Tag Archives: adventure

Campfire Stories

July 2, 2018 by

Stories for Kids

Here are two campfire tales guaranteed to captivate those peering into the night sky or glancing over shoulders into the shadows…

The Fisher Stars

Constellations have fascinating histories, and different cultures have their own takes on the figures that can be seen in the stars. One of the more famous constellations is commonly known as the Big Dipper, but the Big Dipper wasn’t always known as such. In the early 1900s, a family might have called it the plough (a cultural remnant from England and Ireland). One of the more interesting explanations of the Big Dipper is this sacred story from the Ojibwa (also known as Chippewa):

Once there was a great man named Gitchi Odjig, and Gitchi Odjig was a great hunter. This was a good thing, because at one time on Earth, there was only winter. The world wasn’t completely unpleasant—if you worked hard, you could get enough; but all the days were cold, and all the days were icy. Your life was basically the freezing and thawing of your fingers. Gitchi Odjig’s skills served him well in this cold world.

Gitchi Odjig and his family had heard a story that explained that the sky they looked to every day wasn’t only a roof, it was a floor as well: a floor to a world in which winter was not present. The water in that world was free of ice. The trees wore green glossy things called leaves. You could walk during the day without a coat or hat. It was a beautiful story to hang on to, but even if people believed it, they didn’t think there was much anyone could do about the cold. Things were the way they were.

Gitchi Odjig’s son, however, didn’t think that way. He wanted to do something to make things better. He thought it would be wonderful if the warm world above somehow opened to this one. He held on to the idea.

Then, one day, Gitchi Odjig’s son was hunting, and he got a good bead on a squirrel. The squirrel stood up and spoke: “Please put away your arrows. There is something I think you’d like to know.”

Gitchi Odjig’s son was surprised, but he dropped his weapon and listened.

“You know and I know the constant cold we both live in is no picnic,” began the squirrel. “This frozen ground doesn’t yield much and is incredibly unforgiving. But there is something called summer, and it exists in the world above us. There is a weather that is warm and abundant. Instead of killing me, let’s work together to see how we can somehow bring that world here.”

The son took this information to his father, who felt that this was a sign and that it was time to hold a feast and discuss the matter. He invited all the animals he knew, and together they decided that they would travel to the highest mountain peak, and break through to the summer world.

They found the peak, and cracked through the top of the sky into the world above. They all climbed through. Gitchi Odjig couldn’t believe what he was feeling—the wind wasn’t bitterly cold; the trees rustled with beautiful drifts of leaves instead of clattering and whistling their bare branches; the ground was lush and green, and hummed with the music of insects; the water in the streams and rivers wasn’t cluttered and scabbed with ice. He was standing in the middle of summer.

But the people of that world did not appreciate these intruders, and they did not appreciate that the edges of the hole these intruders had climbed through had cracked and crumbled, and now summer (and spring, and fall) gushed down onto the earth in a giant torrent of colors, and life, and change.

They fixed the hole and started to chase Gitchi Odjig. In order to go faster, he turned himself into a fisher (which is a like a badger, or wolverine) and he was almost caught when he recognized that the people of this world were some of his distant relatives. He called on this connection, and convinced them to let him go.

Although he had gotten free, he could not break again through to the Earth. This saddened him, but beneath his sadness was a deep peace and satisfaction. He had brought the seasons to the Earth. He laid himself down at the scar where he had entered the sky, and was happy.

You can still see him laying there in the night sky, with the four points of the Dipper as the four points of his body, and the handle of the dipper his lithe tail.

The Cornfield Spider

You might have heard of the Jersey Devil, a beast that haunts the woods of New Jersey. That story involves a woman who was in league with evil spirits. She gave birth to a child which appeared normal at first, but then began to grow and change at awful speed, its head transforming into a goat’s head, its body becoming long and winnowed and serpent-like, and its back sprouting great leathery wings.

This area also has a legend like that. At the heart of this story is a beast that makes the Jersey Devil seem tame. This story involves a 12-year-old boy in league with shadowy forces:

One July night, a farmer who tended 500 acres west of Omaha saw his son at the edge of a field talking to a strange figure. The farmer called to his son, and the boy and the figure turned. The figure dissipated into thin air, but the boy ran, setting off up a slope into the knee-high corn. The father gave chase.

He again called to his son. The boy reached the top of the ridge and turned to look at his father. Then he disappeared down the other side. The father ascended. When the farmer was nearly at the top of the wide hill, something rose up from the other side—but it wasn’t his son.

It was a terrible thing with a long thin torso, great long arms, and wild long fingers that ended in thorny claws. It bent over long thin legs. According to the farmer, it was covered in wiry brown hair, and had an almost spiderlike body, with a small long head, like a human’s head that had been pulled in a taffy puller, then given sharp long teeth and wide lidless eyes. The farmer turned and ran. He could hear the thing loping after him. He made it back to the farmhouse, slammed and locked the door, and heard the wild scratching. Then, nothing.

He never saw his son again. However, a handful of people have seen a similar creature on summer nights, sometimes standing still and watching, sometimes giving desperate chase.


This article was originally printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Family Guide.

60Plus Opener

April 25, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In this edition of 60PLUS in Omaha Magazine, we continue the issue’s adventure theme.

For those who don’t know, I was married to Mr. Adventure—Raymond Lemke. He sometimes lived on the edge. Or he just flew over it.

