Tag Archives: Benson

2017 September/October Family & More

September 1, 2017 by
Photography by contributed

Canoe the Great Marsh, Through Sept. 30 at Fontenelle Forest, 1111 Bellevue Blvd. North. Canoe the wetlands and explore the great marsh and its amazing array of wildlife. Canoers can find beavers, owls, and much more. Recommended for ages 10 and up. Advanced registration required. 6-8 p.m. Wednesdays; 5:40-7:40 a.m. Saturdays. $5 for members, $15 for nonmembers. 402-731-3140.
fontenelleforest.org

Garden Yoga, Sundays in September at Joslyn Art Museum’s sculpture garden, 2200 Dodge St. Instructors from Omaha Yoga and Bodywork Center will guide people through basic poses to lengthen and strengthen the body and center the mind. In case of rain, this event will be held in  the fountain court. 10:30 a.m. $5 suggested donation. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

SeptemberFest, Sept. 1-4 at Century Link Center, 455 N. 10th St. The 40th annual SeptemberFest includes live music in the beer garden, a carnival, arts and crafts, food, a mobile game theater, a steak cook-off, and more. 5 p.m-midnight Friday; noon-midnight Saturday-Monday. Admission: $5 adults and children ages 6 and up, free for children 5 and under.
septemberfestomaha.org

Labor Day Weekend at Henry Doorly Zoo Sept. 2-4

Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 2-4 at Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. The zoo says goodbye to summer with bounce houses, airbrush tattoos, special animal presentations, and gate prizes. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $19.95 adults, $18.95 seniors (65+), $13.95 children (2-11), free for children 2 and under. $1 discount for military members and their families. 402-733-8400.
omahazoo.com

Chuck Berry: Hail Hail Rock and Roll, Sept. 3 at Film Streams, 1340 Mike Fahey St. A 1987 documentary featuring a concert to celebrate the 60th birthday of Chuck Berry, who died in March 2017. The film features performances from Linda Ronstadt, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Etta James, and Julian Lennon. 7 p.m. Tickets: $9 general admission; $7 for students, teachers, active military, and those arriving by bicycle. 402-933-0259.
filmstreams.org

46th Annual Art Fair, Sept. 9-10 at Rockbrook Village, 108th and Center streets. More than 140 national, regional, and local artists will display and sell their one-of-a-kind works of art. Spend the day browsing quality art and chatting with those who create and appreciate it. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: free. 402-390-0890.
rockbrookvillageartfair.com

Midtown Car Show at Midtown Crossing Sept. 10

Midtown Car Show, Sept. 10 in Turner Park at Midtown Crossing, 3110 Farnam St. The Midtown Car Show features the area’s finest one-of-a-kind cars in a show-and-shine format. Chicago Dawg House will serve grilled hot dogs and cold beverages in the park. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission: free—to show a car or attend. 402-934-9275.
midtowncrossing.com

Second Annual Food Truck Rodeo, Part 2, Sept. 15 outside of Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. This event includes 15-20 food trucks, a DJ, beer gardens, outdoor seating, and multiple outdoor bars. 4-11 p.m. Admission: Free. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com/events

Gifford Farm FALL Festival, Sept. 16 and 17 at 700 Camp Gifford Road, Bellevue. For a weekend of old-fashioned farm fun, this festival offers the Starlab Planetarium, exotic animals, pony rides, old-time vendors, raffles, and more. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: $5 for ages 2 and older, $2.50 for military personnel with ID. Pony rides are $5 extra. 402-332-5771.
gosarpy.com

Night Market Pop-up Festival, Sept. 22 at Turner Park in Midtown Crossing, 3110 Farnam St. Highlights of this event include a mini food festival, giant outdoor games, moonlight yoga, live music from local musicians, and 20+ local vendors. 6-10 p.m. Free for the public and dog-friendly. 402-943-9275.
midtowncrossing.com

26th Annual Fort Omaha Intertribal Powwow, Sept. 30 at Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha Campus, 5300 N. 30th St. This celebration of Native American culture honors the traditional dance, music, artistry, oral history, and foods of various tribes across Nebraska and the surrounding region. 1-7:30 p.m. Admission: free. 531-622-2253.
mccneb.edu

(EVENT CANCELLED) Omaha Ramen Fest, Oct. 1 at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village 2285 S. 67th St. This noodle fest will feature Omaha’s top chefs crafting traditional and creative bowls of the delectable Asian soup. There also will be local breweries serving beer and artists crafting colorful ceramic bowls for your ramen. 2-7 p.m. Admission: $5 (does not include food or drink). 402-496-1616.

T.J. Stiles will speak at Holland Performing Arts Oct. 3

Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities, Oct. 3 at the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner T.J. Stiles will speak at the 22nd annual governor’s lecture in the humanities. He will draw from his work on historical figures, such as General Armstrong Custer, to address Nebraska’s centrality to American history. 7:30 p.m. 402-474-2131.
humanitiesnebraska.org

Haunted Safari, Oct. 6 and 7 at Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari, 16404 N. 292 St. Take a hayrack ride down to Wolf Canyon to enjoy a hot dog supper, roast marshmallows, and play ghostly games for candies in the great outdoors during Haunted Safari. 6-9 p.m. Tickets: $23 general admission, $18 for zoo members. 402-738-2058.
wildlifesafaripark.com

Omaha Bug Symposium 2017, Oct. 7 at Midtown Art, 2578 Harney St. Dave Crane and Andy Matz deliver heart-pounding, mind-blowing entomological and microscopy lectures. Event includes musical entertainment, insect art and costume contests, and delicious edible insects. Refreshments provided. Admission: $5, age 21+ only.
facebook.com/omahabugsymposium

Japanese Ambience Festival, Oct. 7-8 at Laurtizen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. The Omaha Sister Cities Association helps host this event with a variety of activities to celebrate Japanese culture. Activities include calligraphy, origami, koinobori, traditional Japanese games, food tastings, and more. Performances will include martial arts demonstrations, traditional Japanese music, and dance. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for children under 6 and members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Planes, Trains, and Autos, Oct. 7-8 at Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, 28210 West Park Highway, Ashland. Guests are encouraged to come in costume and trick-or-treat at various stations while learning about various modes of transportation. The event will include five aircrafts, 20 unique muscle cars, and trains. Admission: $12 adults, $11 senior citizens and military with valid ID, $6 children (4-12), free for children 3 and under. 402-944-3100.
sacmuseum.org

Fall Chrysanthemum Show at Lauritzen Gardens, starting Oct. 7

Fall Chrysanthemum Show, Oct. 7-Nov. 17 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. Discover a fascinating fabrication of flowers. Bold mums combine with brilliant colors, rich fabrics, diverse textures, gifts from the people of Shizuoka to the people of Omaha, and other exotic design elements representative of Japanese culture. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for children under 6 and members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Night at the Museum, Oct. 21 at Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, 28210 West Park Highway. This event includes behind-the-scenes access to aircraft and robotics activities. The keynote speaker, astronaut Clayton Anderson, will speak at 5 p.m. 5-8 p.m. Admission: $12 adults, $11 senior citizens and military with valid ID, $6 children (4-12), free for children 3 and under.402-944-3100.
sacmuseum.org

HutchFest, Oct. 21 at Midtown Crossing, 3110 Farnam St. HutchFest is a celebration of Midwestern artisans. The event includes food, drinks, live music, and 100+ vendors, selling everything from homemade jewelry to elegant hand-designed stationary to beard balm. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $5 adults, free for children under 12. 402-926-6747.
hutchfest.co

Ghoulish Garden Adventure, Oct. 29 at Lauritzen Gardens 100 Bancroft St. Come to the garden in costume for the annual Ghoulish Garden Adventure. Explore the visitor and education centers, visit the gardens, and trick-or-treat at different activity stations. Noon-4 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for children under 6. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Haunted Houses

Camp Fear Haunted House at Riverwest Park opens Sept. 22

Omaha’s haunted houses deliver an array of thrills from the maze-like Mystery Manor to the Haunted Hollow Theme Park which is located on a seven-acre farm. Camp Fear is one of the most immersive and horrifying attractions in Nebraska. The organizers encourage only the bravest souls to camp overnight.
Camp Fear (Riverwest Park 23301 West Maple Road) Opens Sept. 22. dusk-10 p.m.Thursdays and Sundays; dusk-midnight Friday and Saturdays.
Carnival of Terror (1209 Jackson St.) Opens Sept. 22. 7-10 p.m. Thursday; 7 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.
Haunted Hollow Haunted Theme Park (12501 Giles Road) Opens Sept. 22. 7-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 7 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.
Mystery Manor (716 N. 18th St.) Opens Sept. 15. September: dusk-midnight Friday and Saturday only. October: dusk-10 p.m. weekdays, and dusk-midnight weekends.
Ranch of Terror (11001 S. 48th St.) Opens Sept. 23. 7:30-11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7:30-9:30 p.m. Sundays.
Scary Acres (17272 Giles Road) Opens Sept. 15. 7 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays in September; 7-10:30 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays-Thursdays; and 7 p.m.-12:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in October.

