to run daily errands. (Watch this video for a summary of factors affecting US transportation and development patterns as compared to Europe. See here for a column I wrote in 2011 for the Star-Herald on my walk/bike experience in Sweden.)

If you take a walk around, you’ll notice that modern-built businesses are well-connected to roads and have more-then-ample parking lots, but that sidewalk infrastructure is often unpleasant, disjointed, or missing entirely. Parking lots are car-centric zones where people walking to the front door have to watch out or risk being run over. (An exception is businesses located in older buildings, like our historic downtowns, which were designed for pedestrians before the dominance of the automobile.)

One practice I find particularly galling in terms of the public heath message conveyed: the number of businesses that put smoking receptacles in a prominent place near the front door, yet bicycle parking, if it exists, is often relegated to the back 40.

And it’s not just the way businesses are built that affect our activity level. Residential neighborhoods discourage day-to-day physical activity when they are located too far away from shops or schools to make walking practical, when they are built without sidewalks, or when they are designed with winding streets with few cross-connections feeding into busy “collector streets” that make for a roundabout journey with difficult crossings on foot. If you’re curious about the walkability of your neighborhood, enter your address at the real estate website Walkscore. (My house, built in 1932 on a grid street near downtown Scottsbluff, got a score of 63.)

The sum-total of all of these infrastructure planning decisions, coupled with various other practices of American life, has fueled an epidemic of inactivity that has contributed to crisis-level incidences of chronic health conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease that threaten to erase longevity gains Americans have built from decades of public health improvements. To cite one measure: a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a reduced incidence of overweight, obesity and diabetes in more walkable neighborhoods as compared to less walkable neighborhoods.

I could go on and on about this topic, but I need to get to the point:

I’m thrilled that there is a movement stirring locally to begin to address some of these issues!

Specifically, CDC grant funds are enabling the Panhandle Public Health District to jump-start community conversations about walking and biking as transportation options – AKA “active transportation.” If you have any thoughts about improving the walkability of your neighborhood, of encouraging businesses to make their entrances friendlier to people on bikes and on foot, if you’re curious about the status of planned pathways and trails, if you’re concerned about ordinances and development, if you worry about kids walking or biking to school, if you want to save money on transportation costs, if you want to lose a few pounds, THIS CONVERSATION IS FOR YOU!

The city of Sidney already hosted a conversation event (I wrote about it here). Now it’s Scottsing’s turn. With support from PPHD, the Activate Scottsbluff-Gering committee –  which consists of planning, health and marketing professionals as well as community organizers and volunteers (including yours truly) – has planned two conversation events:


Activate Scottsbluff-Gering Open House
Thursday, November 3, 4 to 7 p.m.

Stop by the Guadalupe Center (1102 12th Ave, Scottsbluff) anytime during the event to learn about walking and biking opportunities and to give your input about what changes you’d like to see in your neighborhood or in the tri-cities area at large. Light snacks will be provided, as well as a Spanish-language translator. Planned booths include, to date:

  • Panhandle Public Health District (info on the Activate Scottsbluff-Gering process, the link between active transit and health)
  • Scotts Bluff County transit (info and feedback request on proposed regular Gering-to-Scottsbluff bus route)
  • North Platte NRD (demonstration of recreation mapping app)
  • Regional West Medical Center (info on health benefits of exercise)
  • City of Scottsbluff planning department (Scottsbluff city ordinances and development plans)
  • City of Scottsbluff parks & rec (current & planned pathways in Scottsbluff, including the Highway 26 pedestrian bridge and mountain bike trail in Riverside Park)
  • City of Scottsbluff Police Department (maps of areas around schools, to discuss traffic flow)
  • Western Nebraska Bicycling Club / Nebraska Bicycling Alliance (examples of “commuter bicycles,” info on club activities and membership)
  • There will be a “sidewalk game” to make learning about city ordinances fun, a “feedback booth” for gathering information, and a game about bicycle traffic law.
  • And more! Many invitations have been sent to institutions and community groups to participate – if you know of or are part of a group or entity that should be represented, contact Jessica Davies at the Panhandle Public Health District: 308-487-3600 Ext. 101

Update: while the City of Gering was unable to have a booth at the event, Gering is definitely involved in this initiative. There are some cool things happening in Gering, too, like potential bike paths into downtown as part of downtown revitalization, and the pathway through Legacy of the Plains Museum to Scotts Bluff National Monument, the planning for which is underway again.

