Tag Archives: Elmwood Park

100 Years Strong

August 7, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Bryant-Fisher family reunion celebrates an important milestone in 2017—its 100th anniversary. The three-day reunion event will conclude with a final day of festivities in Elmwood Park.

The “Dozens of Cousins,” named for the 12 branches of the prodigious African-American family, will gather in Omaha on Sunday, Aug. 13, to eat, converse, and renew bonds of kinship while reinvigorating ties to local neighborhood roots.

The first reunion was a picnic in 1917 held at Mandan Park in South Omaha, where family roots run deep. Mandan hosted the picnic for 74 years. Its trails, gardens, and river views offered scenic backdrops. The park is also near the family’s homestead at 15th Street and Berry Avenue, and Graceland Park Cemetery (where many relatives are buried).

The picnic, which goes on rain or shine, relocated to Carter Lake in the 1990s and has since gone to various locales. It is coming to Elmwood Park for the first time this year.

Hours before the picnic, a dawn fish fry kicks things off. With bellies full of fried food, the descendants of Emma Early head for a family worship service followed by the picnic.

Always present is a star-studded menu of from-scratch American comfort and soul food staples: ribs, fried chicken, lasagna, collard greens, black-eyed peas, mac and cheese, potato salad, and more.

The family’s different branches provide tents under which they set up their family feasts. Monique Henry belongs to the Gray tent and says everyone waits for her first cousin Danielle Nauden’s peach cobbler to arrive on the table.

The meals may be the highlight, but the day also includes games, foot races, a dance contest, and a pie/cake baking contest, which Henry says is mainly for the teenagers. The baking contest garners between 20 and 50 entries, depending on the size of the reunion.

Competitions are an intense part of the picnic gathering.

Film-television actress Gabrielle Union, the star of hit BET drama Being Mary Jane, is a descendant who grew up with the reunions. She understands what’s at stake.

“Having a chance to compete against your cousins in front of your family is huge,” Union says. “Some top athletes are in our family, so the races are like the Olympics. Each section of the family is like a country sending their best athletes. You trained for it.”

Union vividly recalls her most memorable race: “I wore my hair in braids but tucked under a cap. I won the race, and then somebody shouted, ‘That’s a boy,” thinking this fast little dynamo couldn’t possibly have been a girl, and I whipped off my cap like, ‘I’m a girl!’”

Although the large family has expanded and dispersed across Omaha and nationwide—and descendants of Emma Early Bryant-Fisher now number in the thousands—the picnic has remained in Omaha the second Sunday of August as a perennial ties-that-bind feast.

Union returns as her schedule allows. The actress grew up in northeast Omaha, attending St. Benedict the Moor. She often visited relatives in South O, where the home of matriarch Emma (a street is named after her) remained in the family.

Union introduced NBA superstar husband Dwyane Wade to the reunion last year. “It was important for me for Dwyane to come experience it,” she says. “No one I know has a family reunion of the scale, scope, and length we have. It’s pretty incredible. It says a lot about the endurance and strength of our family. It’s a testament to the importance of family, sticking together, and the strength that comes out of a family that recognizes its rich history and celebrates it.”

A tradition of this duration is rare for African-Americans given the historic struggles that disrupted many families. Bryant-Fisher descendant Susan Prater James says, “The reason for celebrating the 100th is that we’re still able to be together after everything our ancestors went through.”

“There’s nothing I can complain about [in terms of facing] adversity [that] someone in my family has not only experienced but fought through, and not just survived but thrived,” Union says. “I come from a long line of incredibly strong, powerful, and resilient strivers, and I pull from that daily.

We recognize our uniqueness and specialness, and we never take that for granted. I think with each passing year it just gets stronger and stronger.”

The family tree gets updated with a new history book every five years. “Dozens of Cousins” social media sites keep the grapevine buzzing. The family migrated from South Omaha to North Omaha many years ago, and also once had its own North O clubhouse at 21st and Wirt streets. The Dozens of Cousins, Inc. became a 501c3 in 2016.

A century of gatherings doesn’t just happen.

“We get together all the time, and anytime we get together it’s a celebration,” says Bryant-Fisher descendant Sherri Wright-Harris. “We love on one another. Family has always been instilled as the most important thing you have in this life. This is a part of the fabric that makes us who we are.”

“We don’t know anything different,” says Henry, another Bryant-
Fisher descendant.

