Tag Archives: Anthony Flott

Gifts of Life

January 4, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

To describe life with cystic fibrosis, Dan Gerdes starts by talking about a frog. Specifically, a frog put into a pot of water that’s slowly brought to a boil.

“It creeps up on you,” Gerdes says. “You just get slowly and slowly sicker and sicker and you never realize how far you’ve come from point A.”

For Gerdes, point A came when he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a baby. Back then, his mother could dislodge the mucus collecting in his lungs by cupping her hand and patting his back. As the disease advanced, Gerdes had to use a long-handled percussor, then a vest that inflated to force loose the thick substance blocking his airways.

The water grew warm, then hot.

Gerdes had to use inhalants. The mucus collected in his stomach, requiring medicine to aid digestion. It attacked his pancreas, and Gerdes became diabetic at age 15. Infections that rooted in his lungs forced occasional hospital stays. By 2012, Gerdes was taking antibiotics intravenously every other week and enduring hour-and-a-half long treatments three to four times a day. He was coughing up more than a liter of mucus each day.

The disease ravaged his body, then his spirit.

“At first, I was pretty positive. I was involved in all kinds of sports and stuff. I wasn’t going to let it beat me,” Gerdes says. “But as it got worse and worse, it got darker and darker. Like to the point where I just felt worthless because I couldn’t contribute anything.”

The water was nearing a boil. Gerdes was dying.

The only way he could live, though, was if somebody else died. Gerdes needed that person’s lungs to replace his own diseased ones.

This life-saving exchange happens quite often. In the United States, 34,770 organ transplants were performed in 2017 (244 of those in Nebraska) according to Nebraska Organ Recovery.

Dr. Alan Langnas, a transplant surgeon at Nebraska Medicine and director of the Center of Transplantation for the University of Nebraska Medical Center, has performed more than 1,000 liver transplants in his 30-plus-year career. With each operation, he is mindful of the deep sacrifice that made it possible.

“At the end of the day, what makes this incredibly special is the deceased donor and families making difficult decisions at a difficult time,” Langnas says. “Or living donors making donations and willing to lay on an operating table and give people an organ for someone they don’t know.”

Currently, more than 114,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant—400-plus in Nebraska. This year, more than 7,000 of them will die.

Gerdes is among the fortunate. His story, and others, illustrate the good that can come from grief, life from death.

Lungs for Dan Gerdes

Gerdes was dying, but he kept telling himself that “I was not that bad.” So when doctors in 2014 told him he needed a lung transplant, “It kind of broadsided me.”

His reaction after that might surprise some.

“For a long time I told myself that I never wanted to get a transplant because of that really dark aspect of my life that I just thought…I wasn’t producing anything with my life,” Gerdes says. “That I didn’t deserve it.”

But during yet another hospital stay, Nebraska Medicine doctors convinced him to begin the long process of testing to see if he was a viable recipient candidate. On Aug. 4, 2016—Gerdes’ 27th birthday—he was put on a waiting list for a set of lungs.

Just five days later, he was called to the hospital—new lungs were waiting for him. The transplant was successful. Today, Gerdes breathes easy. “It’s night and day,” Gerdes says. “There’s really no comparison. I don’t have to do those treatments, and I have more energy than I ever did since I was a child.”

It was the loss of someone else’s child—Bryan Clauson—that gave him life. An IndyCar driver, Clauson died from injuries sustained during a national midget car dirt track race in Kansas. He died at Bryan Medical Centre in Lincoln, Nebraska. He was 27.

Gerdes first heard of Clauson a few days after his transplant. A friend had learned of Clauson’s death and organ donation. He called Gerdes to ask if he now had “race car driver lungs.”

“I thought he was kind of trolling me,” Gerdes says. “I hadn’t heard anything about Bryan Clauson.”

Soon thereafter, Clauson’s family wrote an introductory letter to Gerdes. But Gerdes’ mother, in the hecticness of the operation and a move to Bellevue to be closer to her son, misplaced the unopened letter. She found it about a year later. Gerdes read it on Dec. 24, 2017. The next day, Christmas morning, he sent a Facebook message to Clauson’s father, Tim. Four months later, Gerdes met the Clausons at a charity walk in Bellevue.