Activate Scottsbluff-Gering Summit
Thursday, November 17, 1 to 7 p.m.

Register for this half-day event, also at the Guadalupe Center (registration info coming soon), and participate in facilitated conversations that will build upon the ideas gathered at the Open House. There will be a panel discussion, small-group discussions and large-group idea-sorting activities. The overall goal is to develop an action plan to improve community health through increased walking and biking. Summit participants will prioritize ideas and identify ways to move forward with these ideas. A meal will be provided.

SCB Citizen’s Thoughts

As long as I have this bloggy pulpit, I might as well use it to gather my ideas in a format where potentially interested parties could have a gander at them. Please comment here and/or attend the open house if there are ideas that resonate with you.

First, my personal philosophy:

I want to burn as many calories as I can in my daily activities so I don’t have to “exercise.”

  • It’s why I often walk or ride my bike instead of driving.
  • It’s why I have an old-fashioned push-reel lawnmower instead of a self-propelled gas mower.
  • It’s why I knead bread and mix cookie dough by hand instead of using electric appliances.
  • It’s why I rake leaves instead of using a leaf blower.
  • It’s why I hand-shovel the driveway instead of using a snowblower.


Yes, I also sometimes walk, run, hike or bike recreationally, but my foundation of “calorie-burning everyday activities” remains the bedrock of where I consistently get exercise, without which I’m convinced I would be less healthy than I currently am.

Here are some things I would like to see happen locally, in no particular order other than that’s the order in which I thought of them as I was writing. Perhaps a few things on this list can become reality.

  • If city building code requires business development to have minimum car parking spaces, it should also have minimum bike parking spaces and a clear pedestrian path to the front door. Bike parking should be font-and-center “rock star parking.” (Want to know where there are existing bike racks? See this map. This is a work in progress. New submissions encouraged!)
  • A volunteer community of citizens who walk/wheel regularly (maybe some “walking clubs?”) and who help educate residents and business owners and notify the city about code violations that hinder neighborhood walkability (e.g., snow clearance, broken sidewalks, overhanging trees, cars blocking the sidewalk).
  • A color-coded map of recommended bicycle routes through Gering, Terrytown and Scottsbluff, with the colors indicating how easy or difficult those routes are.
  • A Bike to Work Day event each year.
  • Better path and sidewalk connectivity throughout the tri-state area. More sidewalks, wider sidewalks, and a complete network of curb cuts. Especially better and more numerous ped/bike crossings of the river, railroad tracks and highway! Get that once-proposed pathway bridge between Riverside Park and Scotts Bluff National Monument to happen!!
  • A bike playground (see link for explanation).
  • A bicycle scavenger hunt event involving businesses/entities to which people might ride ordinarily. Participating businesses/entities would sponsor an activity riders would complete to collect points. The event would invite new riders to get used to riding as transportation and familiarize them with bike routes. (Something similar is already taking place with the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club’s Candy Corn Grab.)
  • A community ed class on safe bicycling.
  • A community ed class for “bicycle-safe driver” certification.
  • A bikeshare / bike rental business.
  • City inspectors focusing enforcement attention first on broken sidewalks with trip-hazard potholes or elevation gaps rather than a simple crack. With the inspection letter, include recommended contractors and, where appropriate, information about protecting the health of shade trees whose roots have cracked the sidewalk.
  • Encourage more shade tree planting along walking routes and in parking lots.
  • Adopt a “complete streets” policy so that whenever road repair or construction happens, the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists are considered in addition to the needs of automobile drivers. This would include adding curb cuts or moving sign posts and fire hydrants that block the sidewalk, for example.
  • Encourage “walking school busses.”
  • Return the “yield to pedestrian in crosswalk” signs to downtown Scottsbluff and use temporary signage like this in school zones when students are out and about.
  • Encourage walk/bike commuters to use Strava’s “commute” feature to collect data for city planners. Do bicycle traffic counts. How can we make good plans without good data?
  • Develop an education and incentive campaign for people to walk or bike downtown. This will help address some parking concerns if fewer people are parking downtown.
  • Create an online map of the Monument Valley Pathway. My early-in-the-learning-curve 7-year-old blog post on the pathway remains one of my most popular posts, and people tell me they are glad to have found it because there is no other information out there.
  • “Infill development” that revitalizes previously developed land with existing utility and transportation connections should be incentivized – NOT new development on undeveloped land that requires all-new construction. Not only does this help walkability, but this lowers long-term infrastructure maintenance burden (read: lower tax burden) because there is a more compact, efficient utility and transportation system.
  • A dream: make the city responsible for sidewalk infrastructure like it is for streets. Can you imagine what a mess the roads would be if every homeowner and business was responsible for maintaining the street in front of their property? That’s the situation we have for sidewalks. Why should pedestrian transportation infrastructure be treated so differently from automobile transportation infrastructure?
  • Law enforcement focus on cyclist and driver education about the rules of the road (key points: right of bike to be in road, 3-foot passing law, bikes must travel in the same direction as cars.)

