Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Today, we journey to Nebraska, where the farming is as good as it gets. This had bred nicknames such as Cornhusker State and Beef State, which sounds like the makings of a good meal. Let’s start exploring:
Motto: “Equality before the law” – How’s that working out for you?
Food: The Reuben Sandwich was invented at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha. Comprised of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian/Thousand Island dressing, between slices of rye bread, the meal has become a favourite of the Sip Advisor. Some origin stories have the sandwich being created in New York, but I’ll give this one to Nebraska.
Drink: Bringing smiles to children everywhere for nearly 100 years, Kool-Aid was invented in Nebraska by Edwin Perkins in 1927. Originally available in six flavours (cherry, grape, lemon-lime, orange, raspberry, and strawberry), it has become the State Soft Drink. The Hastings Museum has a permanent exhibit called Kool-Aid: Discover the Dream.
Site to See: One of Nebraska’s most notable attractions is Carhenge, a duplication of England’s Stonehenge, but using American vehicles to replicate the infamous stones. Other car-based art installments are also viewable at the site. Created by Jim Reinders, the work is highlighted in the documentary, Carhenge: Genius or Junk?
Street: The Old Market Historic District, in Omaha, is notable for its brick-paved streets, which are still used by horse-drawn carriages. Restaurants, art galleries and shopping options make up the tenancy of the area. In 2016, a ruptured gas line caused an explosion in the Old Market, destroying a 100-year-old building and injuring numerous people.
TV Show: Most TV shows set in Nebraska haven’t faired well. One, Bless This Mess, did last two seasons, before being cancelled this past May. The series starred Dax Shepard and Lake Bell in a modern take on Green Acres, with a couple moving from New York to a farm in fictional Bucksnort, after inheriting the property and deciding to stay.
Movie: Films have done better when set in Nebraska, including one of the Sip Advisor’s all-time favourites. Caddyshack, the goofy golf classic, starring legends like Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase, has the Bushwood Country Club based in the state. While the sequel was a flop, the original has so many quotable lines and memorable scenes.
Book/Author: Writer Nicholas Sparks was born in Omaha. His works, of the romantic drama genre, include The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle, and Dear John. A total of 11 of his books have been adapted into films, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars. Sparks has had 15 novels top the New York Times Best Sellers list.
Fictional Character: Penny Hofstadter, the across-the-hall hottie from The Big Bang Theory, is originally from Nebraska. Giving hope to nerds everywhere, she eventually dates and marries uber nerd Leonard. Played by Kaley Cuoco, Penny moves to California with dreams of becoming an actress. She may not have found the career she wanted, but she did find love.
Fictional City: Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (short story and film series) takes place in the town of Gatlin, a place you wouldn’t really want to find yourself, particularly if you’re an adult. Under the guidance of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows,” the children begin ritualistically sacrificing adults, hoping for a bountiful corn harvest.
Actor/Actress: Movie legends Marlon Brando and Henry Fonda were born in Omaha and Grand Island, respectively. Connecting the two, Brando’s mother gave Fonda acting lessons at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Other notable stars from the state include Fred Astaire, Nick Nolte and Hilary Swank.
Song: Bruce Springsteen has a song and album called Nebraska, but the song is about a spree killer sentenced to death, while the album is full of tracks about characters with not much to live for. Therefore, we’ll go with State Song, Beautiful Nebraska, for this category. Lyrics include, “We are so proud of this state where we live, There is no place that has so much to give.”
Band/Musician: The consensus seems to be that the best band from Nebraska is Bright Eyes, although I’ve never heard of the indie rock group. Formed in Omaha, 2004 was a big year for the band, touring with Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M., and filling the top two spots on the Billboard Hot 100 Single Sales chart, with songs Lua and Take It Easy (Love Nothing).
People: Nebraska was the birthplace for a future president and vice-president, as well as the founder of a religion. President Gerald Ford and VP Dick Cheney were born in Omaha and Lincoln, respectively, while Church of Scientology forefather L. Ron Hubbard hailed from Tilden.