“It was kind of nerve-wracking to an extent, because the event still I struggle with,” Gerdes says. “How do you tell somebody thank-you that has given you your entire life back but at the same time it was somebody they loved an extreme amount? It’s really hard to tell them thank-you enough.”

He thanked them in part simply by breathing. A nurse who had been with Clauson at his death also was at the reunion. She brought the stethoscope used to listen to Clauson’s heart and lungs during his final moments. Clauson’s family used it to listen to Bryan’s lungs pumping strong and steady in Gerdes.

“One of the first things I explained to them is how it sounded really clear,” Gerdes says. “Before that my cystic fibrosis lungs would have sounded like a lot of cracking and popping.”

It was the sound of life.

Bryan Clauson’s Family

Life changed irrevocably for Diana Clauson and her family the day her son, Bryan, died. “You just sit there and it’s stuck in your face a lot, death in general,” she says. “Especially when you’re not prepared.”

That said, the Clausons have talked frequently about how different—in a worse way—their lives would be had Bryan had not been an organ donor.

“As tragic and as devastated we were as a family, when we left that hospital knowing he was going to help five lives continue, that was this little light at the end of a very, very dark tunnel. I think what turned my corner was just knowing that he was able to help these people continue their life. Otherwise, I think I’d still be in a pretty dark place.”

The Clausons since have devoted themselves to turning Bryan’s selfless act into thousands of other selfless acts as they encourage others to become organ and tissue donors. His sister, Taylor, now works for the Indiana Donor Network, which started the organization Driven2SaveLives to promote organ donations as a partnership with IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson (whose brother, Justin Wilson, died in a racing accident in 2015). Bryan was the second driver honored through the program. His parents have also become active advocates for organ donation and often speak at races and other events.

They’ve been wildly successful, too. In the two years since Bryan’s death they’ve had more than 8,000 people sign up to become donors—a huge number in the industry.

Really, though, the Clausons only needed one life saved to have realized healing from the tragedy of Bryan’s death. That came with their first encounter with one of the five people who received one of Bryan’s organs, Dan Alexander of Papillion.

“It was pretty overwhelming,” Diana Clauson says. “Hearing Brian’s heart beating again…that was probably the best part of it all.”

A Heart for Dan Alexander

Dan Alexander, heart recipient

A retired lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army Signal Corps and a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Dan Alexander has a particular fondness for the military credo, “Leave No Man Behind.”

Bryan Clauson, Alexander says, did just that:

“I told Bryan’s dad, ‘Every breath I take, I try to honor Bryan for what he did.’ He did not leave me behind. He could have. He could have not checked that box. But he didn’t. He’s my hero.”

Alexander, who was physically fit, had needed a new heart since July 2013, when he suffered a massive heart attack. “What some people call a widow maker,” he says. The medical team fought four hours to keep him alive. Three times, his heart stopped. When he awoke from a coma 10 days later, he was told it was a miracle.

Another miracle was to come.

Alexander lived for nearly three years with his heart regulated by a left ventricular assist device. He also was put on the waiting list for a new heart. On Aug. 9, 2016, Alexander got the call—it was time to get a new heart. The surgery went well and his recovery has been “incredibly good.” He was out of the hospital in nine days and has not been back for a stay since.

He’s also become a racing car fan.

Clauson’s family first met Alexander in April 2017 at Alexander’s house. An ESPN film crew was on hand to document the moment. Diana Clauson listened to her son’s heartbeat inside what until then was a stranger.

“Incredibly beautiful. Satisfying. Lots of tears of joy,” says Alexander, 65. “There were a lot of stories told that afternoon. What I took away from that day is we’re committed to each other.”

Living Organ Donors & Kidney Chains

Sue Venteicher, kidney donor

Gerdes’ worry that he wasn’t worthy of a transplant echoes in what people asked Sue Venteicher when they learned she was giving up one of her kidneys—to a stranger.

“I’ve had people ask me, ‘What if you found out it went to someone who was in prison?’” Venteicher says. “I said, ‘So they should be in pain and their family should have to worry about them dying?’ One person is not more important than another person.”

Venteicher sparked donations impacting not just one person, but 18. In February 2016, she was part of the largest living-donor kidney transplant chain in Nebraska history. A kidney chain matches donors with compatible recipients. Venteicher started the chain when she decided to donate her kidney in memory of a friend’s son who had died from kidney failure. Nine patients received kidneys from nine living donors over five days of surgeries at Nebraska Medicine.