Pumpkin Patches and More:

Fall isn’t complete without a visit to at least one of the area’s many pumpkin patches. They offer many attractions such as corn mazes, hayrack rides, bonfires, scrumptious treats, giant jump pillows, spooky trails, and more.
Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch (11001 S. 48th St.) Opens Sept. 17. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Sundays.
Harvest Moon Farm (1410 US-77, Oakland, Nebraska) Opens Sept. 18. noon-6 p.m. Saturdays; noon-8 p.m. Sundays.
Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch (3935 NE-133, Blair, Nebraska) Opens Sept. 8. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays.
Wenninghoff’s Farm Pumpkin Patch (6707 Wenninghoff Road) Opens Sept. 23. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Vala’s Pumpkin Patch (12102 S. 180th St.) Opens Sept. 14. 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

**Event times and details may change. Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

Destinations

August 31, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

AKSARBEN VILLAGE

Everyone knows drinking beer is good for you, right? Turns out when you have a cold one, it’s good for others, too. You can prove that Sept. 7 at the 11th annual Brew Haha, supporting Habitat for Humanity of Omaha. Some of the Big O’s best breweries and restaurants will distribute samples from 5-9 p.m. in Aksarben’s Stinson Park. Tickets are $50 in advance, $60 day of event.
aksarbenvillage.com

BENSON

The pizza gods taketh and the pizza gods giveth. It didn’t take long for Benson pizza partisans to have that giant hole in their pizza-loving hearts filled after the March closing of longtime favorite Pizza Shoppe. Satisfying the void at 6056 Maple St. is Virtuoso, operated by David and Brenda Losole. If the surname founds familiar, it should—David is a member of the family that runs South O’s Lo Sole Mio restaurant. He knows Italian fare, but he really knows pizza as the only certified pizzaioli—pizza maker—in Nebraska to graduate from Tony Gemignani’s International School of Pizza. Virtuoso is promoted as Omaha’s sole artisan slice house—you can only get the stone-baked pizza by the slice.
facebook.com/virtuosopizza23

BLACKSTONE DISTRICT

Emerging as one of Omaha’s most popular street festivals, the Blackstone District’s Farnam Fest blows up the neighborhood Saturday, Sept. 16. The annual event celebrates the district, its patrons, and all the businesses that call it home. The fun starts at 11 a.m.—music at 4 p.m.—in the parking lot behind Mula at 3932 Farnam St. The 2017 slate features local and national acts, including Timmy Williams of the Whitest Kids U’ Know, Shannon and the Clams, White Mystery, Miwi La Lupa, and BOTH. Craft beers, food, and fun also on tap.
blackstonedistrict.com

CAPITOL DISTRICT

A place to park. A place to visit. A place to live. What a difference the change from spring to summer made in the Capitol District, which opened three facilities in June. First came the 500-stall parking garage along Capitol Street between 10th and 12th streets. Then the Capitol District Apartment models opened and pre-leasing began. The 218-unit structure offers tons of first-class amenities, including wicked views of Omaha. Finally, in July, the district’s anchor feature opened its doors—the 12-story, 333-room Omaha Marriott Downtown at the Capitol District.
capitoldistrictomaha.com

DUNDEE

Kevin Alexander knows burgers. That’s why thrillist.com sent the food and travel site’s “national burger critic” on a year-long odyssey to find the best beef between buns. He hit 30 cities and downed 330 burgers. Alexander’s stops included Omaha, where he crowned the cheeseburger at Dario’s Brasserie in Dundee as No. 1 in O-town. No wonder given the creation’s “salty-and-peppery outer crust,” Gruyère cheese, caramelized onions, and toasted bun. Don’t buy it? Go try it: Dario’s is at 4920 Underwood Ave.
dariosbrasserie.com

MIDTOWN CROSSING

“Night, the beloved. Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again.” Okay, chances are French novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wasn’t talking about the Turner Park Night Market when he wrote that. But Turner Park will come alive Sept. 22 when it hosts a mash-up of live music, games, a mini food festival, and arts, crafts, and produce vendors.
midtowncrossing.com

NODO

UPDATE: After the September/October issue went to press, the Stoned Meadow of Doom Fest moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

It will be a couple of really loud nights Sept. 29-30 at Slowdown for the second annual Stoned Meadow of Doom Fest. The name originated with a YouTube channel that features the world’s largest subscriber base for underground rock artists. But why stream when you can get it live? Stoned Meadow of Doom Fest will feature 26 independent, underground, and metal bands from across the United States. The lineup includes Bongripper, Cambrian Explosion, Telekinetic Yeti, Year of the Cobra, and others blasting away at Omaha’s premier music venue.
theslowdown.com

OLD MARKET

Nothing on the calendar for Sept. 1 or Oct. 6? Then book the Old Market’s First Friday art crawl right now. The free event is held 6-9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month and celebrates creativity with a visit to galleries and with artists. Get creative while exercising.
facebook.com/OmahaOldMarket

SOUTH OMAHA/VINTON STREET

The oracle has moved to Vinton Street. No, not that oracle (the one with billions). Rather, Oracle Art Supply, which opened shop at 1808 Vinton to provide artists of all levels and abilities everything they need to get their Bob Ross on. They also offer a book-lending library—with free checkout—and one-on-one customer service.
oracleartsupply.com

NORTH OMAHA/24TH & LAKE DISTRICT

Put on your walking shoes and take a trip down the historic “Street of Dreams” in the 24th and Lake District. The North 24th Street Walking Tours begin at 11 a.m. at Dreamland Park at 24th and Lizzie Robinson Drive. Hosted by Restoration Exchange Omaha, the tour features more than two dozen points of interest, including the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cornerstone Memorial, Love’s Jazz and Arts Center, the Carnation Ballroom, the Omaha Star, and plenty of other stops where history was made—and still is. Tour cost is $10 per person or $15 per couple.
restorationexchange.org

Battle for Benson

August 24, 2017 by
Photography by contributed

The community of Benson, maybe best known today as a hub for live music, craft beers, and trendy restaurants in north-central Omaha, marked a significant anniversary this summer—100 years since its annexation to the City of Omaha. This year also marks the 130th anniversary of the once-independent community’s establishment, a milestone celebrated during the July 29 Benson Days festivities.

Benson was initially founded by land speculator Erastus Benson as Benson Place in March 1887. Its annexation was one of many community takeovers by Omaha between 1915-1917 (including South Omaha, Dundee, and Florence) during an aggressive push by business leaders and public administrators, including Omaha Mayor James Dahlman, to grow the city and its tax coffers.

As with most annexations, the move to absorb Benson—whose borders were approximately 52nd Street to 72nd Street (east-west) and Pratt Street to Blondo Street (north-south)—was controversial and met with fear and anger by many homeowners and local businesses. Some of the residents, whose number was estimated to be about 5,000 in 1917, were not willing to lie down and let annexation happen without a fight. One notable opponent was Benson Mayor Ed Sorenson, who declared in March 1915, “I think that Benson has everything to gain by maintaining her independence…and we won’t be annexed unless we act on our own initiative.”

