A Decade of Change: Red Cloud Rising in the 2010s

A Decade of Change: Red Cloud Rising in the 2010s

January 3, 2020

A Decade of Change: Red Cloud in the 2010s

Lots of positive changes have occurred in Red Cloud over the last decade. It's sometimes easy to lose sight of what we've accomplished in face of the continuing challenges that confront the community with housing and demographic concerns. It's also easy to forget all of the great things that have been achieved while we power through day-to-day challenges and continue to focus on pushing Red Cloud forward into the future. Heritage Tourism Development has been around since 2015 and has a photo archive worthy of a gander as we enter 2020 and look to be inspired. Feel free to send additions to visitredcloudne@gmail.com as the slideshow is a work in progress and is obviously not a comprehensive recounting of the entire decade or even the past 5 years. It does, however, demonstrate a lot of positive growth and excitement. While the slideshow is impressive, what possibly speaks even more to how remarkable the change and growth has been is simply listing some of Red Cloud laudable accolades and accomplishments since 2010. 

Since 2010, Red Cloud has built or added Cherry Corner Estates, The Valley Child Development Center, the National Willa Cather Center, South Central State Bank, a new fishing pier at Indian Creek Pond, revitalized the baseball programs and made improvements to the Illian Field Ballpark Complex, built an impressive addition to the Auld Public Library, and have even begun initial transformation of the Potter Block into the Hotel Garber. With the help of local residents, Danny and Val Benge purchased the grocery store and Hometown Market is a hub of activity and a pleasant place to shop. Fat Fox's has emerged to provide an additional and consistently quality restaurant experience. Even Dollar General is adding sales tax revenue that might otherwise seep out of Red Cloud and into the Tri-Cities. Village Pharmacy transitioned to new ownership and Red Cloud Animal Health took over veterinary services in the community in 2010, thanks to RCHS alumna Dr. Keri Wulf!   . 

The Red Cloud Community Foundation Fund has added close to $400K to its unrestricted endowment and pushed its assets to over $1 million. Heritage Tourism Development has morphed into Red Cloud Tourism & Commerce and is creating marketing and laying the groundwork for economic development that is the envy of many communities in the region. Red Cloud's new website was created in 2017 and stands out from the rest of the field. Tourism in Webster County continues to build as an industry, significantly outpacing growth among its peers. The Willa Cather Foundation's recent re-acquisition of historic properties once owned by the state will undoubtedly bolster the tourism industry as they are renovated and rehabilitated and the Hotel Garber will give Red Cloud enough high quality rooms to be a tourist destination. The Red Cloud B&B at the Kaley House, M Guest House, and Villa Willa Loft Apartments have bolstered the existing lodging stock.  

Since 2010 Red Cloud has had visits from former First Lady Laura Bush, revered and Oscar-nominated actor Paul Giamatti, filmmaker Alexander Payne, New Yorker critic Alex Ross, and even a brief but rousing appearance by Al Roker at the Burlington Depot in 2015. In 2018, Red Cloud was named the Showcase Community by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development due to its commitment to collaboration and development as well as its ability to secure Community Development Block Grants. Also in 2018, Red Cloud was named the Best Host Community by the Bike Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN) participants during their trek across the southern half of the state. 

The list of awards granted to the Willa Cather Foundation since 2010 requires a separate article, but a partial review of their accomplishments reveals an organization morphing into a major player in the region. The National Willa Cather Center was named the Outstanding Tourism Attraction by the Nebraska Tourism Commission in 2017 and won a 2017 Nebraska Preservation Award and contractor Tru-Built Construction won the 2017 Build Nebraska Award for its work on the Cather Center. Willa Cather herself was selected by the Nebraska State Legislature to represent the state in the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol building. Executive Director Ashley Olson was recently named the Fundraiser of the Year by the Nebraska chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and was also appointed as a Commissioner at the Nebraska Tourism Commission while Red Cloud Tourism & Commerce Director Jarrod McCartney is the current Vice President of the Nebraska Travel Association. Completion of the Cather Center renovated a significant portion of downtown and led to the addition of On the Brix Tasting Room as well as three high quality apartments on the upper level of the building and an archive and improved space for Opera House performers. The apartments have inspired interest in further renovation of upper levels of downtown buildings. 

Red Cloud Community Schools are on the upswing as well, with the elementary school seeing an uptick in numbers the last few years. RC athletics have been a point of pride as well, with state playoff appearances in girls' basketball, volleyball, and football. The Red Cloud 6 girls basketball team that made it to state in 2017 were simply legendary.

There is always something going on in Red Cloud too, as the Chamber has continued to support community activities while On the Brix has added additional entertainment options to those at the Opera House and the Hear Nebraska/Barnfest concerts and art shows have added a bit of culture and fun out at the Starke Round Barn. We have high hopes for the the Webster County Community Hospital's growth into the 2020s and are ecstatic that they've created the BBQFest and Cook-off and will soon do a Soup Cookoff as well. We have high hopes that the BBQFest will become the best in the state and an additional tourist draw. We believe that the positive attitudes behind the creation of these events and the hardwork that goes into them will help Red Cloud become the best small town in the country. 

It is indeed inspiring to look back on what has been achieved over the past 10 years and we are absolutely certain we are overlooking a lot--this list is just what immediately comes to our mind. One would be hard pressed to find a competitive community among our peers--which isn't to brag so much as to say we have worked really hard to make the place we love an even better place to live that we hope will be around for generations to come. While this is an impressive list, we cannot simply rest on our laurels and we are eager to see how much more Red Cloud can achieve in the 2020s. Let us know if you'd like to help as we figure out how Red Cloud can potentially do things like build a trail system, finally get a movie theatre, build a boutique hotel downtown, and fill our downtown businesses.