There's an old saying, "You can't have it both ways." Some residents of Blair, NE, may disagree with you.
It is possible to have the best in small-town living – friendly communities, beautiful rural settings, a taste of traditional values – and couple it with easy access to life in the "big city" with its wider range of art, shopping and sports activities. Blair and Washington County have just that.
Quality-of-life surveys often take stock of amenities such as housing, recreation, employment, the environment, income and a low crime rate. Again, Blair and Washington County fit the bill.
Over the past several years, the chamber has fielded dozens of requests from both businesses looking to expand in the area, as well as those who want to make their home in Washington County. Blair and Washington County boast access to three school systems. Couple that with easy access to metropolitan area schools, such as Creighton University, the University of Nebraska, and Metropolitan Community College, and it's a winning combination.
"Families are looking at the schools and Washington County schools are all excellent," said Harriet Waite of the Blair Area Chamber of Commerce. "I am proud to promote the area school systems."
Access to medical care has also been a factor when it comes to some area businesses. Waite notes several companies took a close look at the Blair-based Memorial Community Hospital and its services when deciding to make their move to the county. "Our hospital is a huge asset when companies come and look at Blair," said Waite. For those living in western Washington County, the Fremont Area Medical Center provides easy access, and access to experts not available in the county are a mere half-hour away in Omaha.
Waite said other factors, such as the Blair Family YMCA, recreation options, such as new bike trails, a movie theater, and "great activities for kids, such as music, dance and youth sports – there's a lot of different things people look for."
Among the biggest draws is the fact that even if you choose to live in the country – moving to one of the many acreages or new subdivisions – there is fast, easy access to the "bright lights" of the Omaha area and its many attractions. "That proximity to Omaha is real big, but people still want to be in a smaller community," Waite said. Despite that closeness to the metropolitan area, there's still a feeling of security in the county. "Another thing people say, particularly families, is that this is a safe community," said Waite. "They feel as if their children can walk to and from school safely, and can go ride their bikes. They like the safety aspect of the community."
By the Numbers
- Total Population — 20,295
- Total Households — 8,336
- Median Household Income — $64,737
- Per Capita Income — $28,829
- Employment Rate — 96.3%
- Residents with college degree — 27.4%
- Total Population — 8,013
- Total Households — 2,875
- Mean Household Income — $62,985
- Total Population — 268
- Total Households — 119
- Mean Household Income — $50,433
- Total Population — 361
- Total Households — 165
- Mean Household Income — $56,701
- Total Population — 1,243
- Total Households — 495
- Mean Household Income — $64,011
- Total Population — 908
- Total Households — 391
- Mean Household Income — $58,593
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Woodhouse Auto Family • Cargill • Novozymes • Evonik • NatureWorks, LLC • Monsanto • Buhler Industries • Omaha Public Power District's Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Station • D & W Fine Pack • Eriksen Construction • Mid America Computer Corporation • Mutual of Omaha • McKinnis Roofing and Sheet Metal • Sid Dillon Chevrolet • Fernando's Cafe & Cantina • JASA Transit • Great Plains Communications • Walmart • Kelly Ryan Equipment Company • Washington County Bank • Concrete Equipment Company • American Broadband • Sterling Transportation Services • Two Rivers Bank • Enterprise Publishing Company • Memorial Community Hospital & Health System and many, many more!
Washington County Demographics
- Population: 20,295
- Forecasted population change by 2014: 0.71%
- Median Age: 37.8
- Average Household Income: $74,127
- Education: 93.4% of residents have at least a High School Diploma; 27.4% have a Bachelor's Degree or higher
- Blue Collar: 26.06%
- White Collar: 73.94%
Blair is one of the 25 largest school districts in the state of Nebraska and maintains the highest accreditation from the Nebraska State Department of Education, as well as membership in the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges. The patrons of the Blair Community School District have made a commitment to quality education and this is reflected by the excellent facilities available to our students.
A full range of academic and activity programs ensure that the young people of the Blair Community School District are given every opportunity to explore their potential.
The district grade level configuration includes four Primary Schools: North, South, West and Deerfield (grades K-3), Arbor Park Intermediate School (grades 4-5), Otte Middle School (grades 6-8), and Blair High School (grades 9-12).