In fact, he flew a paraplane (which looks sort of like a riding lawnmower with a parachute sail) out of the old South Omaha Airport. Raymond and some friends owned a single-engine airplane. He later built his own airplane, which he started in the finished basement of our home. Before it became too big, he had to move it to the detached two-car garage and eventually the driveway.

Once, in the ’70s, the two of us were flying in his single-engine plane to a meeting when we encountered a lightning storm. The bad weather forced our landing in a Kansas cornfield. The farmer told us we could leave the plane there and recommended a boardinghouse in town (there were no hotels). He gave us a ride to town and we spent the night. The next morning, we got a ride to the plane and flew onward.

And, of course, there were plenty of road trips. He and his closest male friends would fly their plane or drive on these excursions. All of them were type-A personalities, and I can imagine the butting of heads. I did hear one story of one of the friends driving too slow: Everyone in the car was complaining, so he stopped, got out of the car, and gave the keys to someone else.

Every summer, Raymond took our sons on an adventure “guys-only” trip. Their stories are now legendary in the family.

He once took the three oldest boys, ranging in age from 10 to 13 years old (our fourth was a toddler), to the Canadian wilderness on a backwoods canoe trip in 1970. In my memory, the boys’ backpacks were bigger than they were. Yet they were portaging their own canoe and camping far from civilization. The youngest of these Lemke explorers was in charge of defending supplies from bears when the others were transporting the canoe—and a bear appeared.

Needless to say, being the mother for such a rambunctious bunch was an adventure in itself.


This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Gwen Lemke, Contributing Editor for 60Plus In Omaha

How to Plan an American Motorcycle Adventure

December 13, 2017 by
Photography by R.L. Lemke
Illustration by Derek Joy

In search of the perfect motorcycle ride, I have coordinated several epic trips with family and friends over recent decades. Our routes have ranged across the U.S., from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Pacific Coast, in between, and beyond. I hope the following snippets of advice prove helpful to anyone chasing their own “perfect” ride.

The Best Coast

As motorcyclists travel from East to West, they find fellow motorists becoming more motorcycle friendly. East of the Mississippi River, folks on four wheels seem to expect motorcyclists to stay in line with every other vehicle—not to pass—and they often endeavor to prohibit a motorcycle from passing. On the West Coast, motorists better understand the motivation for riding: the sheer joy that comes from barreling down a twisty road. Most motorists pull over, even off the road, to allow motorcyclists to pass by and continue at their own pace. Lane sharing in California allows motorcyclists to pass through traffic between stopped and slow vehicles on multi-lane roads. Most riders in the West pull through stopped traffic at lights to get to the head of the line. The Western attitude toward motorcyclists makes riding there much more enjoyable.

Go with the (Weather) Flow

In the West, coastal summers remain in the 60s through the day; meanwhile, dry heat from the 70s to 100s awaits over the other side of the coastal mountains. Elevation changes in the Cascades or Sierras offer warm riding in the valley and cold riding only a few miles uphill. Thus, if you don’t enjoy the weather one place, change your direction, and within minutes you are in a completely different climate.

California Back Road Dreaming

Back road routes are a passion of mine. I scout these small, paved byways before every ride. In most states, the back roads are unpaved. This forces motorcyclists to ride with the tourist and commuter traffic. Some states offer endless miles of paved back roads with little to no traffic—roads that wind through mountains and valleys with breathtaking scenic vistas.

Roads empty of traffic allow stopping in the middle of the lanes to take photos. Of the many states I have traveled, California has the most miles of paved back roads. Many of them cut through national forests, and I suspect their paving has to do with accessibility for addressing forest fires. These arteries of pavement serve as a means to avoid congested tourist areas and cities.

So, taking into account how motorcyclists are treated, the variety of weather, and the opportunity to explore endless miles of back roads in breathtaking scenic countryside, California is the destination I return to year after year.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Bring a Camera

Many riders find enjoyment in hitting the open road without a plan, selecting their route as they travel. Whimsy determines which way they go, which road to travel upon, as they stumble upon great vistas and twisty adventures.

Other motorcyclists find joy in meeting up with friends at a specific destination (consider the legendary Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota), a social affair built around a ride.

I approach each motorcycle ride as if the adventure has priceless value—something to be planned for—so that each rider can experience the ride to the max. I take great pleasure preparing for the route before departure. Afterward, organizing the photos, videos, and GPS files adds further enjoyment—an opportunity to savor the once-in-a-lifetime experience again.

Gather Your Crew

Everyone knows that life is fullest when we are committed to the moment, setting aside all worries of past and future. Motorcycling forces one to live in each and every moment. Spending those moments with good friends and family only strengthens the bonds of our relationships.

My crew usually consists of five to 10 bikers, including my brothers Todd (Omaha Magazine’s publisher) and Tyler Lemke (the magazine’s vice president of operations).

All of us riding these adventures have limited time away from work. Time is too precious for us to seek fun by happenstance. No, solid planning makes certain that each ride is one for the record books. A lifetime memory.

Our riders have come from Nebraska, Kentucky, Iowa, Canada, Texas, and even California to enjoy the well-planned rides. Sometimes riders iron-butt more than 1,000 miles over 24 hours just to participate.

It takes a special kind of rider to enjoy our grueling pace. On our adventures, at the end of each day’s ride, all we can do is eat and then collapse into slumber. In fact, these rides are so intense, with so much “fun” concentrated into the daylight hours, that the return to work offers a welcome chance to recover (physically as well as mentally).

Safety First

Risk management should be an important consideration for any motorcycle adventure plan. In our gang of (middle-aged and white-collar) riders, we wear top-of-the-line protective gear.

