- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The Nebraska Tourism Commission has added new destinations to its yearly summertime passport program in an effort to promote attractions across the state.

The program encourages travelers to explore Nebraska by visiting 80 specific sites and collect stamps in their “passport” along the way. This year’s program features 23 new communities and honors the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Commission executive director Kathy McKillip said the goal is to have people reconnect with or discover the state while supporting small businesses and attractions. More than 24,600 travelers collected stamps in 2015. When the program started in 2010, 278 people participated.

“Year after year, the program gains popularity,” McKillip said.

The 80 stops are grouped into 10 themes, including “Nebraska on Film,” ”Flavors of Nebraska,” and “Find Your Park.”

“This year will feature some stops that will make you reconsider our reputation as a flat state and help you explore the various heritages and cultures present in our state and, of course, give you something to eat along the way,” said Amanda Barker, the program’s coordinator.

The Museum of Nebraska Major League Baseball in St. Paul is one of the spots on the list.

“By being on the tour, it will bring in more tourists to St. Paul who never would have been here otherwise,” said Carolyn Scarborough, executive secretary/treasurer of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. “We hope this generates into more people taking a look at what St. Paul has to offer.”

The program will run May 1 to Sept. 30. Passports are available at participating destinations, and participants will also be able to download the “Nebraska Passport” app to collect stamps digitally on their smartphones. Participants who turn in their stamped passport will be eligible for prizes.

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