In January 1915, an estimated 120 people convened in Fireman’s Hall in Benson and passed a resolution against “forcible annexation.” Later that month, an angry group of residents converged on Benson City Hall to announce their intention to protest at the state level. Then on January 28, 1915, along with dozens of residents from other proposed-annexation communities, about 50 “Benson pilgrims” who opposed the action filled nine Burlington train cars and headed to the capitol in Lincoln to protest passage of the Howell Bill in the Nebraska Legislature. The bill allowed for Omaha’s unilateral annexation of neighboring communities, so long as they lie adjacent to current city boundaries, fall within Douglas County, and have fewer than 10,000 residents. The residents’ main fear: annexation would mean that needs for civic improvements and services in their community, situated on the far outskirts of Omaha, would be ignored
and suffer.

Sam Swanson, digital archivist with the Benson Historical Society, says this fear ushered in a rush of civic projects, including construction of a new combined fire station and city hall in late 1915. In the months that followed, road paving and grating work, and installation of water fountains and new ornamental street lights, were also completed. “[Benson civic leaders] passed bonds and spent as much money as they could, fearful the city would not make the improvements,” Swanson says. By completing the improvements ahead of annexation, they’d also be able to incur debt they could then pass onto the city.

Many in Benson’s business community were in favor of annexation. The Benson Commercial Club, headed by Benson Times publisher E.M. Jacobberger, sent a committee of four to advocate for the Howell Bill during a hearing. They also sent a petition to the legislature bearing 64 names of businessmen and representative citizens of the town in favor of the move, citing it as a “progressive measure” and “to the benefit of the great majority of the people.” At the same time, many members condemned the “force feature of the bill” and spoke about their preference to have the annexation happen only with “the consent and will of the people.”

One factor working in opponents’ favor was that a narrow tract of unincorporated land separated the city limits of Benson and Omaha. This territory, made up of Elmwood Park District and Clontarf Precinct, made Benson exempt from annexation, according to rules stated in the initial Howell Bill. To opponents’ dismay, in March 1915 the state senate municipal affairs committee attached a provision to the bill, allowing Omaha to annex municipalities that lie within two-thirds of a mile of Greater Omaha. The strip of land just a few blocks wide was no longer considered the buffer that protected them.

In the end, the Howell Bill was passed in the Nebraska senate and signed into law by Governor Keith Neville in March 1917, and Benson, along with Florence, was unilaterally annexed to the City of Omaha without Benson residents ever having a vote in the matter. Initially planned to take effect in late May, the city made a small concession at the request of the board of education to postpone official annexation until June 5, 1917, after graduation ceremonies at schools in Florence and Benson could be held.

In the years that followed annexation, Benson flourished, building a strong business district, as well as robust residential market offering many affordable housing options. “Maple Street became the core of the central business district, with family-owned shops, doctors’ offices, a lumber yard…” Swanson says. “And Benson had a mix of blue-collar workers and professionals, and seven churches.”

Krug Park, an amusement park on North 52nd Street in Benson, became a popular destination for Omaha families seeking a day of fun. And a host of neighborhood parks and schools, including Benson High School, made the neighborhood attractive to young families.

The 1980s and 1990s brought more challenges to Benson, as many commercial buildings and public areas began to show their age and fall into disrepair. Efforts to reinvigorate Benson Business Improvement District, which was established by the City of Omaha in 1977, got a jumpstart in 2010 and again in 2015 with a $1.3 million investment in a streetscape project that involved replacing curbs, widening sidewalks, adding traffic-calming devices, and installing safety lighting in alleys. Also added downtown were sidewalk benches, landscaping, and a street bicycle corral, the only one of its kind in Nebraska.

Sarah Johnson, owner of Omaha Bicycle Company at 6015 Maple St., which opened in 2012, is enthusiastic about of all the civic improvements made in recent years. (She spent a year on the BID board herself.) She’s also optimistic about Benson’s future. So much so that she purchased her commercial building and moved to the neighborhood last year, settling just a few blocks from her shop. “I really appreciate that there are so many owner-operated businesses here, and that we can bounce ideas off each other. There’s a neat sense of community. I also love the walkability of the area, and the fact that I can ride my bike to work. I’m hoping to stay for a while.”

Johnson says she takes advantage of Benson’s lively entertainment district, often enjoying First Fridays art walks, various music events at the Waiting Room and Reverb Lounge, and evenings at the Benson Brewery. “There’s so much to do, I feel spoiled. I love it here now.”

Liz Moldenhauer, vice president of the Benson Neighborhood Association, says the organization meets nine to 10 times annually, looking for ways to make life better for the 13,000 households that call Benson home. “We have about 300 members in the association, but it’s really a core group of committed local residents who are always working to make positive change in the area.

“We’re working to make sure services are provided such as trash pickup, addressing code violations, and asking for more citizen patrol and bike patrol services to deter crime. And we’re now using a City of Omaha mobile app to report issues like potholes and graffiti. That has been very popular and effective.” The association also uses the Next Door app, Twitter, and a Facebook page to communicate concerns and happenings with residents.

Moldenhauer says the association has raised funds for the renovation of several Benson public parks, as well as worked to expand participation in community events. “There are a bunch of events we sponsor, from Benson Days to the Benson Boo Bash every October, to spring cleanup, for which we partner with Keep Omaha Beautiful.”

The biggest testament to Benson’s revitalization is the return of families to the area, she says. “When I moved back to Benson 11 years ago, there weren’t as many kids on my street. Now I see lots of kids. Houses are selling fast. That’s an identifier of a strong neighborhood.”

Just as it was a century ago, Benson is a family-friendly community on the rise.

Visit bensonneighbors.org for more information. Archival news sources about Benson are available online at the Omaha Public Library (omahalibrary.org).

The original Benson Methodist Church in 1901, with Benson Central School in the background on 63rd and Maple streets

Weird Is Good

July 14, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Since transplanting from Pennsylvania nearly a decade ago, Christopher Vaughn Couse has made the observation that Omaha is downright weird—but in a good way.

From the hipster-laden streets of Benson to the apex of West Omaha’s suburbs, where cul-de-sacs meet cornfields—and of course there’s our friendly local billionaire, Mr. Buffett, who you may just spot snacking on a Dilly Bar—Couse is right: There’s no place like Homaha. As an artist, to pay homage to all the things that make Omaha, well, Omaha, Couse painted a simple black-and-white design with text that reads “Keep Omaha Good Weird.” It was part of Benson First Friday’s Tiny Mural Project.

“It’s about celebrating the city’s diversity and everyone’s willingness to embrace others for doing their own thing,” Couse says. Of course, it’s also a mix of the almost-revoked Nebraska mantra, “The Good Life,” and the “Keep Austin/Portland Weird” slogans.

If you’ve walked the streets of Benson or Dundee, stopped in at one of the latest oh-so-trendy and oh-so-healthy Eat Fit Go restaurants, or are familiar with the Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s “We Don’t Coast” campaign, you’ve likely seen Couse’s work. He may not be a Nebraska native, but with roots firmly planted in this city, his work as a freelancer, photographer, and illustrator seems to be sprouting up everywhere.

And that’s pretty darn good for a self-described “art school dropout.” It took just two years of classes in the art photography program at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania for Couse to discover he needed to try a different path —and eventually a different city—to forge his career. Determined to utilize his keen eye and knack for creative styling as a professional artist, he knew it was time to move on from the world of lectures and syllabi when a professor told him art photography was a dead-end job.

“Just like that, tuition money became payments for nicer photography equipment,” Couse says.

Just because Couse was done with school didn’t mean he was done with education. He took his lack of professional training as a chance to personally develop his craft and began learning new mediums.

While he had been taking photographs since his teen years, the next evolution of his artistry came when he began combining his shots with handwritten notes to make collages. Then came illustrating and painting, then printmaking, and even working on zines. One glance at his Instagram, @christography, and you could argue he’s made social media his next canvas.