We also have bike-to-bike radios to facilitate communication while engines are roaring. Whether there’s sand on the roadway, deer, or an angry pickup driver, we can warn one another of potential dangers. We work as a team to keep one another safe.

Slippery road surfaces can be a matter of grave concern. When driving a car, I’m not interested in sand or gravel on the road, but on a motorcycle it can lead to crashing and certain injury.

When it rains, cars can just turn on the wipers; on a motorcycle, it is a matter of adding a layer of rainproof gear or getting soaking wet. If it is hot, we deal with the heat. If below 60, we add an electric vest. Even with safety precautions, riding a motorcycle ties you directly to the moment—to life in the right now.

Don’t Feed the Vultures

Wild animals are a hazard to motorists everywhere, especially motorcyclists. When we are riding in California, there is a huge bird that offers a unique challenge. The vultures in California appear to coordinate their efforts when lingering on the road in front of motorcycle riders, leaping up and taking flight the last instant before impact. It is as if they expect to intimidate the rider into an avoidance crash, making for a large meal to share. This has happened countless times, which affirms my conclusion.

Anticipate Physical/ Mental Exhaustion

At the end of our spring 2017 ride through coastal California/Oregon, riders commented that they were utterly exhausted. I know that I was. Roads on our route featured so many corners that rare straight sections of pavement offered relief. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. The whole point of the ride was to test ourselves, to see sights few others do, to expand our motorcycling capabilities.

People often ask what it is like to ride as we do. For those who downhill ski, it could be comparable to flying down black diamond moguls

for miles and miles. The back-and-forth effort, the exhilaration of not only surviving the unexpected but excelling at it offers more than just an adrenaline rush. That same physical back-and-forth motion is akin to cornering on a mountain bike, but hour after hour, day after day. Completely exhausting, but completely worth it.

Ready, Set, Go!

What sets a motorcycle adventure apart from the normal motoring vacation is the direct interaction with the moment. While riding a motorcycle, even olfactory experiences are instant and powerful. Smells assault you with full force, from skunk roadkill to blooming flowers along the road, from someone smoking cigarettes in their yard to the salt spray from the ocean.

Intense and concentrated motorcycling is fun, I promise. Long days test each of us physically and mentally, while camaraderie builds passion for the sport. This is what motivates each of us as we chase bliss in the moment, here and now.

Visit rllemke.smugmug.com to view more photos from R.L. Lemke’s adventures.

This article was printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

July/August 2017 Explore

Nebraska

The Good Living Tour July and August, various locations. The third-annual ambitious concert series, produced by Hear Nebraska, connects Nebraska talent to Nebraska towns, encouraging the growth of the state’s music industry. Concerts will be held in: Imperial (July 1), Red Cloud (July 15), McCook (July 29), Norfolk (Aug.4), Lyons (Aug. 18), and Hastings (Aug. 19).
hearnebraska.org

Slide the City July 1, at Benjamin Avenue and 25th Street, Norfolk. 1,000 feet (three football fields) of vinyl will create a family friendly slip-and-slide water party. 402-844-2000.
slidethecity.com

Fourth of July Celebration July 4 in downtown Seward. Recognized as “America’s Small Town Fourth of July City,” Seward has hosted an old-fashioned family celebration since 1868. The event attracts nearly 40,000 people and features a car show, grand parade, extravagant fireworks display, and live entertainment. 402-643-4189.
julyfourthseward.com

Summer Arts and Music Festival July 4 in downtown Fairbury. This summer festival includes a showcase of pottery, a blues party, and a wine and beer tasting room. 402-613-2064.
fairbury.com

John C. Fremont Days July 14-16 in downtown Fremont. Boasting new and old attractions, the 20th annual John C. Fremont Days will feature a Spam-cooking contest, live entertainment, a car and bike show, and more. 402-727-9428.
johncfremontdays.org

Nebraska Book Festival July 14-15 at Constellation Studios, 2055 O St., Lincoln. Providing an opportunity for participants to cultivate an understanding of literary history and culture in Nebraska, the festival celebrates Nebraska’s literary heritage and contemporary authors to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and writing. 402-472-7710.
bookfestival.nebraska.gov

Cornhusker State Games July 21-30, various locations in Lincoln and Omaha. Since 1985, the Cornhusker State Games has given people the chance to play. Competitions range from track and field, to chess, to mall-walking. 402-471-2544.
cornhuskerstategames.com

Cowboy Night July 21 at Stuhr Museum, 3133 W. U.S. Highway 34, Grand Island. An evening of cowboy activities returns. The event includes branding, roping games, a horse breaking demo, live music, and s’mores at the picturesque Rural Farmstead. 308-385-5316.
visitgrandisland.com

Gretna Days July 27-30 in downtown Gretna. This tradition began over 50 years ago to thank the community through a picnic. Gretna Days now include a carnival, golf tournament, teen dance, craft show, fireworks show, and more. 402-378-6284.
gretnadays.com

Czech Days Aug. 4-6 in downtown Wilbur. People of all backgrounds will come to celebrate Czechoslovakian culture. Festivities range from traditional dancing to a duck and dumpling run. 402-821-2732.
nebraskaczechsofwilber.com

Haymarket in White Aug. 4 at Pinnacle Bank Arena, 400 Pinnacle Arena Dr., Lincoln. Guests to the third annual Haymarket in White Dinner & Dance will enjoy gourmet picnic fare and dance the night away. Attendees, who must dress in all white, come together to celebrate Lincoln and the Haymarket community. 402-904-4444.
pinnaclebankarena.com