Whew! And probably my brain isn’t emptied on this topic yet. I may add more. 🙂

Disclaimer: while I’m on the committee planning the Activate Scottsbuff-Gering events, this blog post is my own opinion and may not represent the views of the committee as a whole.

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

The beauty in transience

October 7, 2016

We got our first killing freeze of the season last night in western Nebraska. In some parts of town, there was fog, too. I dropped Bugman off at work at the Panhandle Extension and Research Center this morning, and I’m grateful I did. The sharp end-of-season transition combined with the fog created a frozen wonderland in the D.A. Murphy Panhandle Arboretum.













I could have stayed there all morning, appreciating the frosted, sparkling blossoms, but the progress of the autumn sun into the sky brought a melting warmth.



The way the sun shone through the flowers on their last morning in their present form filled me with an emotion that does not have a name in English. The closest I could get is the Japanese


pronounced like “moh-noh  noh  ah-wah-ray,” which translates something like “awareness of impermanence, or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.”

This is one of the reasons autumn is my favorite season. Without death, how can we truly appreciate life?

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

Is water scarcity a threat to the future of ag-supported communities in the Nebraska Panhandle?

October 5, 2016

There’s a lot of chatter around here lately about the effect Cabela’s ownership change will have on employment at the company’s world headquarters in Sidney, since that one company directly supports a quarter of the jobs there, and indirectly supports many more. I have friends who are potentially affected by this tremor in Sidney’s economy, and I’ve heard a fear expressed that a decline in the local economy could reduce home values and impact people who are relying on the value of their homes as a financial security net in their older years.

I’m not likely to be personally affected by Cabela’s business operations, so I’m not worried about it from a personal finance point of view.

But there’s something else going on in the world that does have the potential to affect the security of my investment as a homeowner in Scotts Bluff County.

That something will be addressed at the Midwest Theater this Friday night, October 7, at 7:30 p.m., with a documentary film and panel discussion. The event is free. I’m planning to attend, and if you’re interested in the long-term health of our community, I think you should, too.

The topic of the film and discussion is water and agriculture.

