Kearney's Lincoln Highway centennial event is 'the most elaborate thing we've ever seen' -
Published Tuesday, July 2, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:51 am
Kearney's Lincoln Highway centennial event is 'the most elaborate thing we've ever seen'

KEARNEY, Neb. — Carl Fisher might have been speechless.

One hundred years, nearly to the day, from when his Lincoln Highway Association was founded, Fisher's legacy was celebrated in Kearney, the midpoint of the nation's first coast-to-coast highway.

An estimated 12,500 people arrived Sunday for the first day of the two-day 100th anniversary celebration of the Lincoln Highway.

Kearney celebrated with a parade led by almost 140 cars that had come all the way from New York City or San Francisco on the Lincoln Highway and were driven by Americans and people from six foreign countries.

It celebrated with Model T's, Model A's, Packards, Thunderbirds and Woodies. Also on hand were Abraham Lincoln and Will Rogers re-enactors.

Bernie Queneau, 100, of Pittsburgh celebrated, too, riding with his wife, Esther, in the back of a red Thunderbird convertible. In 1928, Bernie Queneau rode across the entire Lincoln Highway as a Boy Scout.

“This is the most elaborate thing we've ever seen. It's an amazing event,” said Nathan Wagner of Omaha, who was part of the throng that crowded downtown Kearney.

Wagner arrived in Kearney after a seven-day cross-country caravan from San Francisco. Auto and travel enthusiasts departed from Times Square in New York City and Lincoln Park in San Francisco for the 1,733-mile trip to Kearney.

Re-enactors donned costumes from the teens, '20s, '30s, '40s and '50s, and a parade of classic cars passed on Central Avenue from about noon until 6 p.m. Among the rarest cars in Kearney on Sunday was a 1948 Tucker, one of just 51 manufactured.

By noon Sunday, at the Buckle and at Cabela's, the people who had driven across the country in the 2013 Lincoln Highway 100th Anniversary Tour were lining up for the drive into town.

At Cabela's, Karen Cassler of Canton, Ohio, was in the lead vehicle with her husband, Jim, and their son Brian, 18. Brian, an Eagle Scout, collected 2,000 bricks from Highway 30 in Canton, cleaned them and shipped them to Kearney. They now are at the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument.

“We have 53 cars here today,” Jim Cassler said. “We lost a couple early on. A 1916 Oldsmobile got in an accident, and a 1918 Dodge had a fire. We had 73 altogether, but some were able to join us for just a few days.”

Drivers in the two caravans met jubilantly at 12:30 p.m. at 25th Street and Central Avenue, where Kearney's famous Midway Hotel and soldiers memorial statue stood during the Lincoln Highway's heyday.

“I could hear the honking. It was so emotional,” said celebration organizer Ronnie O'Brien of the Kearney Arch.

While downtown Kearney was the center of Sunday's festivities, the archway was the backdrop for Monday's celebration.

Events Monday included educational presentations and dedications at the monument. A gala with big band music capped the celebration Monday night, but Lincoln Highway buffs plan to travel to various Nebraska destinations between Grand Island and North Platte throughout the week.

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