Bruno Mars Aug. 7 at Pinnacle Bank Arena, 400 Pinnacle Arena Dr., Lincoln. The “24k Magic World Tour” is Mars’ first full-length tour since 2013. Mars, currently deemed one of the world’s most influential artists by Rolling Stone, has sold out shows throughout the world and has continued to impress fans of all ages. 402-904-4444.
pinnaclebankarena.com

A Very Berry Kool-Aid Days Bash Aug. 11-13 in Hastings. Kool-Aid Days celebrates the sugary drink invented by Edwin Perkins. Grab a glass of Kool-Aid at the World’s Largest Kool-Aid Stand, learn about Kool-Aid and other inventions of the 1920s, and more. 402-461-8405.
kool-aiddays.com

Capital City Ribfest Aug. 17-19 Pinnacle Bank Arena, 400 Pinnacle Arena Dr., Lincoln. The 21st annual Ribfest returns with loads of barbecue, sides, and music. 402-904-4444.
pinnaclebankarena.com

Eclipse Painting Night Aug. 18 at Cedar Hills Vineyard & Gardens, 48970 375th Road, Ravenna. A painting night in honor of the total solar eclipse will take place at the Cedar Hills Vineyard. Guests will paint the Howl at the Moon design. Wine and snacks will be available for purchase. 308-452-3181.
visitgrandisland.com

Kendrick Lamar Aug. 18 at Pinnacle Bank Arena, 400 Pinnacle Arena Dr., Lincoln. Lamar’s April-released album, Damn, has already gone platinum. Hailed by Rolling Stone as “the most gifted rapper of a generation,” Lamar has earned six Grammys, including one for best album. 402-904-4444.
pinnaclebankarena.com

Solar Eclipse Viewing Aug. 21 at Homestead National Monument, 8523 Nebraska Highway 4, Beatrice. The rare spectacle of the moon passing between the sun and the Earth turns the day into night. A total solar eclipse will cross the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. The park will host NASA programs and telescopes. 402-223-3514.
nps.gov

Brad Paisley Aug. 25 at the Nebraska State Fair—Fonner Park, 501 E. Fonner Park Road, Grand Island. Country singer Paisley will be joined by country artists Dustin Lynch, Chase Bryant, and Lindsay Ell. 308-382-1620.
visitgrandisland.com

Nebraska State Fair Aug. 25-Sept. 4 at Fonner Park, 501 E. Fonner Park Road, Grand Island. The 11-day event offers insights into the unique culture that is Nebraska. The fair includes a competitive livestock exhibition, carnival rides, first-class entertainment, and numerous food stands. 308-382-1620.
statefair.org

Iowa

Independence Day. July 4 at Living History Farms, 11121 Hickman Road, Urbandale. Learn how Independence Day was celebrated 100 years ago. Participate in pie-eating contests, foot races, spelling bees, watermelon seed spitting contests, and more. The day will also feature a reading of the Declaration of Independence and a Victorian street parade. 515-278-5286.
lhf.org

80/35 Music Festival July 7-8 at Western Gateway Park, 12th and Locust streets, Des Moines.  Headliners for the 10th anniversary of this music festival, named after the two interstates that cross through Des Moines, will include The Shins and MGMT.
2017.80-35.com

Ioway Culture Day July 15 at Living History Farms, 11121 Hickman Road, Urbandale. The Ioway Nation will come to the Farms to offer visitors an opportunity to experience how they built their homes, prepared food, and farmed. Guest presenters will share their knowledge of Native American culture and technology. 515-278-5286.
lhf.org

An American in ParisJuly 18 at Des Moines Civic Center, 221 Walnut St., Des Moines. The 2015 Tony Award-winning musical about an American soldier, a French girl, and a mysterious European city will enchant audiences of all ages. The show earned more awards than any other musical in the 2014-2015 season. 515-246-2300.
desmoinesperformingarts.org

National Balloon Classic July 28-Aug. 5 at Memorial Balloon Field, 15335 Jewell St., Indianola. Nearly 100 hot air balloons will paint the Iowa sky with brilliant colors, as live music plays on the ground beneath them. Events range from balloon races to balloon glows.
nationalballoonclassic.com

Hinterland Music Festival Aug. 4-5  at Saints Amphitheater, 3357 St. Charles Road, St. Charles. Held in a rural escape outside of Des Moines, Hinterland features a blend of music, camping, art, craft vendors, family engagement, and more. Headliners include The Head and the Heart and alt-J. 515-975-7830.
hinterlandiowa.com

Iowa State Fair Aug. 10-20 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, E. 30th Street and E. University Avenue, Des Moines. Attracting more than 1 million people from around the world, Iowa’s salute to the best the state can offer includes exhibits ranging from livestock to doll houses, along with entertainment and achievement. Don’t forget the food! The 2016 fair offered more than 80 options that could be eaten on a stick. The fair is included in the New York Times best-selling travel book 1,000 Places to See Before you Die. 515-262-3111.
iowastatefair.org

Missouri

KC RiverFest July 4 at Berkley Riverfront Park, Kansas City. This Independence Day event for all ages includes 14 food trucks, two stages for musical acts, children’s crafts, and fireworks. 816-559-3750.
kcriverfest.com

OneRepublic July 7 at Sprint Center,1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City. Since their breakout smash single “Apologize,” OneRepublic has been taking over Billboard charts. Their newest album, Oh My, was released in the fall of 2016 and debuted at No. 3  on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart. 816-949-7100.
sprintcenter.com/events

