It has been said that every state in the country has a Springfield.
That's not true. Only 35 states have a Springfield — Nebraska is one of them.
Nebraska's Springfield (born Oct. 1, 1881) in Sarpy County could be called a “bedroom” community for Omaha. Many of its residents work in the city but go home each night to small-town living.
That seems to be the community's major appeal for most of the people we talked to on a recent walk along Main Street. Our neighborhood stroll took us from the business district, along Main Street, from First Street east into a more residential area, ending a little past Sixth Street.
Resident says they love the ambience of a small town and the close-knit neighborhood ties. But they also like being close enough to Omaha, Papillion and Bellevue to find employment and hospital care or to enjoy shopping, major entertainment venues and fine dining whenever they like.
Springfield is small, about the same size as some of the city neighborhoods we have visited in this series. The 2010 Census recorded 1,529 people, but city-data.com says the population had grown to 1,604 in 2012.
Turn off Highway 50 onto Main Street, pass the longtime home of the Sarpy County Fair, and you soon enter the business district. It's small but seems to be thriving.
Along a two-block stretch you'll find such businesses as a livestock broker, a dance studio, an art gallery, a pub, a bar & grill, a modeling/photography studio, a dentist, a repurposed furniture store and a drugstore with a real soda fountain.
“That soda fountain is my pride and joy,” said longtime pharmacist Keith Hentzen, who owns Springfield Drug.
A couple of years ago, Main Street improvements such as decorative streetlights and banners were added. A small park area is being developed on the northeast corner of Main and Second Streets. At Christmas, the town holiday tree will be erected there and a gazebo may be built.
“As of late, the business side of town has gotten exciting,” Hentzen said about new shops. “We had seven grand openings in one day.”
That thought is echoed by Glenn and Margie Trembley, who live in Omaha but opened their art studio and gallery in Springfield four years ago and haven't regretted that decision.
“I love Springfield,” Glenn Trembley said. “Main Street is starting to grow.”
It helps that the couple's business, Springfield Artworks, was selected to be one of the stops for the Nebraska Passport tourism program, which is bringing visitors to town. Four hundred businesses across the state applied and 80 were chosen, Trembley said with a hint of pride.
Hentzen's 1977 gamble of owning a small-town pharmacy has paid off. “We're becoming a destination town,” he said, naming such draws as the Soaring Wings Vineyard and the Robin's Nest furniture store.
He emphasized that the people are what make the town so special. “They'll bring me a plate of cookies for no reason. I get thank-you hugs all the time. They're good neighbors.”
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• I'm in Mayberry!
• Quiet streets
• Tidy houses and yards
Surrounding Main Street are older houses, some a century old, mostly two stories. To the north and south of this older core are more recent housing developments drawing people who want to move out of the big city but want new houses. They are like the houses that can be found in any suburban neighborhood.
The yards have big shade trees (at least along Main Street) and mostly uncluttered sidewalks and driveways.
• Quiet, good neighbors
• Little crime
• Close enough to Omaha and its suburbs for all city-type amenities, but far enough away to seem like living in the country.
• No grocery store
• Not a lot of activities for teens and young adults
Claim to fame: Beat out Papillion to be host town of the Sarpy County Fair
Parks and recreation
• Buffalo Park, City Park and Springfield Creek Trails & Recreation Area
• Unnamed space at Main and Second Streets
• Mayor Michael Dill
• City Council that meets every first and third Tuesdays at City Hall
• Springfield Volunteer Fire & Rescue
• Sarpy County Sheriff's Office
Worship: First United Methodist Church, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, St. Joseph Catholic Church and Springfield Baptist Church
Shopping: Springfield has gift stores, antiques stores and craft stores, but not a grocery store. Most food shopping is done in Papillion, Bellevue or Louisville, Neb.
The populace seems united on this front: They have the best neighbors in the world.
After Lorna Nicholson was widowed, “the town bent over backward to help me,” she said. “The whole town came to my aid.”
From 2010 census tracts
• Population: 1,529 people, 575 households
• Almost 37 percent of households have children under the age of 18
• Median age: 37.3 years
• Racial makeup: 95.8 percent white; 1.8 percent Hispanic; the rest African-American, Asian, Native American and mixed races
• Estimated median household income: $47,528
• Estimated median house or condo value in 2011: $124,633