Tour de Nebraska is a 5-day, non-competitive circle tour around the state with a unique route each year. This experience allows nearly 500 cyclists to experience rural Nebraska from their bike.
The 2018 tour once again came through Knox County, this time stopping in Niobrara for two of the five days. This year’s tour included visits to Plainview, Neligh, O’Neill and Niobrara.
This isn’t the first year the tour had its eye on Niobrara as a destination for the tour. The tour had previously reached out to Niobrara, but they were in the midst of their school expansion.
This year, the tour first reached out to Mark Rettig who then gave them Mark Simpson's name. Simpson gladly became the head volunteer for Niobrara.
“Niobrara is a tourist town, there is a lot to do here,” Simpson said.
The townspeople were excited upon hearing the news that they would be hosting in this year’s tour. Simpson said the town had much to prepare for, being the town with the 2 day stay this year. This included preparing 5 meals and enough activities to occupy the full 2 days for all the riders.
“We pulled it off thanks to our great group of volunteers,” Simpson said.
Cyclists had to battle the rain for their Plainview, Neligh, and O’Neill visits, but after cycling a total of 92 miles in the rain, the sun decided to shine for Niobrara’s leg of the race, which worked out perfectly for Niobrara and their many outdoor activities.
On Friday, June 22, the cyclists started trickling into Niobrara. Cyclists witnessed dancing by the Southern Ponca Tribe, as well as listened to “Street Corner Kings” live entertainment before a campfire.
Saturday, cyclists participated in a mini rendezvous at Niobrara State Park, boat tours, floating down the river, canoe trips, and elk and buffalo tours.
Cyclists were encouraged to stop and visit the little shops, restaurants and attractions in Niobrara.
“The whole town ended up getting a lot of good business,” Simpson said.
Many of the cyclists were intrigued by the history of the area, and a good number visited the memorials and the museum.
Every participant in the tour this year was pleasantly surprised by the scenery and the quaint little town.
“Our goal is to get people to come back to visit us again,” Simpson stated, whether that be in July for Desperado Days or just bringing their family here on vacation. Niobrara is a little hidden gem with tons of activities, and the town looks forward to the business.
Tour de Nebraska allows the cyclists to vote on their favourite host town at the end of the tour. Results should be announced next week according to Simpson.
He is hopeful Niobrara will be chosen due to the many activities provided and pleasant weather that rolled in during Niobrara’s leg. At the very least, they expect the tour to put Niobrara on the map more often in future tours.