Footloose The MusicalJuly 7-9 at Missouri Theater, 717 Edmond St., St. Joseph. The Oscar and Tony-nominated musical will dazzle audiences for two nights. The musical follows Ren, a dance-loving kid from Chicago, who moves to a small farming town where dancing isn’t legal. The musical celebrates open minds, dancing, and the wisdom of listening to young people. 816-271-4628.
stjomo.com

Queen + Adam Lambert July 9 at Sprint Center, 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City. Since their first meeting on American Idol in 2009, Queen and Adam Lambert have created a successful combination. The concert will feature Queen favorites, including “Bohemian Rhapsody.” 816-949-7100.
sprintcenter.com

National Teddy Bear Picnic Day July 10 at Kansas City Museum, 3218 Gladstone Blvd., Kansas City. This will be the city’s first celebration of National Teddy Bear Picnic Day. Families are invited to come to the front lawn of the museum with their own picnics, blankets, and teddy bears. 816-513-0720.
kcparks.org

Murder in Maui, a Mystery Dinner July 22 at Robidoux Landing Playhouse, 103 Francis St., St. Joseph. Guests will work through clues to find out who is the murderer in the room. Two actors will be at the dinner to lead guests through a night of mystery and suspense. 816-901-9100.
stjomo.com

Food Truck Brunch July 23 and Aug. 20 at the Roasterie, 1204 W. 27th St., Kansas City. The monthly Food Truck Brunch is a family-friendly event that encompasses an assortment of local food trucks, live music, and games. 816-931-4000.
theroasterie.com

Green Day Aug. 11 at Sprint Center, 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City. Green Day’s legacy continues with their Revolution Radio tour. Their show will feature a mix of classic Green Day songs and their recent hits, including “Still Breathing.” 816-949-7100.
sprintcenter.com

Kinky Boots Aug. 18-20 at Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City. Featuring songs by Grammy-winning pop icon Cyndi Lauper, the musical, based on the movie of the same name, celebrates the friendships that can be discovered and the belief that you can change the world when you change your mind. 816-363-7827.
kcstarlight.com

Trails West Festival Aug. 18-21 in Civic Center Park, St. Joseph. Labeled a “total eclipse of the arts,” Trails West delivers a weekend of music, entertainment, and visual arts. 816-233-8467.
stjomo.com

Rockin’ on the River Aug. 26 at Remington Nature Center, 1502 McArthur Dr., St. Joseph. A night of food, drinks, and fireworks will take place on the Missouri riverfront. Guests will also hear music from Casey Brett and Blue Oyster Culture Club. 816-271-5499.
stjomo.com

Lionel Richie with Mariah Carey Aug. 27 at Sprint Center, 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City. Music icon Lionel Richie had to postpone his spring “All The Hits Tour” due to an injury. He is now back on the road, bringing with him Grammy Award-winning artist Mariah Carey. 816-949-7100.
sprintcenter.com

Kansas

Heartland Art Guild International Miniature Paintings and Sculptures Art Show July 3-Aug. 4 at Miami County Historical Museum, 12 E. Peoria St., Paola. The 13th annual art show will feature more than 78 artists from around the world and more than 250 works of art. The catch is that paintings and sculptures can be no larger than 5” x 5” making this free art show very unique. 913-294-4940.
artkc.com

Junk ‘N Donuts Swap Meet July 8 & Aug. 12 at Louisburg Cider Mill, 14730 KS-68, Louisburg. 50-plus vendors will head to the mill to sell everything from antiques to new crafts, from food to gifts. Live music will be provided, as well as a country store featuring its famous apple cider donuts. 913-837-5202.
louisburgcidermill.com

Big & Rich July 14 at Warnock Lake, 17862 274th Road, Atchison. This country-western duo is the headliner for this concert, which is part of the Amelia Earhart Festival. Also performing are Cam and Erik Dylan. 800-234-1854.
visitatchison.com/event/lakefest

Amelia Earhart Festival July 13-15 in Atchison. This annual event celebrate Atchison’s most famous aviatrix. The festival includes “Grandfather Earhart’s” ice cream social, a carnival, “Breakfast with the Books” by authors about Amelia, a crafts fair, and flyovers; and it finishes with the “Concert in the Sky” fireworks show. 1-800-234-1854.
visitatchison.com

Tiblow Days Aug. 17-19 in downtown Bonner Springs. The three-day festival features the “Smokin’ On Oak” barbecue competition, a carnival, mayor’s banquet, craft and food booths, live music, parades, car shows, and more. 913-422-1020.
bsedwchamber.org

Blacksmith and Pioneer Days Aug. 19-20 at Transue Brothers Blacksmith and Wagon Shop, 309 Main St., Summerfield. The two-day event features blacksmithing, Dutch oven cooking, butter making, and other traditional activities. Guests can expect old-fashioned ice cream, wood carving, skull painting, and marble blowing. 402-520-0644.
transueblacksmith.org


This calendar is published as shown in the print edition

We welcome you to submit events to our print calendar. Please email event details and a 300 ppi photograph three months in advance to: editintern@omahamagazine.com


Event times and details may change

Nettles, and Ivy, and Ticks—Oh My!

April 28, 2017 by

Christine Jacobsen likes to see parents taking their kids outside. “There’s more of a risk to keeping them inside,” she says, citing obesity and other problems. Jacobsen, the education specialist for the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resource District, often heads summer camp programs and outdoor field trips for students. Jacobsen says she took her own children outside frequently “from the get-go.” When her children were infants, her husband and she would take them on hikes in carriers. Her children now appreciate the outdoors. Jacobsen says that the more parents can get their kids outdoors and learning about their natural world, the better.