Animal: While mammoth fossils have been found all across Nebraska, the largest and most famous was uncovered in Lincoln, in 1922. Nicknamed Archie, the skeleton can be seen at the University of Nebraska State Museum. Mammoths are the State Fossil of Nebraska and a bronze statue of Archie is located on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Invention: Two of Nebraska’s greatest creations allow users to cut corners. TV Dinners, first made commercially successful by Nebraskan company, Swanson, helps folks avoid having to cook full meals for themselves and others. Meanwhile, CliffsNotes, developed by Clifton Hillegass of the Nebraska Book Company, allows students to prepare for tests without completing the source material.
Crime: Charlie Starkweather was only 19 when he went on a murder spree, killing 10 people in Nebraska and Wyoming. He was accompanied by his 14-year-old girlfriend Caril Fugate. Starkweather was sentenced to death for his crimes and was executed by electric chair. Fugate served a 17-year sentence, despite claiming she was a hostage. The spree inspired movies such as Kalifornia and Natural Born Killers.
Law: In Omaha, sneezing in church is illegal, while across the state, if a child burps during a service, their parent(s) could be arrested. A rebellious teenager could cause a lot of trouble with a simple bodily function.
Sports Team: With no professional teams to support, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cornhuskers are the top game in the state. In fact, home football games make the stadium the third largest population in Nebraska. Omaha has also been home to the College World Series for NCAA baseball since 1950.
Athlete: Professional wrestler, Gorgeous George (real name George Wagner), is my pick here, not for his athletic abilities, but for his influence on sports and athletes to come after him. Wagner was born in Butte and revolutionized the wrestling industry as the first villainous character. George would be influential to many athletes and entertainers, Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan and James Brown among them.
Famous Home: Scout’s Rest Ranch is the former home of William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody, who first promoted his Wild West Shows in Nebraska, beginning in 1883. These shows would later feature such celebrities as Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane. The ranch can be found at the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park in North Platte, which functions as a living history museum.
Urban Legend: Hatchet House (formerly Portal School) can be found in Papillion. The story goes that a teacher one day snapped and decapitated her entire class, leaving their heads on their desks. She then took their hearts to what is now known as Heartbeat Bridge, throwing them into the water below. Driving over the bridgeboards makes sounds that resemble beating hearts.
Museum: The National Museum of Roller Skating, in Lincoln, has a massive collection of skates, wheels and other items, dating back to 1819. Exhibits include Inline Skating, Artistic Skating, Roller Hockey, Speed Skating, and Roller Derby. Admission is free, but memberships with special perks are also available.
Firsts: Arbor Day was first celebrated in Nebraska City, on April 10, 1872. The brainchild of J. Sterling Morton, it’s estimated that one million trees were planted across Nebraska that day. This earned the state the nickname Tree Planter’s State for some time. The holiday was later spread to other parts of the world by Birdsey Northrop of the American Forestry Association.
Company: Berkshire Hathaway is headquartered in Omaha, founded by Nebraskan Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest people in the world and among the most savvy investors. The conglomerate owns brands such as GEICO, Duracell, and Dairy Queen, while also investing heavily in Kraft Heinz, American Express, Coca-Cola, and Apple, among other businesses.
Events: Also headquartered in Omaha is the Union Pacific Railroad, which was founded in 1862. From this home base, the railroad connected the country through miles and miles of tracks, becoming the first transcontinental line in America. Today, grain, corn, sand, fertilizer, and coal are among the top items shipped into and out of the state.
Miscellaneous: Despite being a landlocked state, Nebraska has its own navy. The state has had some fun with the concept, appointing admirals such as Queen Elizabeth II, Bill Gates, Big Bird, Bill Murray, and many others to the position for promoting the “good life of the state of Nebraska.”
- 1 oz Vodka
- Top with Ginger Beer
- Splash of Sweet Corn Milk
- Dash of Simple Syrup
- Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
- Pinch of Salt
- Pinch of Black Pepper
Given its association with the state, I wanted to go with a Kool-Aid-based cocktail, but the most notable one has already appeared on this site. So, I went with The Nebraskan, which is quite the interesting blend of ingredients, highlighted by corn, perfect for the Cornhusker State.