SEWARD, Neb. – Seward welcomed the 2022 Tourist Family to their community on July 4th, giving them a Seward welcome and a taste of the famous July 4th hospitality. Hosting a tourist family is an age-old tradition of ‘kidnapping’ a family visiting the community of Seward for the 4th of July and making them the royalty of the day. They ride in the parade and serve as guests of the community.

“Since 1967 the Seward Visitor’s Bureau and the Seward 4th of July Committee have welcomed a family to Seward,” said Clark Kolterman, committee member.

Originally captured on the Interstate with the help of the Nebraska State Patrol, the ‘capturing’ has changed, “but the concept is still very much alive”, said Kolterman. “Our local law enforcement was excited to surprise a family on the East side of town on Hwy 34 and announce to them their designation as Seward Royalty.”

The family captured this year are Matt and Michelle Gonderinger and their daughters Macy (14) and Megan (9). The family recently moved to Lincoln after living in Wylie, Texas for over 20 years.

Matt, a Beatrice native and a senior business analyst for Carlisle Industries, said they decided to move back to Nebraska for a change of scenery, weather, cost of living, pace of life and great public school system.

“We knew that Nebraska had the kind of life we wanted for our girls and the timing was right for us to make a move,” he said.

The girls will enroll in Lincoln Public Schools this fall and Michelle hopes to use her 25+ years teaching for LPS in Lincoln.

The family has been coming to Seward to celebrate the 4th for many years after learning of Seward’s recognized 4th of July celebration through Phil and Sally Wurst when visiting them with their grandson Travis. They decided to take in Seward’s 4th when they were in Nebraska visiting family “and we’ve been hooked ever since,” said Matt.

“Each year when Matt and Michelle and the girls would visit they would joke that they hoped they would get ‘kidnapped’ some day as the tourist family. I was excited that this year the committee was able to make that happen,” said Sally Wurst.

The family shared that they plan on spending the day taking in their favorite Seward activities, which will include attending concerts at the Civic Center, shopping on the square and the parade. “Except this year, I guess we will be riding in it,” said Michelle. The family will also receive a bundle of local gifts in addition to experiencing many hometown meals and getting a tank full of gas while visiting.