Many parents fear what dangers may lurk outside. Jacobsen says, “Here in Nebraska, especially in eastern Nebraska, there’s really not a lot to be worried about,” noting that any venomous snakes, such as rattlesnakes, are restricted to western Nebraska. However, one should learn to identify and avoid minor perils such as nettles, poison ivy, ticks, and mosquitoes.

Nettles

Jacobsen advises that nettles are a common plant hazard. She describes nettles as a woodland underbrush, about 2-3 feet tall, with green “sawtooth leaves.” She says they are invasive and often establish in disturbed places such as areas that have been mowed or tilled over. “They move in and take over an area,” she says. The bottoms of the leaves contain irritating hairs that cause redness and itching, she says. Jacobsen’s nettles remedy in a pinch: “put mud on it.” She also advises wearing long pants when in the woods.

Poison Ivy

Like nettles, poison ivy irritates the skin. Look for “mitten shaped” “leaves of three,” says Jacobsen. She also says poison ivy is typically seen in the woodlands, where it grows as a short, understory plant and as vines. “It’s the first vine to turn red in the fall,” says Jacobsen.

Reactions to poison ivy can include blisters, inflammation, and swelling. Jacobsen says the oil in the leaves is the cause of these reactions, and that the oil can be transmitted. Jacobsen’s remedy: washing the site to lift the oil. She advises seeking medical advice for severe reactions.

Ticks

Ticks are another nuisance. Jacobsen says that although the incidence of tick-spread lyme disease (typically by deer ticks) is low in Nebraska, hikers should be mindful of ticks. These arachnids are tear-drop shaped and have small heads. Dog ticks are generally larger and light brown with an “hourglass shape” on the back. “Deer ticks,” she says, “are like pepper—they’re tiny.” Use insect spray as a precaution. She acknowledges that many parents don’t want to put DEET on their children, but Jacobsen recommends it, noting that after being outdoors children should take a shower to wash it off and to look for ticks that may have attached.

Mosquitoes

Nobody likes mosquitoes, but they can be avoided. Jacobson advises using DEET to avoid them as well. She says mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn.Mosquito bites can be irritating. “Don’t scratch,” she says, noting that breaking them open can introduce infections. Jacobsen recommends cold packs and calamine lotion for bad bites.

Even with these minor hazards lurking outdoors, it is worthwhile to let children explore nature. They will form happy memories of hiking in the woods, playing in the mud, or catching their first fish, and develop an appreciation for active living.

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of Family Guide.

10 Cheap Things to do in Omaha This Summer

April 27, 2017 by

This is going to be no ordinary summer in Omaha, and the best part is, you won’t have to budget much to enjoy it with your family. There are inexpensive and free activities throughout the metro, from a pool with a pirate ship to a trail that leads to a waterfall. There are indoor and outdoor film series for families, as well as free festivals. Here are 10 ideas for cheap fun in Omaha.

1. Spraygrounds

For free water fun, head to one of the city parks with a sprayground: Benson Park, Fontenelle Park, Kountze Park, Orchard Park, Seymour Smith Park, Upland, Morton, Westwood Heights, and Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Plaza. These spraygrounds are great because they’re also near playgrounds. You can find additional outdoor fountains and spraygrounds that cost no admission to play in at Omaha Children’s Museum, Joslyn Art Museum, Shadow Lake Towne Center, and the First National Bank Tower.

2. Festivals
Free summer festivals in Omaha have kid-friendly aspects to them, while introducing new things to see, hear, and taste. Dance at a music series like Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing and Stinson Park at Aksarben Village. The Omaha Summer Arts Festival has an entire area dedicated to children’s activities.  Shakespeare on the Green has a tent of costumes for children to try on. Taste of Omaha is free, but you’ll want to buy tickets for food and rides.

3. Hikes

For the price of park admission, an adventure awaits on a nearby trail. One kid favorite is an easy trail that leads to a waterfall at Platte River State Park just outside of Omaha. Head to Hummel Park to search for the staircase that always baffles its climbers—no one can settle on how many steps there are. For a gem hidden in the middle of the city, visit Heron Haven Nature Center just northeast of 120th and Maple streets.

4. Unique Pools

Swimming is fun no matter where you go, but some local pools offer some fun extras worth checking out. The popular city pool at Lake Zorinsky has waterslides and a fun splash. Cross over the Missouri River to Council Bluffs to visit the city pool, Pirates Cove Pool, where kids can play around a pirate ship and use two waterslides. Head indoors to the Salvation Army Kroc Center and check out the newly renovated pool and waterslide.

5.   Explore the Old Market

The Old Market has so many things for kids to see, hear, and taste. On Saturday mornings, stroll the bustling farmers market. Visit any day of the week and you’ll likely encounter musicians playing music and charming horse-drawn carriages. Kids love the Old Market Candy Shop and Hollywood Candy. Head to The Passageway for toy store Le Wonderment, and then go on a hunt for the Zodiac Garden hidden behind an art gallery there.

6.  Downtown Fun

There’s more fun just beyond the Old Market. Slide down the big slides at Gene Leahy Mall. At Heartland of America Park, you may catch a gondolier offering inexpensive rides around the lake. Cross the “The Bob” pedestrian bridge to take that iconic picture standing on the state line. The building at the base of the bridge is the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters, which has a visitor’s center with free kid-friendly activities.