Venteicher, a wife, mother of seven, and grandmother, was home two days after the surgery and felt fully recovered within two months. “In some ways, I’m healthier than I was two years ago,” says Venteicher, who recently retired after a long nursing career. She hates water but drinks more of it than ever to make sure her one kidney filters efficiently. She’s lost 20 pounds. “I think I appreciate my body a little bit more.”

So does Dennis Molfese of Bennet, Nebraska—the man who received Venteicher’s kidney. Molfese had been on a kidney transplant waiting list for more than three years. But he was running out of time. Molfese’s kidney was functioning at 4 percent. His blood pressure was running 240/180. If he didn’t die from kidney failure, it could have come from a devastating stroke.

Molfese’s friend, David Hansen, offered his kidney, but was not a match. In stepped Venteicher.

“She is my hero,” Molfese says. “An incredibly selfless individual who literally put her life on the line for someone else. In Susan’s case, I was a stranger, not even a name. Just someone in need of a special part of her body that she decided to give away, even at the risk of her own life.”

Hansen’s kidney went to another recipient in the 18-person chain. The 18 donors/recipients met five months after the transplants. Molfese and Venteicher didn’t get to speak a lot that day, which included a press conference and perhaps 200 or more family members in attendance. “I was thrilled to see he looked so well,” Venteicher recalls.

Molfese already had written a letter to Venteicher. “He wrote that the hardest thing about being sick was to look into his wife’s eyes and see the pain and the worry and concern every single day. Now, since he had his kidney, he sees nothing but joy in his wife and excitement for the future.”

They’ve become friends. When Molfese received an award related to his work as a neuropsychologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he invited Venteicher to the ceremony. She sat with his family.

“Without Susan, I definitely would not have been alive to be nominated or to receive such a once-in-a-lifetime honor,” Molfese says.

The Gift That Keeps Giving

Cindy Schabow, heart recipient

Cindy Schabow missed out on her cruise, but she would have missed out on a lot more had she not received a heart transplant in May 1987.

Her own heart had been slowly dying since 1981 when it was weakened by a virus. The damage was discovered while she was pregnant. Schabow gave birth to a daughter and lived with relatively stable health for the next five years. “I continued to work and live life and take some medicine but really didn’t think much about it,” she says.

But then her heart began to weaken, requiring a pacemaker. That went well for about a year before her heart became enlarged and sicker. Her cardiologist said she needed a new heart.

“I said, ‘We’re going on a cruise this summer, and when I get back we’ll talk about it,’” Schabow recalls. “She said, ‘You will die by the end of the summer if you don’t get a new heart.’

“The idea of a heart transplant was so beyond anything I ever thought about. That got my attention.”

On Memorial Day 1987, Schabow flew to Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston to wait to have the procedure. But she grew sicker and sicker. She was put into ICU. “I  could pretty much tell we were toward the end of the line,” she says. After eight weeks of waiting, Schabow was notified that a heart had been donated—and just in time.

“They told me I wouldn’t have lived for 24 hours without the transplant,” she says. “It was immediate joy. I’m going to get to live to see my daughter grow up. At the same time, profound sadness since I knew the only reason this could happen was someone lost somebody very precious to them and had made this amazing, generous decision to let me have this heart.”

The heart came from a 15-year-old Louisiana boy who had died in a swimming accident. “I didn’t find out much more than that,” Schabow says. She wrote the family on occasion but never heard back. When she reached 30 years with her heart, she decided to write again and let the donor’s family know the heart, amazingly, is still going strong. She did a bit of detective work and was able to connect with the donor’s sister.

They talked on the phone, texted, and became Facebook friends. They’re planning to meet one day soon.

“They were happy to hear a part of him still lives,” Schabow says. He was athletic and a talented football player, Schabow’s been told. He was friendly and outgoing.

He would be a middle-aged man now. Had he not donated his heart, he’d only be remembered by his family. Maybe a few friends.

Instead, after 31 years, he is still remembered as a hero across state lines in Nebraska. Schabow will never forget him. Neither will her daughter or grandchildren.

“I’m just very, very privileged to carry on his heart,” she says.