But it is the quality of programs offered at Blair Community Schools that sets it apart, accommodating everyone from gifted to special-needs students.
The city of Blair, NE offers more than 150 acres of parks and recreational facilities. Three of the parks (Steyer, Black Elk-Heihardt, and Rhoades) combined with grounds at Arbor Park Middle School and Dana College make up the Blair Community Arboretum. It's second to only the Nebraska City Arboretom for the number of tree species in a Nebraska Arboretum.
Black Elk-Neihardt Park
College Drive & N. 32nd Street
Black Elk-Neihardt Park is the highest point in Blair and overlooks the community and the Missouri River valley. The Tower of the Four Winds, designed by Dana College Professor F.W. Thomsen, is the focal point of the park. Several trails criss-cross the 80 acres of rolling hills, including a paved trail with pedestal mosaics by Thomsen depicting Native American descriptions of north, south, east and west. The park also features a picnic pavilion with an open fire pit, a grill, electricity and restrooms, bench swings, a playground and a disc golf course.
Lions Club Park
16th and Park streets
This tree-shaded park has a large picnic shelter with a grill, an electric outlet and water, horseshoe pits and a playground, and is home to an 1880 train depot that is being restored. The Blair Lions Club has contributed funds for several features in the park.
Ralph Steyer Park
16th & Butler streets
Steyer Park is home to the municipal swimming pool and skateboard park, plus picnic shelters and two playgrounds. The park is known for its many unusual trees, most of them planted by Ralph Steyer, city forester for many years. Steyer was widely known for his knowledge and love of trees, and the park is named in his honor.
10th and Jackson streets
Located next to the Blair Youth Sports Complex and near the high school, Stemmerman Park has four lighted tennis courts, plus picnic areas and a playground.
Other recreational facilities
in Blair include:
Optimist Park Boat Ramps
Fairview Drive, near the Blair Bridge
This park has two boat ramps for access to the Missouri River, two floating docks for temporary mooring, a fish-cleaning station and restrooms, plus two small picnic shelters with grills and a bench swing. The park can be reached from Highway 30 just west of the Blair Bridge: turn north on Marina Road, turn right onto Fairview Drive on the north side of the railroad overpass and follow Fairview to the river. The Blair Optimists funded construction of the boat ramps.
Black Elk-Neihardt Park, College Drive & N. 32nd Street
The nine-hole course criss-crosses Blair's most scenic park. A map of the course, together with information about disc golf activities, is posted near the first hole.
Horseshoe pits, Lions Club Park
This park has five horseshoe pits (16th and Park streets).
Ralph Steyer Park, 16th and Butler streets
Several young Blair skateboarders proposed this park and they were involved in the design and fundraising.
Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge
Just down the Missouri River from DeSoto is Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge, located 3 miles east of Fort Calhoun in Washington County. Boyer Chute is a joint federal and local conservation partnership designed to restore a portion of the Missouri River habitat that flows through the 2 1/2–mile chute and parallels the main flow of the river. Riparian woodland, tallgrass prairie and wetlands are being restored and protected. These habitats benefit Missouri River fish, migratory birds, endangered species, and resident wildlife. 402-468-4313, email@example.com. www.fws.gov/boyerchute, 3720 Rivers Way, Fort Calhoun, NE
Summer Resident Camps grades preschool to high school. Activities include Recreational Tree Climbing on Ropes, Laser Tag, Jumping Pillow, Zip Line, Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze, Petting Barn, Field Trips & Retreats, Meals & Lodging, and a Swimming Pool. 402-478-4296, www.campfontanelle.com, 9677 County Road 3, Fontanelle, NE 68044
DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge
The entrance to DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is 5 miles east of Blair in Harrison County, Iowa, but 60 percent of the refuge is actually in Washington County. DeSoto serves as a stopover area for migrating waterfowl, including up to 550,000 snow geese and 50,000 ducks during the fall migration. As many as 145 bald eagles have been seen at one time at the refuge, along with hundreds of wild turkeys and white-tailed deer. Visitors to DeSoto can enjoy a view of the lake (and thousands of snow geese in late fall) from the visitors center. There are also nature trails, fishing areas, restored prairie and a bookstore and gift shop. (712) 642-4121, www.fws.gov/midwest/desoto, 1434 316th Lane, Missouri Valley, IA