The gist of my worry is this:

  1. The communities in Scotts Bluff County are highly dependent on agriculture to support the base of our economy.
  2. A large portion of our agriculture is dependent upon irrigation from surface water sources, and there is a moratorium on drilling for new high-capacity groundwater sources because of limited supply. (See UNL’s Agriculture in the Nebraska Panhandle for a summary.)
  3. According to UNL analysis of climate projections, within our lifetime, we are potentially looking at the following conditions in the Nebraska Panhandle (See Understanding and Assessing Climate Change: Implications for Nebraska for more information):

Increase in the frequency and intensity of certain extreme weather and climate events …, particularly droughts and heat waves. … a small increase in heavy precipitation events (p. 33). (Less rain, and when rain does come, there will be increased potential for flooding.)

Large projected reduction in snowpack in the central and northern Rocky Mountains (p. 32). (Less water available for surface irrigation.)

Typical summer temperatures by mid-century (2041-2070) equivalent to those experienced during the 2012 drought and heat wave (p. 31). (Who remembers the summer of 2012? Multiple record high temperatures set. Multiple damaging hailstorms. Numerous wildfires. Brownouts due to the high electricity demand. Church groups praying for rain. Dust storms. Shortage of feed for livestock.)

Was it dumb of me to purchase a home in Scottsbluff, given the stressors predicted to hit our ag-based economy in the future? Will we continue on a business-as-usual course as our weather patterns change, or will we take action to set ourselves up to be more resilient to change?

Friday’s film at the Midwest Theater is Thirsty Land.

Here’s a quote from the film trailer that illustrates how this film is linked to my concerns:

This entire valley, not just the farms, but the entire valley – the McDonald’s, the Safeway, the downtown shops, they’ll all close up when this place dries up. My employees go down the road because there’s nothing to do here.


Photo credit: Thirsty Land film

Thirsty Land was produced by Conrad Weaver, who also produced The Great American Wheat Harvest, which was a very well-received film when it screened here.

Thirsty Land was produced with support from the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute and UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources as well as several irrigation companies and agriculture-based associations. This screening event is supported by the Panhandle Research and Extension Center, the North Platte Natural Resources District, and the Nebraska Conversation Education Fund. Yes, the film focuses on the water crisis in California, but the substantial support for this project from Nebraska sources tells me that this is an important topic for our state. This is not political propaganda. This is a real challenge we will be facing.

The panelists for the post-film discussion include, in addition to the filmmaker, well-respected members of the community whose lives and work are entwined in agriculture: John Berge, NPNRD General Manager; Pete Lapaseotes, NPNRD board member and irrigator, cattle feeder, and agribusiness owner; Owen Palm, President and CEO of 21st Century Holdings; and Dennis Strauch, General Manager of Pathfinder Irrigation District. Palm and Strauch are also members of the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission, representing agribusiness interests and irrigation districts, respectively.

My one disappointment is that this film discussion is being marketed in the Star-Herald primarily to agricultural interests rather than to the community at large (though people on the Midwest Theater and Nebraska Conservation Education Fund mailing lists should also get information about the screening). The two mentions of the film have both been in the Farm & Ranch section, in a general press release, and in a column by PREC director Jack Whittier.

My hope is that a broad cross-section of our community will attend this event and start conversations that put Scotts Bluff County on a path to greater resilience in the face of changing weather patterns.

I’ll be there, because I want to be part of the solution. I want to make sure that my adopted home not only survives but thrives in the future.

Where will you be this Friday night?

UPDATE: I wanted to share some excellent information sent to me by Dave Ostdiek, the communications contact over at PREC (who is also on the board of the North Platte NRD).

