Buffalo County Community Partners leads coalition
KEARNEY – A Kearney-area community coalition has developed a proactive campaign aimed to increase “safe and smart” behavior during Kearney’s largest community event, Cruise Nite.
Scheduled to take place July 16-20, this community event, with a 27-year history, brings tens of thousands of visitors and Kearney residents to downtown Kearney, all focused on watching classic cars.
The coalition is focusing on making Cruise Nite and all its associated activities throughout Kearney enjoyable and safe for everyone. Centered around a theme “Be Safe, Be Smart,” the awareness campaign seeks to bring attention to positive behaviors and activities for the event to encourage good decision-making among festival-goers.
The campaign will start small its first year with the introduction of the theme, a logo, and initial education strategies, said Brad Kernick, chair of the Cruise Nite committee and the Central Nebraska Auto Club. The coalition will continue to build year to year and add activities to influence positive behaviors and encourage a “culture shift” toward a safer Cruise Nite atmosphere.
Buffalo County Community Partners’ Positive Pressure Coalition has begun efforts to educate residents along the core cruise route about strategies to reduce drinking and other illegal activity, while law enforcement plans additional enforcement strategies to deter impaired driving and other illegal activities, mostly involving alcohol.
Tana Nelsen, coordinator for the Positive Pressure Coalition for Buffalo County Community Health Partners, said conversations about the issue are an important starting point in changing culture.
“This is what the Positive Pressure Coalition is about,” Nelsen said. “Behaviors are learned by observing others. This is an important community event that most are enjoying safely, and our coalition looks forward to working community-wide on changing any unsafe behaviors. Working together, that’s the Kearney way.”
Kelly Bartling, assistant vice chancellor for communications and community relations at University of Nebraska at Kearney, said festival-goers will begin seeing the “Be Smart, Be Safe” slogan. She encouraged others in the community to use the slogan and logo on websites, business marquis and signage, on social media, and other communication materials.
“This effort is more than a slogan, it’s a movement that is positive and empowering. It’s time to re-orient the narrative about Cruise Nite,” Bartling said. “First goal is to raise awareness and educate about the dangers of excessive drinking and illegal alcohol consumption. With that comes decreasing accidents and law infractions and citations.
“But it will take time,” she said. “Working together as a community is important.”
Future phases of the campaign will include added events and activities and other ways to share and encourage others’ positive behaviors, particularly involving families and youth, and youth peer-to-peer positive influences, Nelsen and Bartling said.