For five of the last seven years Grand Island has been home to the nation's top 4-H shooting match, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for kids picking up what UNL Extension Educator Steve Pritchard calls a life-long sport.
“Even after they graduate from high school or graduate from college, they can continue to enjoy different aspects of shooting, be it with a shotgun, a rifle, a pistol, a bow and arrow, or a camera,” says Pritchard.
Pritchard also serves as the National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational match director when it's been in Nebraska. He says when the 2014 invite wrapped up in June, they knew it would be returning to Fonner Park and the Heartland Public Shooting Park for 2015 and 2016.
But the sport's board of directors now says GI has been chosen to host through the year 2020.
“Grand Island has a unique set of circumstances, and fits very well with this event,” says Brad Mellema, the Grand Island Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director. “The facilities, the location, they really were pleased with the way things have gone and their event has continued to grow.”
Officials say the feedback from the 750 shooters from 34 different states who competed in nine disciplines this year was positive.
“They really like working with the people here, it's just an outstanding effort by all the members of the team that help provide for this national event,” says Pritchard.
Mellema says the five-day event doubles as a vacation for many kids who bring their whole family along.
“It requires every facility in town to be able to accommodate that -- that percolates into the food industry, the retail industries, it has a big impact on Grand Island,” he says.
It takes 4-H leaders from more than a dozen states to coordinate the national shoot. Pritchard says they rely on a lot of local help too, something they've also found in GI.