  • This article examines the value that irrigation water adds to agricultural land in Nebraska.
  • Here’s another article on how irrigation contributes to agricultural land value. It’s the only paper of those listed here in which I found a mention of climate change.
  • This UNL publication gives a summary of irrigation in Nebraska. Of interest is the fact that, in much of Scotts Bluff County, the water resources were listed as “over-appropriated.” (Side note: the publication, as well as this one, show that the majority of western Nebraska is underlain by the Ogallala aquifer, yet I’ve heard some folks arguing that Scotts Bluff County is not, in fact hydrologically connected to that famed underground body of water. I’m confused.)
  • Here’s a thought-provoking study commissioned by the Nebraska Farm Bureau in the wake of the 2012 drought. A quote from that study highlighting the relevance of a film about California’s drought to Nebraska (2008 data):

Nebraska has the highest level of acreage under irrigation for all states [8.4 million acres]. The next closest state is California, where 7.3 million acres are under irrigation.

According to this study, because of farmers’ ability to irrigate, the Nebraska economy has an additional 30,000 jobs and $11 billion in economic output (a total of direct, indirect, and induced impacts).

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

Downtown Scottsbluff December remix: Christmas in July

July 25, 2016

I love walking in downtown Scottsbluff and looking in the business windows. Some of the business are very creative about their window displays, and it’s fun to see what’s new each time I walk by.

December is a favorite time for an evening stroll past all the plate glass, as the Christmas decorations the businesses put up give me a lot of cheer (sometimes because I’m laughing at the lackadaisical effort, but, hey – it’s cheer, right?).

This past December, I dragged Bugman around before and after a walking trip to Sam & Louie’s for dinner so I could take pictures of the window displays on Broadway. (Disclaimer: I did not photograph every single business in the downtown that had a window display – only the ones that were on my walking path that night.) I meant to do a Christmas post of appreciation for all the effort the business owners make to brighten up the downtown, but time got away from me, and I never got around to it.

Rather than give up the idea altogether, I decided to delay the post by six months and do a “Christmas in July” post. (Remember back when it was cold outside? Ah, those were the days!!)

Another layer was added to this post by the fact that I didn’t note the names of all the businesses I took photos of. I started to try to seek out every single business name, but it was taking way too much time, because there is still no downtown Scottsbluff business website (something I suggested was needed back in 2010, three months after I moved to Scottsbluff), and a lot of downtown businesses are apparently Google-impaired and have not performed digital grooming.

So, I’m adding an econopolitical Grinch angle to this post: downtown Scottbluff businesses need to get real and get online.

grinch jingle jog afterparty

The Grinch lectures Max on how important it is these days to register one’s business with Google and to keep the information current. (Image from the super-fun Jingle Jog afterparty last year – I hope they do it again!)

How are visiting shoppers going to find out what there is to draw them to the downtown without a website or current, map-based information? Sure, they could wander around on foot, but that won’t draw them there in the first place, and they might miss something by not walking to that next block.

So, for lack of a downtown Scottsbluff business website, if I could not find a business name by virtually walking down the street in Google maps (with outdated Street View photos), I just sort of stabbed a guess at the business category from what I remember from my meanderings.

Enough of the grousing – enjoy the show! (And think fond thoughts of winter.)

1 the zone

A winter wonderland at The Zone / Scottsbluff Screenprinting?

2 reichert's jewelry

Reichert’s Jewelry. I often enjoy the creative window displays at this business.

3 tree house interiors

The ever-artful Tree House Interiors window.

4 office supply store

I think this is an office supply store.

5 art gallery

An art gallery whose name I should know but have forgotten.

6 a bridal affair

A Bridal Affair – another business with oft-changing window displays that I appreciate very much. (I pass by here often on my way to the Midwest Theater and Cappucino and Company.)

7 the sports racquet

The Sports Racquet – kind of sad but topped with a Huskers hat, so – bonus points!

8 midwest theater

The Midwest Theater’s lobby tree.

9 tallmon's

Tallmon’s – this was one of my favorite holiday window displays, even though it wasn’t yet finished when I took the picture. I appreciated the whimsy in miniature.

10 teacher's corner 1

Teacher’s Corner gets two pictures. They always have nice-looking windows.