Fort Atkinson State Historical Park
The first U.S. military post west of the Missouri River, Fort Atkinson was established in 1820 on recommendation of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Located at Fort Calhoun, the fort was important to the early fur trade, river traffic and Indian relations. Much of the historic outpost has been reconstructed, and interpretive work continues. Living history demonstrations take place the first weekend of each month from May through October. The grounds are open year-round, and the Harold W. Andersen visitor center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer. Near the visitor center is the First Council sculpture, erected in 2004 as part of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial. 402-468-5611, Fort.Atkinson@ngpc.ne.gov, www.fortatkinsononline.org, 201 S. 7th, Fort Calhoun, NE
Jackson's Buffalo Farm
Located just west of the Blair Airport on County Road 35, is home to around 30 head of buffalo, or American Bison. Owner Bob Jackson raises and sells the animals as breeding stock and for meat. 402-426-5279, 2412 County Road 35, Omaha, NE
Pheasant Bonanza is your full-service destination. We offer pheasant and waterfowl hunting, clay shooting, shooting instruction, lodging, meals, dog training and a ProShop. Pheasant Bonanza's facilities are the choice for business meetings, company picnics, lodging services, youth camps, reunions, charity events, and shooting sports. Call 402-374-1765 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Riverview Park is located north of Blair on the Missouri River. This is a full-service campground with 200 spots with full hook-ups, offering 30 or 50 amp service available. River access and a marina sets Riverview apart from other campgrounds in the area. They have restrooms, in-ground swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, horseshoe pit, sand volleyball court, a children's playground and an exercise facility. Riverview Park offers annual memberships, or daily, weekly or monthly rentals. Contact Dawn at 402-706-4210.
Silvercreek Hill Vineyards & Winery
Located north of Washington County in Burt County, the vineyard was started in 2000 as a way to diversify a farming operation. The small winery has 3 acres of vines and 175 apple trees and uses only Nebraska fruit, grapes and honey. Call ahead for hours. Wine tastings and tours by appointment. (402) 374-1602, www.silvercreekhill.com, 3130 County Road M, Tekamah, NE
Skinny Bones: Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze
Attractions include Corn Maze, Hayrack Ride, Mad Cow Ride, Nerf Gun War Zone, Face Painting, and the Eerie Trail. Come and fulfill your sense of wonder, fun, and family time. With many attractions to choose from and explore, the fun and adventure is endless! 402-426-2295, www.skinnybonespumpkinpatch.com, 3935 Hwy. 133, Blair, NE
Nestled among white pines on the sloping hills of southern Washington County sits a unique hobby farm winery started in 2004. Join John and Lori Strohm, owners of Cellar Door Winery at Strohm Vineyards, for a variety of experiences: vineyard and cellar tours, small event rentals, corporate retreats, and educational events held in their rustic, log barn. Wine enthusiasts with somewhat of a green thumb should consider signing up for their Rent-A-Line of Vines program running March – October. Events by appointment only. Contact John or Lori at 402-572-1542 or visit their website www.strohmvineyards.com. Located just 5 miles north of the Washington County line on N. 72nd Street at 2207 County Road 45, Fort Calhoun, NE
Too Far North
Visitors may enjoy Nebraska wines in Too Far North's 1904 brick building. You can also create custom wine labels. 402-468-WINE (9463), toofarnorthwine.com, 111 N. 14th Street, Fort Calhoun, NE
Washington County Historical Museum
The oldest county museum in Nebraska houses artifacts from prehistoric time, Native American dress and equipment and relics from nearby Fort Atkinson. Early farm tools and equipment, school and household items as well as fine china brought to the county from the old country depict how the pioneers lived in the 1800s. A display of Thomas Edison items and early telephone equipment moves the visitor into the 20th century. The library holds early county information valuable to genealogists. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Tours may be scheduled by appointment. 402-468-5740, www.newashcohist.org/museum.asp, 102 N. 14th Street, Fort Calhoun, NE