“I delve into different genres of art, figure out what I like, and begin incorporating these aesthetics into my own work,” Couse says. “I’ll admit, I have a bad problem of not sticking with one thing and instead trying to tackle a lot of things.”

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any similarities across mediums. Stylistically, his work is usually filled with color, idiosyncratic humor, and his emotions as each piece reflects what he was feeling when it was created. Thematically, he regularly combines text with imagery, and he’s often inspired by the conversations, people, and the city surrounding him.

For one of his most popular series, a combination of party gossip and local lore inspired him. Shortly after moving, he heard boozed-up friends describing metro movers and shakers as “Omaha Famous.” Using his love for pop culture, he decided to borrow this phrase and started illustrating portraits of actual famous people who were born in Omaha. Perhaps nowhere else will you find a collection that includes the likes of activist Malcolm X, President Gerald R. Ford, and Lady Gaga’s ex and “cool Nebraska guy” Lüc Carl. There’s even a coloring book available online, so you too can shade the mugs of Conor Oberst and Marlon Brando for only $4.

“What I love about Omaha—and why it inspires me—is it has a small-town feel but in a big-city atmosphere. I haven’t found that elsewhere,” Couse says.

Couse has further made an impact in the community through his creative freelance work. Often collaborating with branding agency Secret Penguin, he’s helped design packaging for Eat Fit Go, design signs for Flagship Commons, and developed promotional material for
“We Don’t Coast.”

As if all that combined with balancing a full-time retail job and playing daddy to a newborn wasn’t enough, he also preps collections of his work to show at local galleries, with a recent exhibit at Harney Street Gallery.

“I’m always searching for ways I can do better in life, better in my craft,” Couse says.

With Omaha and all of its oddities keeping him so busy, art projects get done when he can find the time. If one makes him a sweet penny, then great. If not, that’s A-OK with Couse, too.

“My end goal is to have fun and inspire other people to create things,” Couse says. “It’s not complicated. I just hope my art makes people smile for even a second.”

And there’s nothing downright weird about that at all.

Visit christophervaughncouse.com for more information.

This article appears in the July/August 2017 edition of Encounter.

Christopher Couse

Destinations

July 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in the July/August 2017 edition of Encounter.

AKSARBEN VILLAGE

Like music? Of course you do—you’re cool. That’s why you’ll want to boogie woogie to Aksarben Village (67th and Center streets) for the Saturdays @ Stinson Concert Series that began in May and runs on most Saturdays into August. The lineup includes the Confidentials (July 8), Hi-Fi Hangover (July 22), The ’70s Band (July 29), Jimmy Buffett Tribute (Aug. 5), and the Personics (Aug. 12).

aksarbenvillage.com/event

BENSON

The Waiting Room Lounge is takin’ it to the streets—and hometown favorite Conor Oberst will be among those helping the Benson rock club hit the pavement as it marks 10 years offering all sorts of jammage. The Waiting Room (6212 Maple St.) earlier this spring announced the launch of a new outdoor concert series on nearly an entire city block that can host up to 3K music lovers. Oberst takes the stage July 13 with Big Thief (just four days after another native son, Matthew Sweet, hosts the second of two shows inside the Waiting Room). Also playing street music are Blue October (June 24) and Fleet Foxes (Sept. 29).

waitingroomlounge.com

BLACKSTONE DISTRICT

Finally, something for those of us who love running—and beer. Scriptown Brewing Company (3922 Farnam St.) hosts the Scriptown Running Club every Thursday. Runners meet in the tasting room at 6 p.m. then toodle their way to the nearby Field Club Trail for a stretch of the legs. Then it’s back to Scriptown for a discounted pint. Oh, and those who get hungry can run down the street to Noli’s Pizzeria (4001 Farnam St.)—it has moved into new digs (with a new oven) at the corner of 40th and Farnam streets.

scriptownbrewing.com

nolispizzeria.com

CAPITOL DISTRICT

Imagine that you and a special someone meet at DJ’s Dugout (1003 Capitol Ave.). Imagine you hit it off and book a second date at Local Beer, Patio and Kitchen (902 Dodge St.). Now imagine things get serious, and the two of you start having a regular date night at Nosh Restaurant and Wine Lounge (1006 Dodge St.) where, one day, the two of you get engaged. Imagine you host your wedding at One Thousand Dodge (1002 Dodge St.). No imagination is needed, though, to know all this can happen right in the ever-emerging Capitol District.

capitoldistrictomaha.com

DUNDEE

Dundee denizens have something to get giddy about with a new project from the Giddings Group of Augusta, Georgia. A real estate development firm, Giddings has started construction on a 283-multi-family-unit apartment building rising along 46th Street between Dodge and California streets. The project is named “The Duke” similar to other apartment complexes Giddings has built in Nashville, Tennessee, and Victoria, Texas. The Dundee Duke is expected to open in 2018.

MIDTOWN CROSSING

There’s proof that Midtown Crossing is better than ever. Namely, Proof, a new upscale lounge specializing in a generous whiskey selection and craft cocktails. Proof opened in May in the former Grane space (120 S. 31st Ave., Suite 5105) They weren’t the new kids on the block very long, though. In June, Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings also opened in the Grane space (Suite 5103). In addition to their signature fare, the family owned business offers a specialty sandwich popular in Western New York—“Beef on Weck” sandwiches—thinly sliced roast beef steeped in au jus and served on a kummelweck roll.

midtowncrossing.com

NODO

Omaha Fashion Week celebrates 10 years Aug. 21-26 at the Omaha Design Center (1502 Cuming St.). Thirty-three designers will showcase their work on the runways. SAC Federal Credit Union will award nightly prizes of $500 to the designer with top scores for the evening. As part of the anniversary celebration Friday, Aug. 25, previous designers have been invited back for a special show that features curated collections representing each year of Omaha Fashion Week’s history highlighting the most iconic looks to hit the catwalk as well as some fan favorites.

omahafashionweek.com

Yes, there are good things in Lincoln, Nebraska. But one of those—Zipline Brewing—is now in Omaha, too, with a newly opened taproom (721 N. 14th St.).

ziplinebrewing.com

OLD MARKET

Finally, delivery is in sight for a new venture in the former postal building at 10th and Pierce streets. Work is slated to begin this summer on Tenth Street Market, positioning itself as a year-round indoor market offering fresh food and goods from all-local vendors, plus places to shop, eat, drink, learn, and meet. The market is expected to open by fall 2018.

tenthstreetmarket.org

SOUTH OMAHA/
VINTON STREET

How did they roll back when the Vinton Street Historic District was becoming—historic?  With bowling balls, of course. And they still do at Chop’s Bowling (13th and Vinton streets) and ICC Bowlatorium (24th and Bancroft streets). The former starts a 26-week Thursday night league Sept. 21. But if you want a spot, get signed up now. The latter is enjoying a retro renovation that gives the Catholic church-owned alley a look much like it had in the 1950s—when things really were rolling.

chopsbowl.com
bowlatorium.com

NORTH OMAHA/
24TH & LAKE DISTRICT

Just as there was no better place to catch early jazz than in Omaha’s 24th and Lake District, there’s no better place to catch the evolution of jazz—with hip-hop and soul—than at Love’s Jazz and Art Center (2510 N. 24th St.). The center offers live music July 15 with Sidewalk Chalk, a Chicago group offering “powerful vocals over dope electric horns and beats.” Time to jump in the Lake.

ljac.org

2017 July/August Family & More

Farmers Markets

Gardening season is open in Omaha, and those desiring to eat fresh produce without digging in the dirt themselves will find plenty of options around the area. Along with produce, shoppers will find artisan cheeses, farm-raised meats, freshly baked breads, assorted treats, and even craft items.