Organ Donor Reasons

One deceased organ donor can save up to eight lives. One tissue donor can improve the quality of life or save an additional 100 people. Nebraskans appreciate this. Research conducted by Nebraska Organ Recovery in fall 2016 indicated that 98 percent of Nebraskans support organ and tissue donation, but only about 56 percent of eligible Nebraskans are registered. Why aren’t more individuals registered?

Here are answers to some misunderstandings/misconceptions (provided by Nebraska Organ Recovery):

  • I’m too old to register/donate. Anyone 16 or older can register for deceased organ donation. There are no upper age restrictions.
  • I have a health issue that prevents me from registering/donating. There are no medical conditions that restrict someone from registering as a donor.
  • I’ve used illegal drugs and/or I smoke and drink alcohol regularly. Use of illegal drugs and excessive smoking or drinking does not disqualify someone from donating. Drinking and drug use can impact specific organs, but oftentimes other organs and tissues are still viable.
  • I can’t give blood, so I can’t donate. The majority of individuals who are restricted from giving blood can still donate organs and tissues.
  • I can’t afford donation. There is no cost to the donor’s family for donation.
  • I can’t have an open-casket funeral if I’m a donor. A viewing or open-casket funeral is almost always possible following donation. Surgical incisions are covered by clothing and great care is taken to ensure the donor’s appearance is as normal as possible.
  • I can only register at the DMV. Although the majority of individuals register while obtaining their driver’s license, anyone can register (or update their registry) online anytime at nedonation.org.

Living Donations

In 2017, 6,187 people in the United States were living donors. In Nebraska, a living donor must be at least 19 years old. There is no fee for an individual to be screened for living donation. To be screened for living donation in Nebraska, contact Nebraska Medicine at 800-401-4444 or 402-559-5000.

Below is a list of organs that can be donated, and the number of patients waiting for them in the United States and Nebraska (in parentheses):

  • Kidney: 102,701 (204)
  • Liver: 14,034 (152)
  • Pancreas: 903 (14)
  • Kidney/Pancreas: 1,669 (6)
  • Heart: 3,900 (58)
  • Lung: 1,458 (1)
  • Intestine: 248 (19)

Visit nedonation.org for more information.

This article was printed in the January/February 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.


Correction: the print edition of this article incorrectly attributed the creation of Driven2SaveLives to Bryan Clausen’s family and the Indiana Doctor Network. Although the Clausens are active with the organization, Bryan was the second IndyCar driver and organ donor to be honored through the program (not the first). Driven2SaveLives started as a partnership between the Indiana Donor Network and IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson after his brother, Justine Wilson, died in a racing accident in 2015. 

January/February 2019 Between the Lines

January 3, 2019 by
Photography by provided

Alicia Hollins Senior Sales Coordinator

Alicia has worked at Omaha Magazine for 11 years as Gil Cohen’s assistant. She is currently the senior sales coordinator, helping Gil with customer service, ad work, and sales. She loves the creative and collaborative atmosphere of magazine work. She also enjoys collaborating on house projects with her husband, Trevor. She is the president-elect of the Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart Alumnae Board and an active volunteer at Loveland Elementary. She enjoys researching her family tree, and has even received a certificate from Boston University in genealogical research. All of this happens while she is fielding an array of constant questions from her amazing 8-year-old, Logan.

 

Anthony FlottContributing Writer

Anthony fell in love with magazines in grade school when his carpenter father gave him a large box of old Sports Illustrated magazines found on a job site. Later, Anthony also worked in construction, laid asphalt, and cut trees for various family-owned enterprises. Eventually, he decided on a career where he could avoid physical exertion and workplaces equipped only with outhouses. He earned communication degrees from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and worked three years for the Papillion Times Newspaper Group. For 25 years since then, he’s been editor of the award-winning UNO Magazine. He’s also a widely published magazine freelance writer and has taught magazine editing and writing classes at UNO. He is married with four children.

 

Justine YoungEditorial Intern

Justine is a senior at UNO studying English, with a focus on creative nonfiction writing and absolutely no intention of becoming a teacher. Armed with a limited attention span, a fleeting passion for almost any subject, and a deep appreciation of ice cream, she hopes to one day write a great novel, or at the very least, a plethora of mediocre books. When she is not studying or visiting her family in rural Iowa, you can find her swing dancing, recruiting friends for a good old-fashioned game of bingo, or reading anything by Ann Patchett. Despite her Iowa roots, she considers Omaha home, and she works hard to convince locals that the word “bag” should be pronounced “beg.”