7. Bowl or Skate for Free

There are two national programs for children to sign up for that get them free rentals at local venues. Kids Bowl Free allows kids to have two free games each day all summer long. Shoe rental may not be included. Kids Skate Free is a similar program. SkateDaze participates in this program that allows children 12 and younger to skate for free once a day all summer long. The skate rental fee isn’t included.

8. Family Movies Series

Ruth Sokolof Theater at Film Streams has a great series for families, and children’s tickets are only $2.50. They show a mix of classics and first runs. Large chain theaters often have film series during the summer featuring slightly older movies at a discounted price. Check your closest Marcus Theatre and AMC Theatre to see if they’re participating. Check the calendar of events for Midtown Crossing and Sumtur Amphitheater to see when they show free outdoor movies.

9. Fan Fest

Feel like you’re a part of the NCAA Men’s College World Series experience for free at Fan Fest right outside the stadium. You can get into the spirit by playing interactive games, taking a photo with the trophy, meeting players, and soaking up the atmosphere. Fan Fest is open through the run of the series. Go to Open Day Celebration to catch batting practices and autograph sessions, concluding with the opening ceremony and fireworks. That’s all free, too.

10. Fort Atkinson

On the first Saturday and Sunday of the month, May through October, head to Fort Atkinson to see interactive historic recreations depicting life 200 years ago. Children can complete a scavenger hunt, earning a little treat at the General Store for finishing it. Actors shoot off a cannon during the re-enactment, which is cool for some kids and too loud for others. A state park permit is needed to get into the park to see the re-enactments. 

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of Family Guide.

 

The Johnsons

Photography by Sarah Lemke

Distant from the city lights and engulfed by nature, one might feel overwhelmed by the unidentified bustle in the bushes, the sticky humidity, and the irritating mosquitoes. For the Johnson family, it means they’re all together, and it’s their home away from home.

Ransom and Julie Johnson have taken countless camping trips with their kids.

The couple upgraded their tent size as they welcomed their children over the years. The Johnson clan—which includes Grace, 9; Ella, 11; Nate, 19; and Merci, 27—camps together several times each summer.

Ransom and Julie agree that the family time spent outdoors together gives their curious children a much-needed chance to disconnect and explore.

“It’s good to see them get out and open up their minds. Instead of saying, ‘Oh entertain me,’ it’s ‘What am I going to find to do?’ And they always find something,” Ransom says.

“They might be knee-deep in mud and their clothes are all wet, but it doesn’t matter,” Julie adds.

The family spent several days last year on a camping trip to Yankton, South Dakota. More often, however, the family spends long summer weekends at Two Rivers State Recreation Area in Waterloo, Nebraska. Although it is only a 30-minute drive, the couple says it is the perfect distance from home.

“One thing that always amazes the kids is how much they can see once they get out of the lights of town. How much more brilliant the stars are,” Ransom says.

When everyone feels cooped up in the house, and the kids are bickering with one another, the short escape does a lot of good for their family.

“You get them out to the campsite for two-three days and they don’t have anything to fight about anymore,” Ransom says. “They have to rely on each other. They get along with each other.”

Ransom has been camping for as long as he can remember.

He introduced Julie to the leisure activity when they were dating. While they started out with a two-person tent, they’ve accumulated quite the camping haul.

Over the years, they’ve built up a supply of two 10-person tents, a couple of smaller tents, a canoe, and many pieces of cooking equipment. Their supplies range from coffee pots, to coolers, to Dutch ovens.

Most of the time, their camping meals consist of burgers, sandwiches, or hot dogs. Other times the family eats fruit, or chips and other junk food.

“It kind of just depends on how much planning and preparation is involved,” Julie says. “Sometimes we just grab what’s in the cupboard and go.”

The spontaneity, Julie says, is what makes the trips so memorable.

“The kids can be sitting, reading, and then they see something,” Ransom adds. “And all of the sudden they’re off to investigate whatever leaf blew by, or whatever it may be.”

Much of the children’s love for nature can be attributed to their respective involvement in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

The couple started their son young by not only signing him up for Cub Scouts while he was in the first grade, but serving as the group leaders for a few years. Their son, now 19, participated in Boy Scouts, working his way through the ranks to earn the title of Eagle Scout.

The two younger girls, ages 9 and 11, have been involved with Girl Scouts from a young age. Julie helps out as a co-leader with both troupes.

“It’s important,” Ransom says. “It lets kids explore so many different things … in scouting you can touch on everything from cooking and sewing to rock climbing, robotics, and 50-mile hikes.”

Ransom himself was a Boy Scout. From the parents’ perspective, their kids’ involvement in the programs has been a crucial part of their growing up.

“It teaches them responsibility to the community and to the family,” Ransom says.

The Boy Scouts troop the Johnsons’ son attended camped 11 times per year—sometimes more. Beginning in the fifth grade, they took an annual week-long camping trip to Camp Geiger near St. Joseph, Missouri. There, the boys would stay in tents and earn merit badges.

The Girl Scouts also have the opportunity for an annual overnight wilderness experience where they stay overnight, hike, shoot archery, and take in the nature.

“It’s really about slowing down,” Julie says. “When we’re hustling and we’re talking, we miss seeing the deer or the wild turkey. I try and encourage the girls to just be observers of nature.”

It is plain to see where the love for outdoors stems from in the Johnson family. All the family members appreciate the little moments in the camping, hiking, and memories made on their highly anticipated summer adventures.

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of Family Guide.

l-r: Ella, 11, and Grace, 9, spend quality time in their family tent.