  • Aksarben Village (67th and Center streets): 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays.
  • Benson (4343 N. 52nd St.): 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays.
  • Council Bluffs (Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs): 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Thursdays.
  • Gifford Park (33rd and California streets): 5-8 p.m. Fridays.
  • Florence Mill (9102 N. 30th St.): 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays.
  • Old Market (11th and Jackson streets): 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays.
  • Papillion (Washington Street and Lincoln Road): 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays.
  • Rockbrook Village (2800 S. 110th Court): 4-7 p.m. Thursdays.
  • Village Pointe (168th and Dodge streets): 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Free Movies

Get out of the living room and into the fresh summer air to watch popular movies. Bring a blanket or lawn chair, sit back, and relax. All movies start at dusk.

  • Flix at the Chef (Behind Dairy Chef in Elkhorn, 3223 N. 204th St.): Saturdays July 8 and Aug. 12 Popcorn provided, other snacks can be purchased.
  • Midtown Crossing (Turner Park, 3110 Farnam St.): Mondays through July 31. Popcorn available.
  • Movies in the Park (Bayliss Park, 100 Pearl St., Council Bluffs): Fridays through Aug. 4.  Pack your own snacks.
  • SumTur Amphitheater (11691 S. 108th St.): Saturdays through Aug. 11. Concessions can be bought.

Patio Pup Crawl: Second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at Midtown Crossing at Turner Park, 3333 Farnam St. Bring your dog and hop around the patios of Cantina Laredo, Crave, and Black Oak Grill. Each night will be hosted by a different dog-centric organization in Omaha. Win prizes, enjoy drink and food specials, and more. 6-9 p.m. 402-598-9676.
midtowncrossing.com

Red, White, and Zoo! July 1-4 at Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St. Celebrate Independence Day with the red, white, and blue creatures of Omaha’s zoo. Throughout the holiday weekend, visitors can “parade” through the zoo on a self-guided tour in search of red, white, and blue animals. There will be entertainment, including bounce houses, music, and special animal encounters for all ages. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $19.95 adults, $18.95 seniors (65+), $13.95 children (3-11), free to age 2 and under. $1 discount for military with valid ID. 402-773-8401.
omahazoo.com

Summer Splash: July 1 at ESU No. 3 Gifford Farm Education Center, 700 Camp Gifford Road. Bring a picnic lunch, visit with farm animals, learn, explore, and splash into the summer season in the farm-made splash area. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Admission: $5 per person (ages 2+), military, fire and rescue, and health professionals are half price with work I.D. 402-597-4920.
esu3.org

Ralston Fourth of July Festival: July 4 at Independence Square, 77th and Main streets. One of the biggest Fourth of July celebrations in the metro area features a run/walk, quilt show, children’s parade, live music, a full-scale parade, fire department water fights, and much more. Admission: free, but entry fees required for some activities. Fun run: 7:50 a.m., kids parade: 10 a.m., full scale parade: 1 p.m. 402-339-7737.
ralstonareachamber.org

Brew at the Zoo: July 15 at Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St. Guests aged 21 and over can stroll through the zoo and sample unique brews from dozens of local breweries, as well as a selection of locally produced wines. Spend your night with live music, food, and games as well as seeing the animals. 8-11 p.m. Reservations required. $65 general admission, $55 for members. 402-773-8401.
omahazoo.com

The Color Run Omaha: July 15 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St. The “Happiest 5K on the Planet” is an un-timed race that celebrates healthiness, happiness, and individuality. The Color 2017 Dream World Tour features an all-new cloud foam zone, inspirational dream wall, and giant unicorns. 8 a.m.-noon. Registration: $40 per person for teams, $45 for individual runners, $15 for participants ages 5 and under, free entry for non-participants ages 5 and under.
thecolorrun.com 

Railroad Days: July 15-16 at various locations. This hands-on, family-friendly celebration of trains will take place at Lauritzen Gardens, The Durham Museum, RailsWest Railroad Museum, Union Pacific Railroad Museum, and the Historic General Dodge House. Transportation between the venues included with admission, which is $15 for a family pass (limit 2 adults). 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 402-444-5071.
omaharailroaddays.com

RiverFest: July 21-22 at Haworth Park, 2502 Payne Drive, Bellevue. This regional festival that attracts over 30,000 attendees involves live music, a beer garden, kids zone, fireworks, helicopter rides, a state champion barbecue competition, and more. Admission: $1. 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m. 402-898-3000.
bellevuenebraska.com

Victory Fighting Championship 58: July 22 at Baxter Arena, 2425 S. 67th St. VFC is back at Baxter Arena with 15 pro and amateur mixed martial arts fights. The event is also live-streamed on UFC Fight Pass. 7 p.m. Tickets: $30-$75. 800-745-3000.
victoryfighter.com

Nebraska Highway 66 Concourse Classic: July 22-23 at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, 28210 W. Park Highway, Ashland. Vintage and collectible cars, hot rods, and motorcycles from the 1930s on will be displayed among the historic aircraft. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $12 adults; $11 senior citizens, active military, and veterans; $6 children (4-12); free for children (3 and under). 402-944-3100.
sacmuseum.org

Harry Potter Drive-in Movie Night: July 23 at Falconwood Park, Bellevue. The adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s popular children’s novel will be open to families and will feature food trucks and a concession stand. Movie starts at dusk. Admission per vehicle: $7 (one person), $14 (two people), $20 (three+ people). 402-210-4747.
eventbrite.com

Night Market Pop-up Festival: July 28 at Turner Park in Midtown Crossing, 3110 Farnam St. Midtown Crossing is excited to bring this first-of-its-kind event to Omaha. Highlights include a mini food festival, giant outdoor games, moonlight yoga, live music from local musicians, and 20-plus local vendors. Free to the public and dog-friendly. 6-10 p.m.
midtowncrossing.com

FishFest Omaha: July 28-30 at Falconwood Park, 905 Allied Road, Bellevue. Aside from the national artists’ performances, Nebraska’s largest Christian music festival will feature a bonfire worship service; drive-in movie; camping for tents, RVs, and glampers; 11 large inflatables; a variety of recreational activities (badminton and volleyball courts); and more. Times vary. Tickets: $35-$169. 402-422-1600.
fishfestomaha.com

Benson Days 130: July 29 in Benson, 5916 Maple St. This one-day, family friendly festival will commemorate Benson’s 130th anniversary and its creative culture. Activities include a pancake breakfast, parade, street festival featuring dozens of vendors, live music, children’s activities, and more. Pancake breakfast at 8 a.m., parade and street festival at 10 a.m. Admission: free.
bensondays.com

Native Omaha Days: July 31-Aug. 7 at various locations on 24th Street from Fort to Burdette streets. People from around the country will gather in North Omaha for this 21st biennial celebration. Enjoy traditional events, such as gospel night, along with new events: a food, arts, and culture expo and a community line dance. Times vary. Admission: free. 402-346-2300.
oedc.info

New American Arts Festival: Aug. 4 in Benson, Military Ave at Maple Street. Celebrating the arts, ideas, and cultures of Omaha’s refugee and immigrant communities. Workshops, performances, art displays, artist vendors, food vendors, music, interaction, and more will be provided. Workshops 4-7 p.m., artist’s market 5-10 p.m., stage performances 7-11 p.m. Free. 402-203-5488.
bensonfirstfriday.com

Family Fun Carnival: Aug. 5 at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, 28210 W. Park Highway, Ashland. The carnival will feature make-and-take activities, games, a science demonstration from the Mad Scientist, a spacewalk, face-painting, and balloon animals. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission: $12 adults; $11 senior citizens, active/retired/veteran military; $6 children (4-12); free for children (3 and under). 402-944-3100.
sacmuseum.org

Root Beer Float Day: Aug. 5 at The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. Celebrate this national day with a free 8-ounce root beer float while learning about the history of soda jerks and experiencing how travelers enjoyed the soda fountain, which dates back to 1931, while passing through Union Station. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission to the museum: $11 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $7 children (3-12), free for children under 3. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

Nebraska Balloon and Wine Festival: Aug. 11-12 at Coventry Campus, south of 204th and Q streets. Watch hot air balloon launches and glows. Enjoy Nebraska wines, Midwest food, area musicians, shopping, crafts, pony rides, and more. Friday 5-11 p.m., Saturday 3-11 p.m. $10 general admission, $7 for children under 12, free for children 5 and under. 402-346-8003.
showofficeonline.com