 

Megan FabryEditorial Intern

Megan is pursuing degrees in journalism and English at UNO. Born and raised in Omaha, this one-third of triplets spent much of her childhood hanging out with her other two-thirds, and their older brother. Megan graduated in 2014 from Millard West High School, where she was a copy editor for the yearbook. She is the arts and entertainment editor for UNO’s newspaper, The Gateway, and she hopes to continue contributing to the student-run publication until she graduates. In her spare time, Megan enjoys reading anything she can get her hands on, watching historical documentaries, and spending time with family.


This article was printed in the January/February 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

 

September/October 2018 Destinations

September 10, 2018 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

Aksarben Village

Run, don’t walk, to Aksarben Village this September and October. Then run. Or walk. At last count there were SEVEN run/walk fundraisers scheduled for the Village this fall. The lineup:

Sept. 8, 9-11 a.m.—Siena Francis House 5K Walk/Run.

Sept. 9, 8-11 a.m.—38th Omaha Corporate Cup 10K Run and 2 Mile Walk benefiting the American Lung Association.

Sept. 22, 5:30-8:30 p.m.—Light The Night benefit for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Sept. 29, 8-10 p.m.—Glow N’ Go 5K fundraiser for St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Oct. 6, 3 a.m. to 12 p.m.—Market to Market Relay, the largest day-long relay in the nation. Aksarben Village is the starting point—with 19 exchanges and 76 miles to follow.

Oct. 7, 7-11 a.m.—Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure at Baxter Arena honors those lost to breast cancer.

aksarbenvillage.com/calendar

Benson

Dying to take the stage and sing or strum…or both at the same time if you’re so talented? You can do this every Monday night starting at 7 p.m. at the 402 Arts Collective (6051 Maple St.). Amateur musicians can bring their instrument of choice, sign up, and play to an audience for up to 15 minutes. Who knows where that quarter-hour will take you? As 402 blogger Camryn Bowers wrote, “They are the bridge that fills the gap between playing alone in your bedroom and playing a sold-out show in a respected venue.” So get out of your bedroom and cross that bridge.

402artscollective.org  

Blackstone

Noli’s sister has moved into the Blackstone. Noli’s Pizzeria, that is. And we’re talking sister restaurant Ansel’s Pastrami & Bagels. Taking residence at Noli’s former residence, 4007 Farnam St., Ansel’s boasts bagels and bread made using the same filtration system that delivers the mineral content of New York water. The suggested pairing, as you might guess, is with the pastrami, though a half-dozen other sandwiches are also on the menu. In it for the bagels? Try one with lox and plain cream cheese for a true NYC experience.

anselsomaha.com  

Capitol District

More growth at the Capitol District is music to Omaha’s ears—literally. In May, developers announced more new businesses coming in 2018, including two that are musically inclined—Moe & Curley’s karaoke venue and The Jewell jazz club. Moe & Curly’s has already made a name for itself with its original West Omaha location where in-house DJs spin requests seven nights a week. It opened its Capitol location this summer. Owner Ben Heairet also is bringing Howard & Fine, a speakeasy featuring craft cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, to the Capitol District. Meanwhile, the high-end Jewell will bring major national acts to the district, as well as featuring local, emerging artists in an intimate setting. A cocktail lounge and fine dining will be available at The Jewell, accessible from the Marriott. It opens this fall. Also coming to Capitol in 2018 are eateries Época Cantina, a local venture, and national chain Burgerim.

capitoldistrictomaha.com  

Dundee

You think you know Dundee? You might think again after taking a walk with a history expert from the Nebraska Tour Co. through Omaha’s first suburb. The company’s Dundee District Walks begin at Memorial Park for the early birds, or at Pitch for the official start of the tour. From there, ramble through the district that boasts roots dating to 1880. Be sure to wear your walking shoes, as the tour can cover a total of 10 city blocks. Prices vary by group size and can be booked 24 hours in advance. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with Omaha
and its numerous unique neighborhoods. 