10 teacher's corner 2

The “kid” side of Teacher’s Corner. Have to admit, this side appealed to me more. (A white tiger in a fedora!?!)

11 salon west

Salon West has it together, coordinating their Christmas tree with their hair product packaging.

12 office

Aw, huggable polar bear – and snowballs! Some kind of office here. Insurance, maybe?

13 hairbender

Hairbender put their name in their window. Smart. They are also locatable on Google. Smarter.

14 pet related

This is some kind of pet-related business. I also took a photo of a realistic stuffed cat wearing a Santa hat, but the photo didn’t turn out.

15 bluffs bakery

At Bluff’s Bakery, the snowman kind of matches the vintage mixer!

16 sam and louies

Sam and Louie’s, going for a “Christmas in L.A.” look?

17 second time around

Second Time Around – points for good product placement. Toys, toys, toys!

18 kitchen store

Some kind of kitchen store.

19 angelas bridal

The ever-classy window of Angela’s Bridal & Boutique.

20 compliments

Compliments gets extra points for including a bicycle in their Christmas display window! (They are also lucky they have not moved their business since the Google car last went down Broadway.)

21 marie's embrodery

The Christmas window at Marie’s Embroidery.

22 barbour music

The guitars at Barbour Music all nestled in their faux-snow beds, visions of sugar plums dancing in their . . . frets?

23 pella window and door

Oh, Pella Window and Door, you make me laugh. Good holiday cheer!

24 western trail sports1

Western Trail Sports Post gets THREE photos in the lineup. They have a lotta window real estate that wraps around a corner, and they always do something with it.

24 western trail sports 2

The Western Trail Sports Post Santa on one side of the door . . .

24 western trail sports 3

. . . and on the other, baby Jesus, the reason for the season.

25 platte valley vac n sew

Some pretty little ornaments (and a feather tree!) at Platte Valley Vac & Sew.

26 blossom shop

The Blossom Shop – another business with consistently aesthetically-pleasing windows.

27 blue stem

A tall tree for Blue Stem’s tall window.

28 antique shop 1

A perennial favorite: the warmly-lit mini town (flying reindeer included!) at Homestake Antique Mall (whose Google location puts it in the wrong place on the map.)

28 antique shop 2

A closeup of the Homestake Antique Mall window: Look! a bicycle!

29 lawyer office

An unnamed lawyer’s office. Are those light beams coming down from the Christmas Star? Or is the window dirty? *blush* Maybe the lawyer is better off unnamed at this juncture.

30 connecting point

And the final post in this series – the Connecting Point, which might have won the lackadaisical award on this day. (I don’t know if anything else was added to the tree later, but it was pretty funny as is.)

I hope you enjoyed this little tromp down six-months-ago memory lane. I’m looking forward to the next seasonal displays (and to the cooler weather!!!).

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

Something cooler than sip n’ paint: animation

July 11, 2016

The sip n’ paint trend is going strong in Wyobraska. Coffee shops, art galleries and a winery are among the local hosts for this type of artistic endeavor. They are pretty fun. I’ve done a couple of them myself.

cap n co

Me, at left, hard at work attempting to paint a lemon at Cappuccino and Company. Of my completed work my mom said, “It looks like an alien space ship.” Photo credit: Jenifer Berge Sauter

In Scottbluff this summer, there is another extremely unique option for exercising your creativity:

An animation class!
Taught by folks affiliated with the renowned California Institute for the Arts!
Held in western Nebraska!

Thus, the name: Calibraska Arts Initiative. (Get it? California – Nebraska . . . Calibraska!)

Just like the sip n’ paint classes, NO ARTISTIC TALENT NECESSARY. As Calibraska co-founder and instructor Erica Larsen-Dockray said:

Can you move an object and take a picture? You can do animation.

In addition to Erica, this year’s instructors are Lauren Flinner and Rachel Saropian.

