This weekend, our hometown of Crete, Nebraska, hosted its inaugural Great Pumpkin Festival. It was a beautiful fall day, only made better by the site of a diverse community coming together to celebrate our town. And believe me, there is a lot to celebrate in Crete!
When passersby were asked to write down what they liked most about Crete at a booth sponsored by Nebraska Appleseed, their answers said it all — I love the diversity; great schools; it’s safe; friendly people; Doane College; great teachers; quiet place to live; family friendly; and it’s a welcoming community. Steve and I have lived here for more than a decade and we couldn’t agree more with these statements.
The festival, which was organized by the Crete Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Committee along with local volunteers, was a great place for a diverse community to come together and celebrate some of the things that make our town unique.
This couple has enjoyed living in Crete for more than 12 years and said they had a great time watching their grandkids play at the Pumpkin Festival.
Planning for the event began months ago and started with people planting pumpkin seeds and volunteers working throughout the summer, to grow the patch and harvest the pumpkins in a local City Park. According to the Chamber of Commerce, nearly 400 pumpkins given away through donations and vouchers purchased by local businesses.
Local Crete residents, Vicky and Tom Sorensen, enjoyed the festivities with their grandchildren in downtown Crete.
There were also lots of activities for kids at the festival, including hay rack rides, face painting, pumpkin smashing, a duck pond, a free movie at the ISIS theater, and a zip line. There was also live entertainment from town center, including demonstrations and performances from groups like Crete ATA Martial Arts Academy and Dynamic Dance Company.
Pumpkin smashing, sponsored by Doane’s Gamma Phi Iota sorority, was a huge hit (pun intended).
Kids loved playing in the corn.
One of our favorite booths was the one sponsored by Bunge Milling. For a couple tickets, kids were able to get into a stock tank full of corn and search for a tiny pumpkin. The prize for finding the pumpkin was a box of cereal that includes corn ingredients made right here in Crete, Nebraska. Kids were also able to see and feel different types of corn products like corn meal, hominy feed, whole grain corn, and brewer’s grits.
Robin Whitley from Bunge Milling talked to kids about the different corn products, including those used in popular breakfast cereals like Corn Pops and Frosted Flakes.
A pumpkin growing contest was sponsored by five local businesses, including Crete True Value, Crete Lumber and Farm Supply, Hometown Shopko, Orscheln Farm and Home, and Crete’s Walmart. Local residents picked up pumpkin seeds at these businesses earlier in the year and grew pumpkins for the event. Prizes were awarded for the most unique/ugliest pumpkin, the largest pumpkin, and the person who donated the most carving pumpkins to the festival. Some of the largest pumpkins were displayed in the middle of the street in downtown Crete and made for a great setting for pictures.
There was also a scarecrow contest and more than 20 scarecrows were constructed by local businesses and organizations and then displayed in downtown Crete.
From what we experienced, Crete’s first Great Pumpkin Festival was a huge success and a great testament to the kind of community-minded, welcoming people who live and work here. While we’re the first to admit we love leaving town and traveling to new places, we also look forward to coming back to Crete — a perfect place to call home.
Earlier this summer, Steve and I took off on a 6-day journey to find out for ourselves if our home state lives up to its new slogan, “Nebraska Nice.”
We wrote about some of the nicest things we saw — calling them our 2014 “Nebraska’s Nicest Nine.” The list was compiled from the places we traveled this summer on our 1,260-mile journey that took us west to North Platte, then off I-80 around Lake McConaughy to Alliance, then to Scottsbluff/Gering, up to Chadron, across Highway 20 to Valentine, and Norfolk, then down through Columbus to home.
These nine are the nicest sites, attractions, and people we found on this particular trip off the beaten path–a place definitely worth going.
Our 2014 Nebraska’s Nicest Nine:
#9 – Cody Park – This unique park in North Platte was filled with a wide variety of animals (including white peacocks), a carousel, ice cream shop, and lots of smiling faces.
#8- Wildflowers and prairie grasses – We were stunned (and so were our sinuses) by the incredible displays of purple and gold wildflowers and the prairie grasses throughout the state.
#4 – Circle C in Cody – Students in this small town (that refuses to die) built a a straw-bale building and now run a supermarket – the first here in more than a decade.
#3 – Neon Bar and Grill – Perfectly seasoned and grilled steaks and excellent service earned this restaraunt a place in our Top 9. The fact that it was (by far) the cleanest restaurant in which we ate on our trip, moved it all the way up to #3.
#2 – Toadstool Geologic Park – There’s nothing like Toadstool anywhere else in Nebraska (or likely the world). It is located 19 miles from Crawford in the far northwest part of the state — but feels like you’re on the moon.
#1 – Innkeeper Jeanne Goetzinger – We saw a lot of great attractions on our trip. But honestly, nothing compared to the people we met along the way. We found that it is people like Jeanne, that make Nebraska especially “nice.”
Not so nice? You be the judge. Carhenge. We spent about 15 minutes at this Stonehenge replica made of old cars near Alliance. On our way back to the car, I asked Steve what he thought. He said, “It was everything I imagined and less. Much less.” Personally, I thought it was pretty cool.
What do you think? What are the nicest things you’ve seen in Nebraska or your home state? Let us know in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.