“That’s ingrained from the time you’re born into the legacy,” family historian Arlett Brooks says. “My mother committed to her mother, and I committed to her to carry this tradition on. This is my love, my passion. I just think it’s important to share your history, and I want our youth to know the importance of this and to treasure what we have because this is not a common thing.”

The reunion has evolved from a one-day picnic to include: a river boat cruise, skate party, memorial ride (on a trolley or bus) to visit important family sites, banquet dinner-dance, and a talent showcase. Milestone years such as this one include a Saturday parade. Headquarters for the 2017 reunion will be situated at the Old Market Embassy Suites.

The reunion’s Friday night formal banquet means new outfits and hair-dos. But renewing blood bonds is what counts. “It’s a way for young and old to reconnect with their roots and find a sense of belonging,” Prater James says.

Representing the various branches of the Bryant-Fisher family takes on added meaning over time.

“No matter how old you are, no matter how down you get, on that day everything seems to be looking better,” Marc Nichols says.

Cheryl Bowles says she “felt sick” the one reunion she skipped.

Arlett Brooks says she has never missed a reunion, and she’s not about to miss the 100th. “You only get the centennial one time,” Brooks says.

New this year will be a family history cookbook complete with recipes, stories, and photos. Catfish, spaghetti, greens, and cornbread are faves. The history cookbook is expected to be printed and ready for sale at the reunion.

Union says fun and food aside, the real attraction is “hearing the stories—the important stories, the silly stories—and learning the history before people are gone.”

Visit bryantfisherreunion.com for more information.

Monique Henry

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of Omaha Home.

2017 July/August Performances

Shakespeare On The Green: The Merry Wives of Windsor: July 1, 2, 7, and 9 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. Windsor is at a crossroads. All the elements that constitute the town—social strata, tradition, morality, religion, characters, the English language itself—are turned upside down. Don’t forget a picnic basket and seats. Times vary. Admission: free.
nebraskashakespeare.com

Omaha Under the Radar: July 5-8 at multiple locations. The experimental performance festival returns for the fourth year, charging the galleries and open spaces of Joslyn with live music and dance. Other locations include KANEKO, OutrSpaces, project project, and Reverb Lounge. Times vary. Event passes $10, festival passes $40-$75, some events free.
undertheradaromaha.com

Shakespeare On The Green: King Lear: July 6 and 8 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. Pack a picnic and bring lawn chairs or blankets, as King Lear attempts to fight against impending mortality along with the inevitable loss of his kingdom and his crown. Times vary. Admission: free.
nebraskashakespeare.com

Juno’s Swans: Richard III: July 9 at Blue Barn Theatre, 1106 S. 10th St. A part of the Connect with Shakespeare series, Juno’s Swans uses an all-female ensemble to explore Shakespeare’s characters and text through the feminine experience and outlook. 2 p.m. Admission: free. 402-345-1576.
bluebarn.org

Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist: July 12-23 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. This world premiere of McGuigan’s brand-new show features classic rock tunes with a big band twist, backed by a full horn section and an all-star lineup of Omaha’s finest musicians. Times vary. Tickets: $40. 402-553-0800.
ticketomaha.com

Neighbors, Lovers, and All the Others: July 14-Aug. 6 at Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St. Facing a serious bout of composer’s block, Loyal Guerre finds inspiration in an unlikely source–his handsome, talented neighbor who has no idea that he needs a set of curtains to separate his apartment from the rest of the world. Times vary. Tickets: $20 general, $15 students/seniors/TAG members. 402-341-2757.
shelterbelt.org


This calendar is published as shown in the print edition

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


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

2017 May/June Calendar of Events

May 1, 2017 by and

Passion & Obsession: From the Collection: Through May 6 at KANEKO, 1111 Jones St. This exhibit celebrates both the passion of the artist to create and the obsession of the connoisseurs who collect. Admission: free. 402-341-3800.
thekaneko.org

Wild Spaces, Open Seasons: Hunting and Fishing in American Art: Through May 7 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. See how American hunting and fishing culture has intersected with art. Tickets: $10 adults. Free for youth (17 and under), college students with ID, and Joslyn members. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

Nature Connects: Art with Lego Bricks: Through May 15 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. Inspired by nature and built from more than 450,000 Lego pieces, this indoor exhibit features 13 displays with larger-than-life sculptures. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for members and children under 6 years old. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