Southwest Escape

April 7, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

We’re creatures of habit. We live and breathe routine, and for the most part, we are comfortable in our ways. We’re busy. We think ahead. We worry. We wonder. We drive to work and run errands. Once in a while, however, we stop for a moment and realize that we need a break.

What happens when we decide to escape from routine? If only for two weeks? The possibilities are infinite. Omaha Magazine’s creative director, Bill Sitzmann, and his family of four know this firsthand. Sitzmann, his wife, and their two kids (ages 5 and 9) packed up their Subaru Outback in early June 2016 and hit the road with no specific destination in mind, rather a region: the Great American Southwest.

“We knew when we needed to leave and we knew when we needed to be back,” Sitzmann says. “My dad lives in Tucson, so we knew we wanted to go there and see him. But other than that, we just picked the general areas we wanted to hit.”

The Sitzmann family rolled out of Omaha, looking forward to the two-week camping adventure ahead. Sitzmann says that the trip was exciting from a parental standpoint because, while he was accustomed to teaching his kids things that he already knew, they were headed into uncharted territory for the whole family.

“For all four of us to experience it for the first time, all at the same time, was pretty cool,” Sitzmann says, recalling their two weeks of close quarters on the road.

Driving from Omaha, their stops ranged from Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado to the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

They discovered beautiful, lightly populated trails and campsites by venturing off the beaten path. The family decided to stop by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado, chosen by Sitzmann on a whim, based solely on pictures that he’d seen of the place.

Surrounded by trees with no spectacular view in sight, the drive into the park had them questioning their sanity. But the side trip turned out to be one of the more rewarding outdoor destinations for the family when they walked along a trail at sunset and stumbled upon a massive canyon nearly 100 yards away from their campsite. As they looked around, they realized that they had the hidden gem all to themselves. Sitzmann made a point to wake up at sunrise the next morning for coffee with a view.

They hit a total of 10 national parks over the course of their 3,200-mile journey across the rugged Southwest of the United States. The region is home to countless national parks, along with myriad monuments and historic sites, offering unlimited variations to the ultimate family road trip.

In the Southwest, several National Parks are located in close enough proximity that more than one could be visited in a single day. The natural formations of the land might be close in location, but tend to differ greatly when it comes to their visual appeal.

In Utah, the impressive forest of tall, narrow eroded rock at Bryce Canyon National Park is less than 90 minutes from Zion National Park—where massive cliffs, gaping canyons, sparkling streams, and waterfalls can be seen. Those two parks alone could make a day of adventure (or a week of discovery) for visitors.

 “I think it’s important to have that long-term period with your family,” Sitzmann says. “Most of us, we talk about providing for our family—and that’s what we think our main job is. You teach [your kids] that you can provide and work hard, but there are other things in life that we miss and that we kind of lose touch with over the years.”

The family was able to disconnect from social media, spend the evenings under the stars, and chase the sunrise each morning.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Not every moment was saturated with unexpected beauty. One night, they couldn’t find an open campground, so they camped directly under a fluorescent light in an RV park. But that was a learning experience, in its own way.

Sitzmann’s son turned 9 on the road and received a pocketknife from his father as a right of passage into the world of responsibility.

Road trips to the Southwest have occupied a pivotal point in the lives of many. For my own family, the Southwest was the basis for two unforgettable road trips. The first journey, my parents took in their 20s before having kids. The second, they undertook with seven children in tow (four years ago).

Unlike the Sitzmanns, the Smith crew rolled out of Omaha in 15-passenger rental van. Our approach to the itinerary was more regimented and less laissez faire. We hit the road with all lodging booked. While the Sitzmanns cooked on campfires all along the way, we munched on endless amounts of processed snacks packed into the van.

My dad drove, my mom blogged, and the seven of us kids—ages 5 to 19—bonded in the backseats singing songs, playing games, and marveling at the changing colors and landscapes that we had never seen before.

Over the course of the 3,259 miles that we drove, we spent 10 days in five different states. We grew closer as we conquered new territories. We mastered packing and unpacking the car in a matter of minutes; white-water rafted in Colorado; played cards by the campfire at night in Utah; and came up with silly inside jokes that we remember today.

While there are countless ways to make a road trip through the Southwest, the adventure is unlike any other. Experiencing the purity and the simplicity of the landscape, joined by the people you love, is an indescribable experience. It is an opportunity that doesn’t come around often.

My parents had wanted to go on family road trip to the Southwest ever since their own trip some 20 years prior. It was a right of passage for our family as a unit, because my eldest sister had just graduated high school and the youngest was about to start kindergarten.

As we begin graduating from college, these sorts of road trips will become increasingly difficult to coordinate. So, to seize the moment, we are now in the midst of planning another massive family road trip.

The Smith Family’s Southwest Itinerary (10 days):

From Omaha, we drove through Colorado and landed in Utah where we visited: Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park. We then continued to head south where we hit Arizona and visited the Grand Canyon National Park and Lake Powell. We headed back up north where we made an impulsive stop at the Four Corners, then carried onto Mesa Verde National Park and the city of Durango in Colorado. Then, we returned to Omaha.

The Sitzmann Family’s Southwest Itinerary (14 days): 

From Omaha, they headed to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. From there, they went to New Mexico where they visited Carson National Forest and White Sands National Monument. They continued onward to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park and Antelope Canyon in Arizona, and then went back up to Utah to hit Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. The family made their way back through Colorado, where they visited the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park before they returned to Omaha.

Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.