I met Jeanne Goetzinger several years ago, when my daughter, Meghan, and I were exploring northwest Nebraska. We saw a lot of interesting things on that trip, but none was more memorable than the straight-talking, curly-haired woman who greeted us in the parking lot of the historic Olde Main Street Inn and encouraged us to step up to the bar and enjoy a refreshing Sarsaparilla after a long day’s drive. She was unlike anyone else we encountered on our week-long, annual trek across our home state. She was a kindred spirit, but tough as nails and I couldn’t wait to introduce her to my husband, Steve, when we decided to spend a night in Chadron this summer.
Checking in to the Olde Main Street Inn in Chadron, NE. (Photo by Ann Teget for postcard jar.com)
We arrived at the Olde Main Street Inn mid-evening and Jeanne, a second-generation innkeeper, came down from her second-floor apartment to unlock the front door for us. First, she introduced us to her companion, an American Stag Hound named Grace, whom she rescued two and a half years ago, even though she suspected (by the look in her eyes) that the dog was pregnant. In fact, the dog gave birth to 10 puppies three weeks later and Jeanne says Gracie was responsible for making 10 families very happy. After introductions, she kindly invited us to take a seat at the empty bar, asked what we’d like to drink and then poured herself a glass of wine. While her glass sat practically untouched, Steve and I sipped our cold beers and listened to Jeanne reminisce about the historic hotel and the many characters who have graced its doors.
The bar at the Olde Main Street Inn. (Photo by Ann Teget for postcard jar.com)
She told us about the room where General Nelson Miles stayed when the hotel was his headquarters during the Wounded Knee Massacre in the 1890s. She explained how her mother, Evva, purchased the hotel and restaurant in 1969 and managed it until Jeanne took over in 1990, retiring her mother to what she calls “Grande Dame status.” And she was most excited to name drop the authors, artists, and celebrities (Dick Cavett and Woody Harrelson to name a few) who have spent time at the Olde Main Street Inn over the years.
Today, the inn serves as a bed and breakfast and the bar is open Wednesday through Saturday. According to Jeanne, it attracts quite an eclectic group of locals and travelers that make thought-provoking conversation. We were there on a Monday, so the inn was pretty quiet — just us and few construction workers. We asked her if the bar attracts many of the college students who attend Chadron State College up the street. She said, “Just the really smart ones. I don’t serve Red Bull. And I don’t serve Jägermeister. Whoever thought an energetic drunk was a good idea?”
After our welcome drink, she walked us up two flights of steps and down a wide hallway to our third-floor room.
It was fun to think about the cowboys, Generals, and celebrities who have also walked these wide hallways. (Photo by Ann Teget for postcard jar.com)
Because all of the rooms have full beds (just like in the 1800s) and my 6’4″ husband and I would not fit well in one, we chose to stay in the Railroad Room, as it had two beds and a small bathroom. The room and its railroad-themed contents were dated, but Jeanne made sure the bathroom was clean, the sheets were freshly pressed, and it met our needs after a long day of exploring Western Nebraska.
We stayed in the railroad-themed room at the Olde Main Street Inn. (Photo by Steve Teget for postcard jar.com)
As we walked back to the hotel through the alleyway after having dinner at Maria’s around the corner, we were greeted again by Jeanne and her 88-year-old mother. They were outside, enjoying Jeanne’s garden area behind the hotel and they graciously invited us in. We explored her potted flowers and herbs and admired the clematis and hens and chicks she had planted herself. The garden was a respite for the two women and apparently, for anyone else walking by who needed a break or a quiet and relaxing place to rest.
Jeanne tends to her garden behind The Olde Main Street Inn. (Photo by Ann Teget for postcard jar.com)
When we came downstairs the next morning, Jeanne was ready and waiting with a cinnamon roll and a strong cup of coffee. We visited about our plans for the week and she told us more stories about the inn, the people of Chadron, and the eclectic collection of decor and art work that encompasses the entire building. She even took a few minutes to tell us about how she first became interested in spinning yarn and then even demonstrated her craft for us. Click here to see Jeanne spinning yarn!
She walked us through what used to be a formal dining room and showed off her daughter, Lorri Meng’s paintings. Jeanne’s love and appreciation of art was evident. She told us she was even going to open the dining room this summer for a special exhibition called “Au Naturale: A Celebration of Art and the Human Body.” The free exhibition would give local artists like Don Ruleaux, Robin Smith, Lorri Meng, and Bob Zillig an opportunity to display their art in one-of-a-kind fashion — perhaps a first for rural Nebraska.
As we prepared to leave the Olde Main Street Inn, Jeanne asked if she could fill our cooler with ice and gave us each a bottle of water for the road. When my husband extended his hand to thank her for her hospitality, she brushed it aside and said,”I’m a hugger. Always have been.” She gave us each a warm hug, wished us well, and sent us on our way. As Steve and I walked to the car, we smiled at each other and didn’t even need words to express what we were both thinking. It’s people like Jeanne who make Nebraska especially nice.
We’re Steve and Ann Teget. We spent more than two decades in corporate America and public education before Ann’s health and Steve’s aversion to middle school girl drama convinced us to try something new. Now we are making the most of midlife and telling authentic stories about extraordinary travel. And yes, we send ourselves postcards.