State embraces Big Ten status to attract visitors

"Adventure" tourism videos at Saturday's Nebraska-South Alabama game will showcase attractions such as the Cowboy Trail.

LINCOLN — "Nebraska Nice" is teaming up with Big Red to pitch tourism in the state, particularly to Big Ten states.

Prior to Saturday night's Husker football game, the Nebraska Tourism Commission is helping sponsor a Nebraska Nice FanFest tailgate party in Lincoln's Railyard district, featuring live bands, interviews with former Huskers and a live broadcast by the Big Ten Network.

New "adventure" tourism videos, featuring things such as hiking in Toadstool Park and biking on the Cowboy Trail, will premiere on the Cube video screen. The Big Ten Network is also showing two of the ads on its network Saturday, said Kathy McKillip, state tourism director.

It's a new approach to promoting tourism in the state, according to McKillip, but one that shows Nebraskans at their sports-loving best.

"We're promoting 'Nebraska Nice,' and the best example of Nebraska Nice is a home football game," McKillip said.

The FanFest will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Big Ten Network will broadcast live for an hour beginning at noon. The Husker Sports Network will broadcast its pregame show there live from 2 to 4 p.m., and "The Bottom Line with Mike'l Severe," The World-Herald's Internet radio broadcast, will produce its show there from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Five bands will perform: the Emmett Bower Band, Funk Trek, Lemon Fresh Day, AZP and Rachel Price.

The Big Ten Network is broadcasting the Nebraska-South Alabama game beginning at 7 p.m.

Nebraska Tourism is spending $1,400 for banners for the event, according to McKillip, and getting two ads on the network free of charge.

The tourism bureau's website will be displayed on the Big Ten Network several times on Saturday, she said. Other co-sponsors include the Railyard and the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is sponsoring the bands.

The tourism commission has utilized sports in the past to promote the state, purchasing ads in the yearbooks of the Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs, in football yearbooks in Iowa and Wisconsin, the PGA Tour yearbook and a Ryder Cup magazine.

McKillip said that tourism is up this year and the state is seeing more travelers from Big Ten states, particularly from the Chicago area. Through June, state lodging tax receipts were up 6.7 percent over 2014.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9584, paul.hammel@owh.com

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