Rumors of Nebraska City’s demise because of floodwaters have been greatly exaggerated, and the town has launched an advertising campaign to dispel that misinformation.
“People assume that we’re underwater, and we are not,” said Rebecca Turner, the local director of tourism. “We’ve been getting a lot of phone calls from people wondering if they can get here.”
The town of 6,400 residents 45 miles south of Omaha has nine museums and several other attractions. At a recent meeting of museum directors, most facilities reported slight decreases in attendance, Turner said. Only the Mayhew Cabin Foundation reported a significant drop.
“But everyone is nervous because the major tourist season here is in August and September, when the apple crop comes in,” she said. “Everyone is wondering what those months will hold.”
Turner said the closures of Interstate 29 and Nebraska Highway 2 near Nebraska City have made travel more difficult, but U.S. Highway 75 remains open in both directions, and the town remains “open for business.”
A group of Nebraska City merchants pooled their money to buy radio spots and pay for billboards advertising the town’s many tourist attractions, Turner said. The radio spots, primarily in Omaha and Lincoln, will run at least through August. Billboards will be placed along I-29 near Glenwood, Iowa, and Watson, Mo.
Bill Hayes is hoping those spots helps revive interest in the Mayhew Cabin — Nebraska’s fabled stop on the Underground Railroad. Hayes, the director of the cabin, said attendance was off 50 percent in June when compared with the same month in 2010.
“We expect attendance to go back up after the flooding is over and the roads are repaired,” Hayes said.
Visiting hours at the cabin have been cut back to noon to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, until things pick up. Hayes said he also has stopped drawing a salary.
Just south of Nebraska City, the Missouri River floodwaters are being credited with a boost in attendance at the Lewis and Clark Center, on Otoe County Route 2. The three story, 12,000-square foot building sits on a 79-acre wooded bluff nearly 200 feet above the river.
Erv Friesen, the center’s director, said a highway sign advertising a “free view of the river” has brought “a lot” of impulse traffic.
Friesen hopes many of those visitors return this Saturday and Sunday for the annual Lewis and Clark Reunion, the center’s biggest event. The reunion is free. It commemorates the famous explorers’ visit to the area on July 19, 1804.
“This year,” Friesen said, “it comes with a spectacular view of the river.”
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