Kearney's Latest Tourism Venue Doing Well One Year In

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It started off as 131 cars from an Elkhorn man looking for a way to keep his collection together.

Now, the Classic Car Collection in Kearney is a fast-growing and so far successful tourism venue.

Just a few days after their first anniversary, Fred Wood of Grand Island was the 13,000th visitor through the doors of the Classic Car Collection.

"It's a really nice collection of cars, and if you're into cars you really should come over and check it out," says Wood.

Kearney officials say visitors saying things like that get a new tourism venue off the ground.

"It's really like starting up a whole new business," says Kearney Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Roger Jasnoch. "Branding and image make so much difference in terms of longevity."

J.L. Schmidt, the director of the Collection, says they've added more cars and are always changing the displays to keep car guys like Wood coming back.

Plus, he says it helps that Kearney is already known as a collectible car spot.

"The midwest has a tremendous car culture," says Schmidt. "We're coming up on our 26th annual cruise night in Kearney [and] the Lincoln Highway celebration."

With the Lincoln Highway, now Highway 30, running right outside the collection's doors, Schmidt says they'll have big plans for the centennial celebration this summer.

But the Classic Car Collection isn't just about cars. Schmidt says they've worked to create a multimedia experience that showcases how our culture has evolved around the automobile, including things like the drive-in theater.

"It's the stories of the cars, it's the stories of the people that owned and drove these cars, so many of these cars have histories," says Schmidt.

Schmidt says their goal is to double attendance over the next year, and the community wants to keep them up and running too.

"[We want to] give people enough things to do in Kearney that we can turn a gas stop into an afternoon stop and an afternoon stop into an overnight stay," says Jasnoch.