As you walk up the steps leading to the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln, it is almost impossible not to tip your head back to look at the Sower perched on top before you pass through the doors.

Standing like a lighthouse on the shore of the prairie, the Nebraska State Capitol is a treasure chest of history and art.

Construction of the states most recognizable building began back in 1922, and with Nebraska's "pay as you go" budget, it was completed 10 years later.

Once you enter through the doors, you step into a decorum filled with symbolic art that exudes a sense of grandeur and history.

"The capitol building is a great learning tool," said Justin Forester of Lincoln. "We're fortunate to live here and have it so close by."

Forester was at the Capitol Saturday as a parent escort for Cub Scouts Pack 39 from Randolph Elementary School in Lincoln.

State Capitol tour guide Jamison Wyatt had a simple question for them.

"What do we do at the state Capitol?"

Voices from the pack blurted out.

"You show history about the state and the country."

"They use this place for passing laws."

"Correct," said Wyatt.

The three main activities at the capitol are creating state laws, enforcing those laws and interpreting the laws. Wyatt continued to ask questions for the young Nebraskans to answer.

"What's the name of the statue on top?"

"The Sower," someone shouts.

"Correct," said Wyatt. "He represents planting. He's 19 1/2 feet tall, weighs 9 1/2 tons and is also a lighting rod."

But then one Cub Scout member had his own question for Wyatt.

"What if his head falls off from the lightning?"

Let's hope not.

As Wyatt continued down the hall with his explanations, one mosaic in particular caught the group's attention. It was the mosaic depicting the blizzard of 1888 with Minnie Freeman using a rope to keep the school children together as she led them to safety.

"That was pretty amazing how she kept all the children safe in the storm," said 9-year-old Emma Forester, who was accompanying her brother on the tour.

I suspect after last winter it was something they could all relate to.

The tour continued.

"Here is the legislative chamber where the senators meet to make laws. A bell rings, the senators wake up and vote by pushing a button that lights up on the board," explained Wyatt.

Question from the crowd: "Why are all the senators sleeping?"

Good question.

On to the Supreme Court with its echoless chamber decorated with American walnut.

Wyatt explains the tapestries and the symbolism of fixtures like the lamp shades.

Another Cub Scout Question: "Does Judge Judy's court meet here?"

Not today.

"I liked going into the courtroom because its something you don't get to see very often," said Elijah Riley, 8. "People should come learn how the state functions and see how big this building is. It's a pretty cool place."

Parent Robert Gonzales made a comparison to a state in which he had once lived.

"We moved to Nebraska 10 years ago. What impresses me is how accessible this place is, compared to California. It's clear they trust people here more."

Following the Cub Scouts was a band from Horizon Middle School in Kearney.

One of the members of that group was Isaac Mitchell, whose grandparents, John and Marilyn Mitchell, live in Fremont.

"This place is cool," Mitchell said. "The bigness of it and just understanding all that's happened here makes this place really impressive. It's such an important part of Nebraskas history. Everyone should come visit."

Good suggestion.

One student wanted to see more.

"Can we go to the top now?"

"Always a highlight of the tour," responded Wyatt.

"This will be the highest I've ever been," another student off to the side said quietly. "I've never been in a plane."

Maybe from the top you will be able to see Kearney.

"The building tells the story of Nebraska history in a three dimensional way with is art work and construction. This place is special," said Wyatt.

A visit to the Capitol is free.

The State Capitol is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Monday through Friday. Tours start at the top of the hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., expect at noon; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Saturday with tours starting at the top of the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays with tours starting at the top of the hour from 1-4 p.m.

Anyone wanting more information about the Nebraska State Capitol can visit the Web site, http://capitol.org.

Dean Jacobs is a Tribune correspondent and world traveler. His latest adventure is seeking places within 50 miles of Fremont that a family of four can visit for under $50.



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