One could see, in the weeks leading up to today’s launch of Nebraskaland Days 2019, billboards around town touting this year’s festival as the 55th.

We just marked a 50th anniversary last June, you might say, so what gives?

Well, both are true. It’s a good marketing ploy, no doubt. But it’s also a reminder that Nebraskaland Days has never been just about North Platte. It belongs to the whole state.

This is still “Nebraska’s official statewide celebration,” just like it was when the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staged the first edition in Lincoln in 1965.

The annual Nebraskaland Days Parade, as it happens, was first staged a year earlier in the capital city. Either way, it’s just as correct to mark 55 years of Nebraskaland Days this year as it was to celebrate its North Platte golden anniversary last year.

A previous generation of city leaders went all out, and rather out on a limb, to prevail when Game and Parks — which never automatically planned to keep the festival in Lincoln — invited towns across Nebraska to bid to be permanent host.

Lincoln tried to keep it but had to settle for hanging onto the 1967 statewide centennial edition (the approach of which was the impetus for founding Nebraskaland Days to start with).

That alone says something about North Platte. It’s not easy to pry big events away from eastern Nebraska, as our neighbors in Grand Island know well from their successful 2010 campaign to land the Nebraska State Fair.

So it’s well to remind our younger generations that North Platte isn’t merely the home of Nebraskaland Days. We’re its custodian. We should celebrate for ourselves and welcome our guests accordingly, year in and year out.

We have much to be proud of, and this is the time to show it.

We don’t just put on a rodeo here. One of our own, the great William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, actually founded the sport right here, back in 1882.

No, we didn’t invent parades. But we know how to put them on, in large part because Cody always started his world-famous Wild West Show with a parade.

We know how to put on shows, which remains a big reason we’re the permanent hosts of the Miss Nebraska and Miss Rodeo Nebraska pageants. One leads into Nebraskaland Days; the other helps kick it off.

And remember the concerts, the Frontier Revue, the carnival and the other foodie and family-friendly events the next time your kids whine, “There’s nothing to do!”

If you live here, take time to have fun even if you’re helping put on an event. And if you’re visiting us, consider sticking around for all or many of these next 11 days.

Welcome to North Platte. And welcome to Nebraskaland Days.

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