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62nd annual Spring Conference

62nd annual Spring Conference

Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 8:00am to Saturday, June 3, 2017 - 10:00pm
Registration: 
$100.00
Willa Cather Foundation
413 North Webster Street
Red Cloud, NE 68970

Join us June 1–3, 2017, as we explore the legacy of the rails! Our 62nd annual Spring Conference, “Picturing the American West: The Railroad and Popular Imagination,” looks broadly at the many changes brought by the railroad to the physical and cultural landscape of the West, with special emphasis on its role in the arts, music, and literature.

We are pleased to welcome Brent Glass, Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, as our keynote speaker. A national leader in the preservation, interpretation, and promotion of history, Glass is a public historian who pioneered influential oral history and material culture studies, an author, television presence, and international speaker on public memory. Most recently, Glass authored 50 Great American Places, a guide to fifty of the most important cultural and historic sites in the United States — one of which is the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie!

We also welcome Shane Booth as he returns to Red Cloud to exhibit his photography. Booth, a native of central Nebraska who now teaches in North Carolina, was artist in residence in Red Cloud in 2016, photographing Webster County with his 1867 model studio camera and Voigtlander lens. He’ll be on hand at the Spring Conference to talk about his Catherland exhibit, which documents much of Webster County’s “Catherland” and explores the ideology of Nebraska landscape through the large format images that Booth captured with his vintage camera.

After a full day of presentations, exhibits, tours, and activities at our historic sites, Friday evening will conclude with a vaudeville-inspired variety bill featuring classic railroad tunes and comedy (and a bit of Cather). The Red Cloud Cannonball will be a lively tribute to the Opera House’s early days, when traveling troupes arrived by train to entertain the local crowds.

Late Registrations: Registrations made after May 20th will be subject to a $50 late registration fee.

Cancelation Policy: A $25 administrative fee will be charged for cancellations prior to May 25th.  After May 25th, we will be unable to process refunds or accept new registrations.   

Spring Conference Schedule

Spring Conference Schedule
Spring Conference Schedule

Thursday, June 1

12:00 – 1:30: Discover Lester Junction: Lunch at the historic Starke Round Barn with a panel about the railroad's past and present in the area.

2:00 – 4:00: Wildflower Walk at the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie

5:30 – 6:30" Keynote address by Brent D. Glass, author of 50 Great American Places
“The Public Memory of Railroads: Preserving and Presenting America’s Defining Technology." This event is free and open to the public and is funded in part by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

7:00 – 9:00: A Night at the Historic Burlington Depot: Enjoy food trucks, craft beer, and select wine at the historic Burlington Depot. Beginning at 7:30, musician Dave Seay will perform his “Train Songs & Tales,” an upbeat performance featuring several instruments, well-known railroad music, and legends of the rails, for all ages. This event is free and open to the public and is funded in part by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.


Friday, June 2

9:00 – 10:30: Welcome and scholarship presentations

11:00 – 12:15: Book talk with Ann Satterthwaite, author of Local Glories: Opera Houses on Main Street, Where Art and Community Meet. This event is free and open to the public and is funded in part by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

12:15 – 1:30: Lunch on your own

1:30 – 3:00: Alternating activities at historic sites

A. James Reisdorff: “Pulling Up Stakes: When Trains Leave Town” at the Burlington Depot. This event is free and open to the public and is funded in part by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

B. Cather Crossword Competition at Grace Episcopal Church

3:15 – 4:45: Speaker Bob Ferguson: “Nebraska’s Statehood in Stamps”

5:00 – 6:00: Artist’s Reception for Nebraska-born artist Shane Booth, whose photography exhibit Catherland is the result of a 2016 summer residency with the Willa Cather Foundation. This event is free and open to the public and is funded in part by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

7:00 – 8:15: Conference dinner

8:30 – 10:00: The Red Cloud Cannonball, a vaudeville-inspired variety bill featuring classic railroad tunes and comedy (and a bit of Cather). The Red Cloud Cannonball is a lively tribute to the Opera House’s early days, when traveling troupes arrived by train to entertain the local crowds.

Saturday, June 3

8:00 – 10:00: Coffee & kolache

8:30 – 9:30: Church service with homily by Rev. Charles Peek

10:00 – 11:45: The Passing Show “Red Cloud’s Railroads: Myth and Metaphor”

Moderator: Dr. Ann Tschetter
Panelists: Dr. Elissa Sartwell, Ann Satterthwaite, Dr. Mark Facknitz

This event is free and open to the public and is funded in part by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

12:00 – 1:15: PEO Dining Car Luncheon

Conference concludes with the PEO Dining Car Luncheon

Guests are invited to stay for the Grand Opening and Dedication of the National Willa Cather Center (separate ticket required for dedication and reception)

1:30 – 2:30: Dedication of the National Willa Cather Center with remarks by Mrs. Laura Bush

5:00 – 8:00: Champagne reception

Afternoon open house: 
Tours of the new facility will be free and open to the public 2:30–4:30

Dedication of the National Willa Cather Center

Dedication of the National Willa Cather Center
Dedication of the National Willa Cather Center

Tickets to the Dedication of the National Willa Cather Center are now sold out. If you would like to be put on a waiting list for tickets, please phone our office. Any available tickets will be sold on a first come, first served basis from our waiting list.

We are delighted to welcome Mrs. Laura Bush as a guest speaker for the National Willa Cather Center's dedication. A former teacher and librarian, Mrs. Bush has dedicated herself to advancing education and promoting the well-being of women and families worldwide. She has advocated for the importance of literacy and education to advance opportunity for America’s young people and foster healthy families and communities. Mrs. Bush founded the National Book Festival to introduce tens of thousands of American’s to their favorite authors each year. She also developed “The White House Salute to American Authors” series to honor some of America’s most significant authors. 

We will also unveil our new exhibit, American Bittersweet: The Life and Writing of Willa Cather, and host complimentary tours of the beautifully restored Moon Block, including our state-of-the-art archive and research area, classroom, green room, and apartments. This Nebraska 150 Signature event will conclude with a champagne reception to recognize the hundreds of generous donors who made this project possible.

Ticketed events:

  • 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. - Dedication of the National Willa Cather Center and remarks from Mrs. Laura Bush. (Seating is extremely limited. Tickets are reserved for our campaign donors or Spring Conference attendees and are not available à la carte.)
  • 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. - Celebratory champagne reception

Free events:

  • 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. - Open house and tours of the National Willa Cather Center

Because seating for the National Willa Cather Center Dedication and Reception is extremely limited, tickets to this event are reserved for our conference participants.