nebraskatourcompany.com  

Midtown

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is known for keeping things quiet during movies, but it’s hard to keep quiet about its big news—Alamo is coming to the heart of Midtown Crossing with its second Omaha location. Known for having a strict no-cell phone and no-talking policy when flicks are on the screen, Alamo will replace Marcus Cinema at 3201 Farnam St., Suite 6111, putting the previous digs under a $2.5 million renovation by the time of its expected opening in late 2018. Alamo will feature five screens, recliner seats, in-seat dining, and beers from local craft breweries. Based in Austin, Texas and heralded by Entertainment Weekly as “the best theater in the world,” Alamo opened its first metro-area theater in La Vista.

drafthouse.com/omaha  

NoDo

It’s been 35 years of scaring the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks out of people at Mystery Manor, which opens another scream-filled season Friday, Sept. 14. The haunted house (716 N. 18th St.), built in 1887, is said to be the site of three gruesome murders soon after the stock market crash of 1929. Owner William Hall, it’s claimed, axed his wife, Greta. Her brother, John Martin, then killed William with the same axe a week later. Soon thereafter, on Halloween, Martin was found dead with the axe embedded in his skull. Ghosts are said to reside at the manor to this day. Still want to go? If you’re still reading this, that’s probably a yes.

mysterymanoromaha.org  

Old Market

We didn’t think it was possible, but First Fridays in the Old Market have gotten better. First Fridays offers tours of Old Market galleries and artists and are held—surprise!—the first Friday of each month from 6-9 p.m. This round, that’s Sept. 7 and Oct. 5. But FFs are even better now with free parking (southwest corner of 13th & Leavenworth) and free Ollie the Trolley rides throughout the historic streets and district.

firstfridayoldmarket.com

Vinton Street

It’s a hop, skip, and a jump from the historic Vinton Street District, but you just might be hopping, skipping, and jumping with joy that you went the extra distance to visit nearby Bancroft Street Market. Located at 2702 S. 10th St., the one-time neighborhood grocery store is now a venue for art exhibitions, specialty markets, music, and performances. There’s plenty of room, too, with a 4,500-square-foot main gallery and a 15,000 square foot outdoor festival area.

bancroftstreetmarket.com 

24th and Lake

Lofty heights are being reached in the 24th and Lake District. And we’re literally talking lofts (and heights). In April, the Union for Contemporary Art revealed plans for its arts-based community development project, the Artist Lofts at Lake Street. The project is one of 89 National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town” projects selected nationwide and is being developed in collaboration with the Omaha Economic Development Corporation and the City of Omaha. The lofts, to be built on a vacant lot at 2221 Lake Street, would offer live/work spaces for artists.

u-ca.org/artist-lofts  


This article was printed in the September/October 2018 edition of Encounter. 

Encounter Destinations

July 18, 2018 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

AKSARBEN VILLAGE

Maha Music Festival (Aug. 17-18 at Stinson Park) marks 10 years in 2018, but the all-day, all-night music cornucopia is anything but stale and wheezy. In fact, it’s fresher than ever—and getting Weezer, who will just be coming off their summer tour. The popular band that cut its chops in the 1990s headlines Saturday night. Also taking the stage will be Father John Misty, TV on the Radio, The Kills, and more than a dozen other acts.

mahamusicfestival.com/2018 

Meanwhile, just getting its start in Aksarben Village is the High Vibe Festival, now on its second year. Omaha’s premier yoga, music, and plant-based food festival happens on Saturday, Aug. 11, and features a 5K run, live music, all-day yoga, conscious workshops, and “good vibes.”

highvibefestival.com 

BENSON

It’s back—but you’ll have to go yourself to see if it’s better than ever. We’re talking about Benson Days, the annual get down in downtown B-town set this year for July 28 and 29. The family-friendly summer festival will feature a pancake breakfast, parade, dozens of vendors, art, live music, children’s activities, and more. And back after a year off is The Indie: Scale the Benson Alps, a 5K/10K road race that takes runners past some of Benson’s hot spots. Perhaps best of all, you can feel good giving your green for all that fun—Benson Days proceeds support neighborhood projects.

