CENTRAL CITY, NE: A brainstorming session intended to give 3,000-population Central City's local businesses a needed economic boost has led to its inauguration as the Wedding Capital of Nebraska.
Members of the area Chamber of Commerce settled on the idea and developed a PR campaign that earned coverage from the Associated Press, CNN, the Paul Harvey radio show, and even Good Morning Tokyo.
Central City lost a devastating 300 jobs in 2002 when Atlantic Homes, a mobile-home factory, closed its location there.
At an emergency Chamber meeting, director Kay Wimmer called for a plan that would keep local businesses open in a troubled economy. The group then realized that the town had every service necessary to hold a wedding ceremony and reception, with hairdressers, dress shops, bakeries, limo services, and 11 different church denominations.
"We needed to promote that," Wimmer said, "because weddings are always going to happen."
The Chamber also decided to promote the town's quaint valley setting and small-town appeal with the slogan, "A storybook wedding wrapped in hometown charm."
"Las Vegas is known for quickie weddings," Wimmer said. "Nebraska is known for long-lasting marriages. Our churches promote taking the classes and doing it right."
To make it official, Wimmer and other Chamber members convinced Gov. Mike Johanns (R) to issue a proclamation of the town's moniker by sending him a wedding-themed scrapbook filled with pictures of Central City businesses and services, as well as plans for a fall bridal show and a new website, nebraskaweddingcapital.com. On Wednesday, January 22, the story ran in the Omaha World-Herald, and was quickly picked up by the AP.
In addition, the Chamber is offering a free wedding planner for the betrothed, containing tips alongside ads for local businesses. Wimmer said that the Chamber has mailed planners to 44 states, Canada, and Switzerland. "We built 500 of them, but now we're on our second batch," she said.
The results of the effort have far exceeded expectations. "Our local bridal store had 50 people in there on Saturday," Wimmer said. "One of our reception halls called us, saying their phone was ringing off the hook."
The campaign started with a budget of $5,000, but because of media attention, only $1,200 has been spent, mostly on printing and mailing the planners.
The next wave of media relations will focus on the Babbs, one of the longest-married couples in the country, who tied the knot in Central City.
Roy, 103, and Amanda, 97, will celebrate their 80th anniversary this year.