Here’s a photo of the three instructors during a Q&A session at the Midwest Theater last week:


There are some Calibraska animation workshops targeted at kids, but the one I’m interested in promoting (the one I’m signed up for, the one I want to make sure has enough students to go) is the one targeted at adults – the Loopers Club, held on three consecutive Wednesday evenings from 6-8 p.m., the first class being THIS WEDNESDAY, JULY 13 at the Harms Center.

I THINK YOU SHOULD CALL THE HARMS CENTER RIGHT NOW AND SIGN UP FOR THE CLASS: 308-635-6700! It’s only 30 bucks for three sessions. (Incredible value!) Keep your fingers crossed that there’s still an opening at this super-last-minute date, ’cause this’ll be a good time!

Session 1 July 13
Optical toys: zoetropes, thaumatropes, flipbooks, and praxinoscopes

That’s a lotta tropes and scopes there, but what that basically means is drawing things and then moving the paper somehow to create the illusion of movement. Here are a couple of screen captures from the Calibraska Vimeo channel, which obviously aren’t as cool as the actual moving picture, so make sure to click on the link:



flip book

Flip book

Session 2 July 20
Scratch/Draw/Bleach on 35mm clear/black/pre-shot film

Use film as your media instead of paper this week. Another screen shot from the Calibraska Vimeo channel:

draw on film

(Cameo alert: Bill Murray!)

July 27
Pixilation/Light Animation

I’m not going to include an image of pixilation – because it just means taking a series of photos and stringing them together to create an animation, a kind of live action stop-motion. A still shot of a pixilation would be silly.

But light animation? Here’s a photo, once again, screen-grabbed from the Calibraska Vimeo channel:

light animation

Light animation

So what’s that number again to get registered? WNCC Harms Center 308-635-6700! Call now! Operators may not be standing by, but you can leave a message, I reckon.

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw, except photos credited to other sources

Veg bloom tour

July 10, 2016

Could you identify a flowering beet? A parsnip? How about an onion?

Today, Sunday, July 10, at 4 p.m., Meadowlark Hearth farm, just east of Scottsbluff,  is offering a tour of these blooming vegetables and more. (Apologies for the tardiness of the post – the date snuck up on me!)

The reason Meadowlark Hearth has these unusual vegetable blooms is because they raise these plants for seed. Most of us eat the plant before it has a chance to flower.

meadowlark heart bloom tour

I don’t think these flowers are on the tour, but I’m including them as an example of the flowers of commonly eaten veggies that most Americans have likely never seen:

potato flower

The flowers of a potato plant.

asparagus flower

The tiny flowers of an asparagus plant.

Meadowlark Hearth is also a regular vendor at the summer 18th Street Farmers Market in downtown Scottsbluff (June-September, Saturdays 8-11) as well as the Scottsbluff Winter Farmers Market (October-March, 1st and 3rd Saturdays, 11-2), and also has a Community-Supported Agriculture subscription.

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

Double L Cafe: a great destination for a ride

July 4, 2016

Have you been to the Double L Cafe on the hilltop on Highway 71 in Banner County yet? It’s great!

A great place to bike, too – I’m reblogging this post from my Wyobraska Tandem blog.

Wyobraska Tandem

Ever since Bugman and I bought our tandem in 2013 and started long-distance road riding, Highway 71 south of Scottsbluff-Gering has been a favorite route.

downhill grade

For one, it has a shoulder, and its two lanes in each direction means that drivers can (and usually do) pull into the passing lane to give people riding bicycles on the shoulder plenty of space. Since the portion of the road over the Wildcat Hills was repaved in 2015, the ride has gotten even better on the new, smooooooth surface (though there are still gravel bars that form on the shoulder after heavy rain, and there are long un-repaved stretches of road in Banner County where the shoulder pavement cracks are terrible: ka-BAM! ka-BAM! ka-BAM! – so we sometimes still need to ride out in the lane).

For two, it’s a great workout to be able to get in (from Scottsbluff) ~750 feet of…

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