Microphones screeched and cymbals crashed as Loaded Dice, a rock band from Gering, Nebraska went through sound check for their 9 p.m. show. With four cracks of the drum sticks, the final performance on Friday night at Oktoberfest in Sidney, Nebraska was off and running. A crowd soon gathered in front of the stage and several unofficial dance contests were underway.
Before Loaded Dice started, Oktoberfest master of ceremonies, Chris Gabis made an announcement, “If you’ve lost a cell phone, please report to the stage to identify and reclaim your phone. And if anyone knows the score of the York versus Sidney High School football game, please let us know so we can make an announcement, hopefully they’re making us proud tonight.”
Small town values are alive and well.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, tapped the keg to commence the three-day Oktoberfest (September 30-October 2) under the red and white striped tent at the Cheyenne County Fairgrounds, it’s the biggest party of the year in Sidney. The celebration includes crafts, live music, food and drinks, a car show, parade and the ever popular wiener dog races. It was day one and the youngster working the bratwurst stand said they had already sold five gallons of “kraut.”
Nearly 7,000 people live in the Nebraska panhandle town, almost 30-percent are employed by the outdoor retailer, Cabela’s. The “World’s Foremost Outfitter” was founded in 1961 when Dick, Mary and Jim Cabela started selling fishing flies through the mail. In 2014, the company reported over $3.5 billion in revenue, that’s acorn to grand oak growth.
“There’s been talk for years that Bass Pro Shops is going to buy Cabela’s, the rumors have caused unease here in Sidney, spending has been put on halt,” Heather Hausman, Cheyenne County tourism director told us last Friday.
Hausman showed us around town, pointed out the exotic mansion where Dick and Mary Cabela lived, Mary still resides there, Dick passed away in 2014. We ate southern fried pickle spears and tender prime rib dinner at Dude’s Steak House, a fifth generation family business. Perhaps we’ll try the rocky mountain oysters next time.
While in Sidney, we teed it up at Hillside Golf Course, one of Nebraska’s finest municipal golf courses. The No. 1 par four plays 380 yards from the tips, 240 from the red tees; from the tee to the fairway is a beautiful 40-foot drop. From perched vistas, over native grasses and through fertile valleys, Hillside was carved from the bluffs just south of Sidney. Nebraska’s reputation for growing corn has been well documented; they know how to grow green grass too. Tees, fairways and greens are tremendous throughout the state, Hillside is plush. The bent grass greens are pure; missed putts can only be blamed on the operator. The lush green fairways and brown native grass contrast dramatically, the fairways pop.
Like a lot of Nebraska golf courses where the rough is an automatic re-tee, something 200-yards in the fairway is better than a 280-yard driver in the native grasses. Sidney’s elevation is just over 4,000 feet and players can expect an extra club or more of distance, the ball carries well. Little pines line the fairway, but they aren’t as punishing as the brown native grass, which makes the fescue at Shinnecock Hills seem reasonable.
“If you hit it straight, you can score here. And here’s a tip, most putts break towards town. Hillside gets its name from the uneven lies players get here. On the back side almost every single lie will be uneven. It’s rare to hit a shot from level ground on the back,” Jody O’Connell, assistant golf professional told World’s Best Golf Destinations. “We host several out of towners and they always rave about the condition of the golf course. That feels good,” O’Connell added.
A golf course of Hillside’s quality in California or Europe would cost $100+ or €90+; cart and green fee at Hillside Golf Course is $46 — dining and accommodations are also good values. (Order steak as often as possible)
Hausman was right, on Monday Bass Pro Shops announced in a press release a $5.5 billion purchase of Cabela’s. The release would go on to say, “Bass Pro Shops appreciates and understands the deep ties between Cabela’s and the community of Sidney, Nebraska. Bass Pro Shops intends to continue to maintain important bases of operations in Sidney and Lincoln and hopes to continue the very favorable connections to those communities and the Cabela’s team members residing there.”
The news is certainly dominating the conversation at Dude’s Steak House, Hillside Golf Course and all over town this week. Never-ending corn fields, the Huskers, country roads, the College World Series, pheasant hunting and Cabela’s are essential Nebraska. Sidney and Cabela’s is a relationship that should last forever, hopefully it does.
Stay: Hampton Inn Sidney: (308) 254-2111
Play: Hillside Golf Course: 308-254-2311
Dine: Dude’s Steak House: (308) 254-9080
Get There: Denver, CO 169 miles southeast; Cheyenne, WY 100 miles west and Omaha, NE 396 miles east
Area Golf Courses:
- Four Winds Golf Course, Kimball, NE: 35 miles
- Riverview Country Club, Scottsbluff, NE: 80 miles
- Monument Shadows Golf Course, Gering, NE: 85 miles
- Bayside Golf Club, Brule, NE: 74 miles
- Heritage Hills Golf Course, McCook, NE: 176 miles
Information: Cheyenne County Visitors Center: (866) 545-4030