LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
One of the country's most eccentric attractions turns 20 today. "Carhenge" is a sculpture in rural western Nebraska that is made out of cars. Area residents once considered it little more than an eyesore.
But as Nebraska Public Radio's Avishay Artsy reports, it's become a tourist magnet to the delight of the local folk.
AVISHAY ARTSY: Local artist Jim Reinders grew up in the small railroad town of Alliance. When his father died in 1982 and relatives gathered for the funeral, he suggested they return in five years and build a massive sculpture made up of old cars painted gray.
Mr. JIM REINDERS (Local Artist, Alliance, Nebraska): The initial reaction was one of a great surprise and bewilderment. They really didn't know what was going on.
ARTSY: "Carhenge" is a full-scale replica of England's Stonehenge, a mysterious pilgrimage site built 5,000 years ago. Both consist of large gray slabs arranged in a circle - some standing upright and others stacked into arches. Surrounded by rolling fields of prairie grass stretching to the horizon, many of the town's nearly 9,000 residents initially hated the installation and the state tried to have it torn down. But a group of supporters kept it alive.
Unidentified Woman: I had it (unintelligible) down.
ARTSY: Standing in the newly built visitor center, Alliance native Rocky Chocker(ph) says he was one of the early critics.
Mr. ROCKY CHOCKER (Resident, Alliance, Nebraska): I thought it was a mess when they first started - what in the heck are they doing to the good field and good pasture around here? Idiots. What are you guys doing? You need grounds for cattle and all that and then my mom says, oh, that looks like Stonehenge over there in England. What the heck is Stonehenge?
ARTSY: Rocky's father, Bob Chocker, is a retired chief metal welder. His face is sun-leathered and his bright, blue eyes peer out from underneath an immaculate white cowboy hat.
Mr. BOB CHOCKER (Retired Chief Metal Welder, Alliance, Nebraska): We've kind of been forgotten out here in the Sandhills for years. And now it's started getting some recognition.
ARTSY: This weekend, the Chockers are hosting a family reunion and distant relatives from England are visiting. Denise and Ray Davis(ph) lives about 30 miles from Stonehenge.
Ms. DENISE DAVIS: It looks the right color. It looks like Stonehenge.
Mr. RAY DAVIS: They stuck these - the rocks too close together. But it looks like it. Yeah.
ARTSY: Becky Thomas(ph) curates the local history museum. She says Alliance has gradually come to embrace "Carhenge" largely because of the estimated 30,000 tourists a month it draws in the summer.
Ms. BECKY THOMAS (Curator, History Museum, Alliance, Nebraska): This was a gift that landed in our lap. And while we were slow to accept it and say thank you, I think the most hardened heart has come around and realized that this is the best thing that ever happened to us.
ARTSY: Town residents have big plans for "Carhenge." They want to set up a croquet course and call it Carquet(ph). They hope to start a summer concert series for kids called Hanging at the Henge. But mostly they want people to come to the Sandhills of western Nebraska to see "Carhenge" with their own eyes.
For NPR News, I'm Avishay Artsy.
WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News.
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