Sweet Corn Festival: Aug. 12-13 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. This annual festival celebrates Nebraska’s agricultural jewel through a variety of food, activities, and entertainment, including: sweet corn ice cream samples from Ted and Wally’s, a hayrack ride, live music, cooking demonstrations, corny children’s crafts, and more. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for members and children under 6. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Greek Festival: Aug. 18-20 at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, 602 Park Ave. Taste homemade Greek cuisine, experience authentic Greek music and culture with folk dancing in full Greek dress, and more family fun. Children can enjoy face painting, balloons, and more. Friday 5-11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m. General admission: $3. 402-345-7103.
stjohnsgreekorthodox.org

Yoga in the Aquarium: Aug. 19, 20, 26, 27 at Henry Doorly Zoo, 3701 S. 10th St. Bring your own yoga mat, water bottle, and other necessary equipment for the yoga class inside the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium. 9-10 a.m. Pre-registration is required. Admission, which includes the class and zoo entrance, is $20 for members, $22 for non-members. 402-733-8400.
omahazoo.com

Omaha Fashion Week: Aug. 21-26 at Omaha Design Center, 1502 Cuming St. The nation’s fifth largest fashion event supports more independent fashion designers than any other organization in the region. Omaha Fashion Week nurtures the youngest of fashion designers by providing mentoring, educational opportunities, and a professional platform for designers to showcase and sell their work. 6-10 p.m. Tickets: $40-$80. 402-937-1061.
omahafashionweek.com

Millard Days: Aug. 22-27 at Andersen Park, 136th and Q streets. What started as a barbecue in the park in 1964 is now a week full of activities, including a parade, carnival, beer garden, live music, horse shows, and more. Times vary. General admission: free. Carnival admission: $25. 402-679-5258.
millarddays.com

Runway Wrap Up: Aug. 25 at Omaha Design Center, 1502 Cuming St. This unique fashion show features bold and daring designs that incorporate condoms to increase community awareness of HIV. A benefit for the Nebraska Aids Project. 10:30 p.m. Admission: $20 adults, $15 students, and $50 for VIP tickets. 402-552-9260.
nap.org

Dundee Day: Aug. 26 at the Dundee neighborhood, 50th Street and Underwood Avenue. The day includes the Rundee 5K through the Memorial Park neighborhood, a pancake tent, a parade, live music from local bands, and a beer garden in Memorial Park. Local vendors and a farmers market will be open all day. Free. 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. 678-873-4591.
dundee-memorialpark.org

The Great Nebraska Beer Fest: Aug. 26 at Werner Park, 128th St. and Highway 370, Papillion. The Great Nebraska Beer Fest has a premise of education and brand awareness. It encourages attendees to interact with brewers and reps while tasting to learn about their brands and stories. This festival is a celebration of American Craft Beer with a spotlight on Nebraska and regional breweries. 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Admission: $40 advanced, $50 day of, $10 for designated drivers, free for kids under 16. 402-934-7100.
greatnebraskabeerfest.com

Hanuman High Vibe Festival: Aug. 26 at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, 2285 S. 67th St. A celebration of high vibrational living, this event will be Nebraska’s first yoga, music, and plant-based food festival. The day will begin with a 5K run, followed by yoga classes, meditation sessions, Warrior Wheels rides, Ayurveda workshops, juicing seminars, and mindful living talks. 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Check website for admission. 402-496-1616.
aksarbenvillage.com


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. Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

Florence and the Political Machine

May 10, 2017 by
Photography by Provided by Douglas County Historical Society

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Omaha’s annexation of Florence—the historic and scenic riverfront community on the far northeast reaches of our city. The milestone warrants a look back at this contentious time in Florence’s history, when its rapidly rising southern neighbor unapologetically gobbled up the settlement despite the objections of many residents.

Why Annex Florence?

It helps to understand a bit of the community’s history. Best known as the site of Winter Quarters, the settlement for thousands of Mormon pioneers making their way West during the 1840s, Florence became a “city” in 1855 when Iowa businessman James C. Mitchell and his surveying team platted the land and officially incorporated.

Florence Kilbourn was the namesake of Florence, though her lineage is unclear. She has been referred to as the adopted niece of Mitchell’s wife or the granddaughter of Mitchell’s wife (depending on the historical account).

Mitchell recognized the busy frontier town’s big potential due to its convenient proximity to the Missouri River and frequent ferry service. The river’s narrow profile—at just 300 yards—and its solid-rock bottom just east of Florence also made it the most natural place to build a future bridge.

In the 1860s and ’70s, Florence grew into a bustling, young city. Early industry included a flour mill, brick manufacturing plant, lumber sawmill, and blacksmith shop, to name a few. Its population swelled well above 3,000, and its economy boomed.

Ana Somers, research specialist at the Douglas County Historical Society, says pressure for Omaha to annex surrounding municipalities really began in 1910 with the Greater Omaha Proclamation. “This was a direct response to the growth crises of 1910 that created a need to annex neighboring towns and villages,” Somers says.

But by early 1915, despite high tax levies, Florence began finding it fiscally difficult to meet community needs. Business leaders in Florence began fearing for the financial solvency of the city moving forward. At the same time, Omaha was building a strong reputation as a Midwestern hub of business and industry. Most members of the Omaha Commercial Club, an organization of area business owners and leaders, became proponents of Florence’s annexation for the “great savings to the taxpayers” it would provide through reduced redundancies in government, and they claimed such action would “provide residents with more benefits, not fewer.”

With the Merger Bill of 1915, the State of Nebraska passed a controversial law allowing Omaha to annex neighboring communities unilaterally, providing these areas lie adjacent to current city boundaries, are situated within Douglas County, and have fewer than 10,000 residents.

A legal battle followed, with representatives from Dundee and South Omaha opposing the decision. Omaha was poised to annex Florence, but lawsuits to the Nebraska Supreme Court left the possibility in limbo.

Some in Florence, fearing taxation without representation, were convinced to join the pro-annexation cause after being assured they would have a Florence representative in city government. The Omaha Commercial Club appointed a committee to explore annexation further, then held a public meeting in January 1916. According to newspaper accounts, 76 in attendance voted in favor, while only nine voted against it. Although the club had hoped to complete annexation by the May 1916 election, it took more than a year longer for it to come to fruition.

Even train cars full of anti-annexation protestors from Florence, Benson, South Omaha and elsewhere flooding the state capitol in Lincoln during hearings could not kill the law. The fight dragged on for two years, until Feb. 14, 1917, when the Nebraska Supreme Court finally dismissed a lawsuit on behalf of the once-independent Dundee.

Confirmation of the new law was a welcome development to then-mayor of Omaha James Dahlman, or “Cowboy Jim,” as he was called, who saw it as a prime opportunity for his administration to grow the city quickly and gain tax revenue. The law allowed for the huge expansion of Omaha later that year with the annexation of Florence and Benson on June 6, 1917, while sealing the fate of South Omaha and Dundee.

According to an article in the Omaha World-Herald dated June 10, 1917, city officials reported the annexation of Florence and Benson expanded the city to 38 square miles. For reference, the present-day City of Omaha occupies roughly 127 square miles (according to the U.S. Census in 2010). Boundaries of the former City of Florence had been Read Street, 40th Street, Florence Heights Boulevard, and the Missouri River.

During subsequent years, the annexation law has been nicknamed “Omaha’s secret weapon,” allowing for continual expansion of its city limits, year after year.

The Dissenters

Not all of Florence was convinced annexation was the best option. Among those in opposition: Florence’s mayor, Freeman Tucker, was concerned for the “political integrity of the village.” He vowed to take his fight against annexation all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (though he never did). Another dissenter was Dr. Carr, a prominent local dentist and investor who feared that annexation would reduce the likelihood that Florence would be the site of a promised river bridge, says Rosemary Allen, a longtime member of the Florence Historical Foundation.

“There were concerns about a lot of promises [made by the city] not being delivered on, including security and safety services, such as a rescue squad. And, in fact, a lot was promised but never materialized,” Allen says.