History of Latinos in Omaha: 1890 through Present: Through Aug. 31 at El Museo Latino, 4701 S. 25th St. Discover the history of Omaha’s Latino community, highlighted in this photography exhibit. Admission: $5 adults, $4 for college students with ID, $3.50 students (K-12) and seniors (55+), free for children under 5 with adult admission. 402-731-1137.
elmuseolatino.org

Jennifer Bockelman / Charley Friedman Exhibition: May 5-June 23 at Fred Simon Gallery, 1004 Farnam St. Bockelman (of Seward, Nebraska) produces art that includes stitched works, drawings, impotent political gestures, and performances. Friedman (of Lincoln, Nebraska) produces work ranging from installations and sculptures to photography and drawings. Admission: free. 402-595-2122.
artscouncil.nebraska.gov

Omaha Police: Answering the Call Since 1857: May 13-Sept. 24 at The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. The Durham’s newest community partnership tells the story of Omaha’s police force in artifacts and photos. On May 13, enjoy free museum admission and a special event, “Hanging with Heroes” (10 a.m.-1 p.m.), featuring uniformed officers, vehicles, and mounted patrol on site. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $7 children (3-12), free for children 2 and under. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

Joslyn’s “The Portrait of Dirck van Os”

European Galleries Reopening: May 20 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. The five European galleries have undergone a three-month construction period. Updates include new paint, lighting, updated labels, and interpretive materials—such as three interactive iPad stations. Admission: free. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

The Durham’s “License to Spy”

Top Secret License to Spy: May 20-Sept. 17 at The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. Families and children are encouraged to collaborate by piecing together clues throughout more than 20 displays. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $7 children (3-12), free for children 2 and under. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

Dinosaur Safari

Dinosaur Safari Exhibit: May 27-Sept. 3 at Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St. Families can explore natural history through hands-on activities with authentic fossils and live reptiles, as well as life-like animatronic dinosaurs. Admission: $12 adults and children (3+), $11 seniors (60+), free for members and children age 2 and under. 402-342-6164.
ocm.org

David Brooks: Continuous Service Altered Daily: June 1-Aug. 26 at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, 724 S. 12th St. Brooks presents every single part of a used 1976 John Deere 3300 combine harvester laid out in varying degrees of disassembly. Admission: free. 402-341-7130.
bemiscenter.org

Bijoux Parisiens: French Jewelry from the Petit Palais, Paris: June 4-Sept. 10 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. This exhibition portrays the intersection of French fashion, art, and history while touching on social and political concerns. Nearly 70 works of jewelry and more than 100 original paintings, fashion prints, and photographs will be on display. Tickets: $10 adults. Free for children (17 and under), college students with ID, and Joslyn members. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

KINETIC: June 16-Oct. 14 at KANEKO, 1111 Jones St. KINETIC at KANEKO explores the art and science of movement, and the perception of motion. This collaborative exhibition season will feature stunning visual art, interactive sculpture, and experiential learning opportunities developed to strengthen the understanding of kinetics in everyday life. Admission: free. 402-341-3800.
thekaneko.org

Performing Arts

Catherland: Through May 14 at Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St. A budding author and her husband head to Red Cloud, Nebraska, to begin a simpler life, but a slew of mysterious guests prove that there’s nothing simple about small-town living. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $25 general admission; $20 students, seniors (65+), and TAG members. 402-341-2757.
shelterbelt.org

Momix

MOMIX Opus Cactus: May 4 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. The internationally acclaimed dancer-illusionists troupe, directed by Moses Pendleton, presents a show for all ages. The troupe creates a visual journey into the hidden secrets of the Southwestern desert by bringing all of its creatures to life. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $20-$45. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Superior DonutsMay 5-June 4 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. Taking place in the historic, diverse Uptown neighborhood of Chicago and written by Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright Tracy Letts, this provocative comedy explores the challenges of embracing the past and the redemptive power of friendship. Times vary. Tickets: $36 adults, $22 students. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Omaha Symphony—The Music of Star Wars: May 6 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Music from all seven episodes of Star Wars will be featured, conducted by Ernest Richardson. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $19-$89. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The Florentine Players’ 53rd Annual Melodrama: May 11-13 at Florence City Hall, 2864 State St. Written by Nebraska natives, this is a story of “Omaha’s only shipwreck” in 1965. 7 p.m. Tickets: $10 general admission; $8 seniors (65+), TAG members, or groups of 8 or more. 402-453-4280.
florencetheater.org

