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Writers captivated by the area
June 25, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis

Courtesy photo - Members of the latest travel writer’s group enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and history at Scotts Bluff National Monument last week.

For two days last week, 21 travel writers and journalists from across the nation were awed by the North Platte Valley and its numerous attractions and rich history.

“One was a golf journalist and the rest were from all kinds of travel publications,” said Karla Niedan-Streeks, executive director of the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They had two full days packed with things to do and see and had a great time. More importantly, they got to experience the flavor of what we have to offer.”

This is the third year local tourism professionals have hosted travel writers. The program was started by the Nebraska Tourism Commission in conjunction with an agency specializing in putting together media tours.

Niedan-Streeks said they’re very fortunate to be able to host the groups. And in a short amount of time, the writers get a real taste of our local hospitality.

Starting with dinner at Rosita’s, writers were introduced to some of the finest Mexican cuisine in the nation. “Food is also an important part of the tour,” Niedan-Streeks said. “For travel writers, the food experience goes hand in hand.”

After learning about history of the Oregon Trail over breakfast at Barn Anew, the group went to nearby Scotts Bluff National Monument. “When they got out of the vans, cameras were clicking so fast I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “They were in so much awe about that landmark.”

Although it wasn’t planned, timing smiled on the group as riders from the National Pony Express Association stopped at the monument to change horses on their way to California.

“Seeing the re-ride gave the writers another experience to write about,” Niedan-Streeks said. ‘They were thrilled to interview the riders.”

From there, the group headed to the top of the monument the south and north passes before going on to the Legacy of the Plains Museum for a tour and a farm-to-table dinner.

They also hiked in the Wildcat Hills, visited Chimney Rock and Robidoux Trading Post and Agate Fossil Beds. The group even received a midnight snack of the Nebraska favorite Runza sandwiches.

Two people Niedan-Streeks pointed out was a videographer and travel journalist with the El Nuevo Herald, a Spanish language publication near Miami. “They shot video of everything of the entire trip,” she said. “I don’t know how many hours of material they shot, but they’re putting together a massive YouTube video that covers every part of the trip, the experiences and the people they talked with. That will be online soon.”

At the last night’s dinner, Niedan-Streeks sat with a couple of syndicated columnists who write for major news services. The question she had for them was what surprised them most about the area.
“They told me it has to be the landmarks and overall geography of the area,” she said. “They had the preconceived idea that Nebraska is all flat and full of corn fields. Seeing the real state was a big surprise for them.”
She added the writers were also appreciative of the diversity of experiences they had. They weren’t aware we had so much for people to do while they’re here.
“The writers were really impressed with the people they met,”Niedan-Streeks said. “People are genuine, enthusiastic about where they live and want to tell the stories. It’s the kind of experiences they’ll be writing about in the future.”

She said the overall national exposure the area is getting is remarkable. Return on investment for the value of the exposure is $17.60 for every dollar invested.

“It will be a while before we start seeing their stories,” Niedan-Streeks said. “Some of the syndicated journalists told me they only planned for one story about the trip. When they left, they said they’ve already started writing six or seven stories about just this area. That’s great news for all of us.”
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