bensondays.com 

BLACKSTONE

Know any Nebraska bars certified as a tequileria? If you said Mula in the Blackstone District (40th & Farnam streets), give yourself a pat on the back. Give yourself another if you know what a tequileria is. According to their website, such certification means at least 80 percent of a bar’s staff has studied the history, production, and regulation of tequila—from harvesting the agave plant in Jalisco fields to its fermentation and distillation. That means tequila tastiness for patrons in Old and New World styles. The dedication to perfection extends to Mula’s “street style” menu for lunch and dinner.

mulaomaha.com 

CAPITOL

Got an hour? Good. Use it to get to know your body—or really, everybody’s body—at the nationally touring exhibition Our Body: The Universe Within. The exhibit runs through
July 31 at 225 N. 12th St. Visitors get a look at the inner workings of human anatomy by presentation of actual human specimens, anatomical displays, reproductions of historic anatomical artwork, and more. If you’ve got the guts, you also have the opportunity to touch a human heart, kidney, liver, and brain. The self-guided tour is $15 per person, with discounts for
seniors, students, children, and military personnel.

ourbodyomaha.com  

DUNDEE

Like live music? What about a beer garden? Running? Food? Fun? Then the 18th annual Dundee Day is calling your name. This year’s Dundee Day is set for Saturday, Aug. 25, and begins with the traditional pancake breakfast, early morning Rundee 5K (undies encouraged), and a parade. There’s also an art fair, the Dundee Bank Street Olympics for kids, music from local bands, and a Memorial Park beer garden. Plenty of chow and vendors will be on hand, along with a farmers market.

dundee-memorialpark.org 

MIDTOWN

If no news is good news, does that mean some news is bad news? Not at Midtown Crossing, where there’s been lots of news. The good news is there’s a new place to please your palate, 5168 Brewing Taproom, now open at 3201 Farnam St. (Suite No. 6107). There’s a full lunch and dinner menu to complement 5168’s brews, long popular at the outfit’s original location in Lincoln.

5168brewing.com  

Other good news comes with the announcement of the lineup for Playing with Fire, Midtown’s free summer concert series. The 2018 lineup mixes local and international talent, rocking Turner Park with blues-rock, soul, funk, and R&B. The July 14 jam features five bands, including headliner Jack de Keyzer. On Aug. 25 another five bands kick it, with Paul Reddick Band bringing things to a crescendo.

playingwithfireomaha.net  

NODO

Typically, the Hot Shops Art Center has an open-door policy. The NoDo studio center is closed in June for repairs. But it’s open for business again beginning in July, with at least three events worthy of getting you down to 1301 Nicholas St.—the Mike Godek and Susan Woodford sculpture show, the Claire Caswell exhibit, and Interpretation, (a group show). Be patient, and you will be rewarded.

hotshopsartcenter.com 

OLD MARKET

Looking for something fresh to do in the Old Market? It doesn’t get much fresher than the Omaha Farmer’s Market. With roots going back nearly 100 years, its current incarnation is now celebrating its 25th year. They’ve been offering fresh, locally grown produce, baked goods, and flowers every year since 1994, doing so on 11th Street from Jackson to Howard streets, with nearly 100 vendors in attendance. Keep an eye out for new additions, including a biscuits-and-gravy booth. This market runs 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday through Oct. 13.

omahafarmersmarket.com  

VINTON STREET

Chances are, the name Louis Marcuzzo doesn’t ring a bell. Chances are, Louie M’s Burger Lust does. Consider this entry us ringing the dinner bell—and breakfast and lunch bells—for the iconic Vinton Street restaurant that dates it roots to the catering service Marcuzzo began in 1980. Today they serve breakfast and lunch seven days a week and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. The menu is extensive, showcasing, of course, burgers—nearly two dozen options are listed. But there are also starters, salads, and sandwiches, daily lunch specials, and a plethora of breakfast offerings guaranteed to start your day with a smile.

louiemsburgerlust.com 

24TH AND LAKE

All your future adventures in the 24th and Lake district should include a consideration of the past. And there’s no better place to do so than at the Great Plains Black History Museum at 2221 N. 24th St. For more than 40 years the museum has been preserving, celebrating, and educating visitors about the contributions and achievements of the region’s vibrant African-American heritage. Recent offerings include displays on the Tuskegee Airmen who called Nebraska home, a history of the Omaha chapter of the NAACP, and an exhibit on Nebraska football great Johnny Rodgers. More great looks into the past are coming…in the future.

gpblackhistorymuseum.org 


This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Encounter.