“As I recall, the citizens of Florence didn’t end up having much to say about it all. It was just sort of pushed through. It was a very contentious thing,” she explains. “I do know there were a lot of residents who weren’t happy about it one bit, with some public meetings almost erupting into fist fights. And even years later, there were those that remained bitter about it.”

Allen says residents of Florence were also fearful that annexation would mean the loss of the community’s identity and important history. And in fact, through the years, many of the historic structures from its pioneer town days fell to ruin from neglect, fire, or normal decay.

Years later, it became the mission of the Florence Historical Foundation to keep its historic sites alive and maintain community pride—a mission the foundation has found great success with, preserving many historic landmarks, including the Fire Barn, Keirle House, Depot Museum, Bank of Florence, and Mormon Bridge Toll House. The foundation coordinates the annual Florence Days every May as well as other entertainment and holiday events.

The independently restored Florence Mill and another community group, Florence Futures, also collaborate on community and heritage initiatives. The neighborhood on North 30th Street has witnessed an uptick in activity in recent years, thanks in part to a lively restaurant scene. Blooming flowers (planted by the Northern Lights Garden Club) accent the booming streetscape.

The North Omaha Commercial Club—no relation to the historic Omaha Commercial Club that advocated for Florence’s annexation—is one of Omaha’s oldest civic groups, where Florence business owners meet regularly to discuss ways to keep the corridor alive and thriving. All celebrate the small-town and family-friendly feel of this unique river city community.

Despite being in the shadow of the Big O for nearly a century, Florence maintains an identity and appeal all its own.

Florence Days takes place on the second full weekend of May, with a parade Saturday. Visit historicflorence.org for more information. Archival resources provided by the Omaha Public Library archives of the Omaha World-Herald (omahalibrary.org) and the Douglas County Historical Society (douglascohistory.org).

This article printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Destinations

May 5, 2017 by

AKSARBEN VILLAGE

Every spring, everyone in Aksarben Village gets a spring in their step. No wonder, given all the walks and runs that take place there in spring and summer. Beginning in May that includes the Aim for the Cure Melanoma Walk (May 6), Great Strides Cystic Fibrosis Walk (May 20), Glow ‘N Go 5K (June 2) and Relay for Life (July 15). Walk—or run—to aksarbenvillage.com for details. Oh, and get ready for lots of fresh veggies. Aksarben hosts its first every-Saturday Omaha Farmers Market of the season May 7.

BENSON

The second annual all-ages Memorial Day Massive music festival will be held May 27 outside The Waiting Room (6212 Maple St.) MDM showcases national acts specializing in danceable, electronic music, ranging from hip-hop to trap to “vomitstep,” an EDM subgenre created by Snails, the headliner of the event, which also features performances by Boombox Cartel, ARMNHMR, and PRXZM. The outdoor show will be followed by after-parties at The Waiting Room and Reverb Lounge (6121 Military Ave.). Space Jesus, a psychedelic hip-hop producer/performer out of Brooklyn, will be at The Waiting Room’s all-ages show. Reverb is 21 and over only. The outdoor show is all-ages, unless you want to be a VIP, then you must be 21 to play. But no matter your age, you’d better bring your dancing shoes, because there’s no messing around here. These acts are here to make you move.

BLACKSTONE DISTRICT

What’s new in Blackstone? What isn’t. There are new hours at the Nite Owl, 3902 Farnam St. (5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-Thursday; 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday-Sunday ), a new tenant at 3906 Farnam St. (TSP Architects) and a new website for the district (blackstonedistrict.com).

CAPITOL DISTRICT

Shamrock Development is closer to making a reality of the Capitol District, an expanse stretching from the Riverfront west and north-south from NoDo to Leavenworth. The space, anchored by the Omaha Marriott Downtown, will feature mixed-use buildings and lots of open space. It’s a concept similar to Lincoln’s Railyard—including, Shamrock hopes, open-carry alcohol wherever visitors go.

DUNDEE

The future still looks bright for a public-private partnership that will bring the past back to Dundee—a $1.6 million project to restore the historic Sunken Gardens along Happy Hollow Boulevard. What is known to locals as “The Sunks” is envisioned to be a safe community green space with a formal garden in the center, a sledding zone, open sports field, and more. Organizers say they’ve met all their quarterly fundraising goals. See drawings and more at omahasunkengardens.org.

MIDTOWN CROSSING

Nature hates a void—and it didn’t go over so well in Midtown Crossing, either. Fortunately for Midtowners, the void left by the sudden closing of Brix didn’t take long to get filled. Longtime Omaha restaurateur Ron Samuelson indicated the spot will be filled by Della Costa, a seafood-inspired Mediterranean concept featuring dishes from the coasts of Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, and Greece. “It opens up a whole new range of opportunity for oysters, clams, and whole-grilled fish,” Samuelson
told midtowncrossing.com.

NODO

This is Omaha, right? Yup. But soon, a taste of Lincoln is coming NoDo’s way. Lincoln-based Zipline Brewing Co. is expected to open a tap room where the Saddle Creek Shop once was, between Film Streams and Slowdown. And it will be bigger than either of the places they have down in Huskerville. Boo-yah.

OLD MARKET

You know those little baby carrots don’t grow that way, right? Get the good stuff— and gobs of other fresh, locally grown produce — when the 23rd annual Omaha Farmers Market kicks off May 6. Hosted 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday through Oct. 14, OFM includes baked goods, flowers, and more as nearly 100 vendors fill 11th Street from Jackson to Howard streets. See the lineup at omahafarmersmarket.com/old-market.

SOUTH OMAHA/
VINTON STREET

Project Project might be a nonprofit, but in February it was all about the green stuff for the independent, DIY contemporary arts space in the historic Vinton Street Business District. Green slime, that is. Project Project was host to Omaha Slime Fest, a fundraiser for Omaha Zine Fest. The former featured several unique competitions, the winners of which were dumped with buckets of slime a la Nickelodeon. Find out more about Project Project on Facebook or at projectprojectomaha.com.

NORTH OMAHA/
24TH & LAKE DISTRICT

Many of Nebraska’s best athletes began their dreams in and around “The Street of Dreams,” Omaha’s 24th and Lake Street area. Now, many of those famous athletes can be seen at the Omaha Rockets Kanteen Restaurant, named after a one-time Omaha baseball squad. The eatery (2401 Lizzie Robinson Ave.) pays homage to the Negro Leagues and is home to the Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame. Owner Donald Curry partnered with Black Hall co-founders Robert Faulkner and Ernest Britt so that the Kanteen now showcases memorabilia of Omaha greats like Bob Gibson and Marlin Briscoe alongside Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson.

This article was printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Encounter.

2017 May/June Family & More

May 1, 2017 by and

Farmers Markets
Gardening season is open in Omaha, and those desiring to eat fresh produce without digging in the dirt themselves will find plenty of options around the area. Along with produce, shoppers will find artisan cheeses, farm-raised meats, freshly baked breads, assorted treats, and even craft items.

  • Aksarben Village (67th and Center streets): 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays starting May 7.
  • Benson (4343 N. 52nd St.): 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays starting May 6.
  • Council Bluffs (Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs): 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Thursdays starting May 4.
  • Gifford Park (33rd and California streets): 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Fridays starting June 3.
  • Florence Mill (9102 N. 30th St.): 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays starting June 4.
  • Old Market (11th and Jackson streets): 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays starting May 6.
  • Papillion (Washington St. and Lincoln Road): 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays starting May 31.
  • Village Pointe (168th and Dodge streets): 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays starting May 6.

Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder’s Weekend: May 5-7 at CenturyLinkCenter, 455 N. 10th St. Shareholders in the company created by Oracle of Omaha Warren Buffett can learn about their year’s earnings at this annual meeting, which brings thousands of people to Omaha from around the world. The weekend events include the “Invest in Yourself” 5K run on May 7, a bridge tournament, shopping at various stores associated with Berkshire Hathaway, and much more.
berkshirehathaway.com

Cinco de Mayo parade: May 6 along 24th St. from D to L streets. This dazzling parade—one of the largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the Midwest—features floats, marching bands, and more. Rain or shine. 9 a.m. Admission: free. info@cincodemayoomaha.com.
cincodemayoomaha.com

Renaissance Festival of Nebraska: May 6-7, 13-14 at Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Ranch, 11001 S. 48th St. Step back in time to the days of knights in shining armor with full contact sword play and equestrian jousting, six unique performance locations, 100+ costumed characters, and free make-and-take crafts for kids. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission: $13 adults, $8 children (12 and under). 402-331-5500.
renfestnebraska.com

SECOND Annual Food Truck Rodeo Spring Edition: May 20 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. The second annual Omaha Food Truck Rodeo will be held all day Saturday, giving attendees the entire day to sample the fine foods from local food trucks. There will be 15-20 food trucks, along with a DJ, beer garden, multiple outdoor bars, and outdoor seating on Military Avenue in Benson. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Free. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Celebrate CB: May 12-20 in Council Bluffs (various locations). Hop across the river for a full week of festivities. Opening night includes a free concert by Taxi Driver. The last day includes a parade followed by a day of music, kids’ activities, and a carnival. Friday’s big event, Barbecue in the Bluffs, has been chosen as one of 50 events for the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s Great American Cookout, which will inform and entertain people who enjoy learning more about barbecuing and grilling on all levels. 712-396-2494.
celebratecb.com

Vintage Market Days of Omaha: May 12-14 at Chance Ridge Event Center, 506 Skyline Road. This upscale, vintage-inspired market hosts more than 100 vendors with original art, antiques, handmade treasures, jewelry, and clothing. The event also includes live music and food trucks. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday/Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $10 Friday (early buying event); $5 Saturday/Sunday; free for children 12 and under. Tickets good for re-entry all weekend. 918-955-6215.
omaha.vintagemarketdays.com

Florence Days: May 13-14 in downtown Florence, 30th St. between State St. and I-680 N. This area, once its own town, was annexed by Omaha 100 years ago but still retains its own small-town feeling. Events held in conjunction with this festival include a parade, art displays, talks at the historic Florence Mill, a melodrama, and more. 402-451-4737.
historicflorence.org

An Evening with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson: May 15 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. During his lecture, the award-winning astrophysicist will answer questions from the audience and talk about topics in his new book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, which will also be given to each audience member. 7 p.m. Tickets: $65-$225. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Helicopter Day: May 27 at Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, 28210 West Park Highway. Visitors can watch while helicopters fly over the horizon and land right in front of them. Inside the museum, visitors can participate in a drone workshop and family-friendly activities. 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Admission: $12 adults; $11 senior citizens, active/retired/veteran military; $6 children (4-12); free for children (3 and under). 402-944-3100.
sacmuseum.org

Memorial Day Weekend: May 27-29 at Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St. The zoo will offer special entertainment, including bounce houses, airbrush tattoos, and animal presentations. The first 800 people to walk through the gates will receive a free patriotic gift. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $19.95 adults (ages 12 and older), $13.95 children (ages 3-11), free for members and children 2 and under. $1 discount for seniors (age 65 and older) or active military members and their children. 402-733-8400.
omahazoo.com

Taste of Omaha: June 2-4 at the Omaha riverfront. Omaha’s annual outdoor summer food event showcases outstanding restaurants, live entertainment, and family fun. Activities will take place daily at the Heartland of America Park, Lewis & Clark Landing, and River’s Edge Park. Times vary. Admission: free, but tickets must be purchased for food and carnival rides. 402-346-5412.
showofficeonline.com

Countryside Village Art Fair: June 3-4 at Countryside Village Shopping Center, 8722 Countryside Plaza. This fair showcases a mix of styles, perspectives, and media. The artwork selection inspires casual visitors to start art collections, and connoisseurs to add to existing collections. Established in 1969, the Countryside Village Art Fair is a cornerstone of the art world in Omaha. Admission: free. 402-391-2200.
countryside-village.com

Annual Veterans Appreciation Rally: June 4 at the North Omaha Airport, 11919 N. 72nd St. This family-friendly event features classic cars, motorcycles, and airplanes on display to honor veterans. Activities include raffles and skydiving shows. Airplanes begin flying at noon, weather permitting. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: free, but a $5 donation is requested. 402-714-4269.
facebook.com/heroesoftheheartlandfoundation

Omaha’s Ninth Annual Largest Pizza Review: June 6 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Pizza will be available from around 15 different restaurants for pizza lovers to sample and vote for their favorites. Judging will be conducted by Food & Spirits Magazine’s panel of judges, also featuring live music. A portion of proceeds go to scholarships for culinary students at the Institute for the Culinary Arts at Metro Community College. 6:30 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

St. Lucia Italian Festival: June 8-11 at Lewis & Clark Landing, 515 N. Riverfront Drive. Omaha’s Italian community celebrates Italian culture with this annual festival. Events include a bocce ball tournament, cannoli-eating contest, entertainment by the Santa Lucia festival band and others, and plenty of food. Admission: free, but tickets required for food and carnival rides. 5 p.m.-11 p.m. June 8, 5 p.m.-midnight June 9, noon-midnight June 10, and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. June 11. 402-342-6632
santaluciafestival.com

Omaha Beer Fest: June 9-10 at Horsemen’s Park, 6303 Q St. Hundreds of American craft beers, 80 breweries, live music, a homebrewer expo, VIP lounge, food vendors, contests, and more. Rain or shine. 5 p.m.-9 p.m. June 9 and 2 p.m.-7 p.m. June 10. Admission: general admission $35 in advance, $45 at the door; VIP $55 in advance, $65 at the door. Designated drivers pay $10 at the door. 402-731-2900.
omahabeerfest.com

Junkstock: June 9-11 at Sycamore Farms, 1150 River Road Dr. This three-day festival features vintage finds, unique antiques, and artisan food and goods. Help celebrate the fifth year of Junkstock, featuring more than 150 vendors and 15 food trucks, along with a variety of bands playing on the Junkstock Stage throughout the weekend. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $8 online, $10 at the gate, $20 for weekend pass, free for children (12 and under). 402-765-8651.
junkstock.com

Omaha Summer Arts Festival: June 9-11 along Farnam St. from 10th to 15th streets. The festival features 135 of the nation’s finest visual artists, a stage with continuous musical performances, a hands-on children’s fair, and a wide variety of food vendors. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. June 9 and 10, and 11a.m.-5 p.m. June 11. Admission: free. 402-345-5401.
summerarts.org

Sand in the City: June 9-11 at Baxter Arena, 2425 S. 67th St. On Friday, 12 corporate teams will compete to build extravagant sand sculptures. On Saturday and Sunday, visitors can vote for their favorite sculpture, build their own sandcastle, play in the kids’ zone, and hear live entertainment. All proceeds benefit the Nebraska Children’s Home Society. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. June 9, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. June 10, and 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. June 11. Admission: free. 402-451-0787.
sandinthecityomaha.com

College World Series Opening Day: June 16 at TD Ameritrade Park, 1200 Mike Fahey St. Before the series starts, come to the park for a day full of events, including team autograph sessions, practices, Olympic-style opening ceremonies, a concert, and fireworks. Times vary. Admission: free. 402-554-4422
cwsomaha.com

College World Series: June 17-27/28 at TD Ameritrade Park, 1200 Mike Fahey St. One of Omaha’s biggest traditions returns for the 67th time. Baseball fans of all ages can enjoy Fan Fest, a NCAA-sanctioned festival that includes giveaways, interactive games, and special appearances. Times and ticket prices vary. 402-554-4422
cwsomaha.com

Bank of the West Celebrates America 2017: June 30 at Memorial Park, 6605 Underwood Ave. Bring blankets or chairs and relax in the park while celebrating with thousands of others at the 27th annual pre-Fourth of July tradition—featuring a concert and fireworks show. This year’s headlining act is Kool and the Gang. Admission: free. 6 p.m.-10 p.m.
celebratesamerica.com


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. Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

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.