A jewel on the prairie

Carhenge celebrating 30th Autumnal Equinox as fun, popular destination

ALLIANCE, Neb. – It rises from the northwest Nebraska grassland like a gray wall, catching the eye – and the imaginations – of travelers headed north on along a stretch of arrow-straight Box Butte County road.
And, whether you’ve travelled there specifically for it, or you’re one of the “What the heck was that?” folks who spot it rolling by, Carhenge is many things to
many people.
“You think people should take this seriously,” said Kevin Howard with the Alliance Visitors Bureau. “No. Carhenge is a fun place. You can’t walk out through it without smiling.
“You see people walking out there and they’re happy,” he said. “They’re smiling – it’s just a
fun place.”
The idea began as an inkling for a memorial to artist Jim Reinders’ father as the family gathered following his funeral in 1982. Five years later, about 35 members of the clan gathered in June 1987 and laid the first of what would become 39 cars to create the original circle, based on the Stonehenge monument
in England.
It was hard work or, as Howard recalls one of Reinders’ favorite quotes: “It took a lot of blood, sweat and beers.”
Dedication took place on the Summer Solstice of 1987. But that wasn’t the end of the legacy of Carhenge. It’s presence wasn’t initially without some controversy.
The citizenry of Alliance “originally thought, ‘Why would anybody put up an upright junkyard?’” Howard said. The area where it stands “’is zoned for agriculture. You can’t grow cars out in that field.’
“There were serious people on both sides of that issue,” he said. “Keep it up and tear it down.”
One argument was it didn’t quite fit into any of the zoning regulations in place at the time in the city of Alliance – it was within the city jurisdiction, after all. So the simplest expedient was taken and the city moved its line of jurisdiction, placing the monument under county control with less restrictive regulations.
It stayed in county hands until about four years ago, when the Friends of Carhenge group returned ownership to the city. Time and a healthy influx of tourist dollars – Carhenge attracted more than 68,000 people last year – and Howard said attitudes toward have changed.
“The people of Alliance love Carhenge,” he said. “We don’t all understand it, but that’s okay.
“We love it for what it is – a unique attraction that brings people to town,” Howard said. “You can’t argue with that.”
According to the website, carhenge.com, Carhenge is open “all day, every day.” Admission is free and donations are accepted.

© 2019-Lingle Guide

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