Omaha Symphony—Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein: May 13-14 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Conducted by Ted Sperling, a Broadway cast and the Omaha Symphony perform favorites from The Sound of Music, The King and I, Oklahoma!, and South Pacific. 7:30 p.m. May 13; 2 p.m. May 14. Tickets: $19-$79. 402-345-0606.
—ticketomaha.com

The Met: Live in HD: Der Rosenkavalier (R. Strauss): May 13 and 17 at Film Streams, 1340 Mike Fahey St. The Met’s final performance for this season features Renée Fleming as the Marschallin and Elīna Garanča as Octavian. 11:30 a.m. May 13; 6 p.m. May 17. Tickets: $10-$24. 402-933-0259.
filmstreams.org

All the King’s Women: May 15-21 at Bellevue Little Theatre, 203 E. Mission Ave. Obsessed women who encounter Elvis Presley in everyday situations grant theatrical insight into the man rather than the rock ’n’ roll superstar. Times vary. Tickets: $20 adults, $18 seniors (60+), $10 students. 402-291-1554.
bellevuelittletheatre.com

Something Rotten!: May 16-21 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. Set in 1595, this comedy tells the tale of two brothers desperate to write the world’s very first musical. Times vary. Tickets: $35-$95. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The Rebellion Ends:  An Apollon Star Wars Story: May 18-27 at The Apollon, 1801 Vinton St. With the rebels wiped out once and for all, Emperor Palpatine announces details for the largest mandatory celebration in history to mark the anniversary of the rise of the Galactic Empire. 7:30 p.m. Admission: $35 adults, $25 students and TAG members. 402-884-0135.
apollonomaha.com

Joey Alexander

Joey Alexander Trio: May 19 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. One of today’s most talked-about jazz artists, this 12-year-old Indonesian piano prodigy and 2016 Grammy-nominee performs classic songs and original compositions. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20-$35. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: May 26-June 25 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. The classic tale of Belle and the Beast is back with spectacular sets and costumes. Times vary. Tickets: $42 adults, $25 students Thursday-Sunday; $32 adults, $20 students Wednesday. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Omaha Symphony–Mahler’s Ninth Symphony: June 2-3 at the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. The symphony performs this rich, emotional orchestration for the first time in more than 20 years. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $19-$70. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Peter Pan: June 2-18 at The Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St. This musical rendition features fabulous flying effects and the iconic songs “I’m Flying,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” and “Never Never Land.” Times vary. Tickets: $22-$27 general admission, $15-$20 for members. 402-345-4869.
rosetheater.org

Rent—20th Anniversary Tour: June 3-4 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-Winning musical from 1996 follows the lives of seven struggling artists trying to follow their dreams without selling out. Times vary. Tickets: $40-$105. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Girls Like Us: June 15-25 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. This show, based off the book by the same title, showcases the work of groundbreaking singer-songwriters Carole King, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell. 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $40. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Shakespeare on the Green

Shakespeare On The Green: King Lear: June 22-25 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. Pack a picnic and bring lawn chairs or blankets, as King Lear attempts to fight against impending mortality along with the inevitable loss of his kingdom and his crown. Times vary. Admission: free.
nebraskashakespeare.com

Shakespeare On The Green: The Merry Wives of Windsor: June 29-July 1 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. Windsor is at a crossroads. All the elements that constitute the town—social strata, tradition, morality, religion, characters, the English language itself—are turned upside down. Don’t forget a picnic basket and seats. Times vary. Admission: free.
nebraskashakespeare.com

Comedy

James Johann: May 4-7 at the Funny Bone, Village Pointe, Suite 201, 17305 Davenport St. Incorporating his high-energy style and self-deprecating sense of humor, this blue-collar comedian hits on the universal theme of failure, presenting a reflection of life as he sees it. Times vary. Tickets: $10-$12. 402-493-8036.
omaha.funnybone.com

Jerry Seinfeld: May 11 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. Praised for his ability to joke about the little things in life that relate to audiences everywhere, Seinfeld will perform his stand-up comedy for one night only. 7 p.m. Tickets: $50-$150. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

J.R. Brow: May 11-14 at Funny Bone, 17305 Davenport St., Suite 201. Brow draws from his wide-ranging collection of jokes, impressions, music, and characters to cover relationships, politics, religion, current events, and pop culture. Times vary. Tickets: $12 Thursday and Sunday; $15 Friday and Saturday. 402-493-8036.
omaha.funnybone.com

Tim Hawkins

Tim Hawkins: May 12 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. With more than 300 million video views online and over 100 sold-out concerts yearly, Hawkins hits on the dangers of marriage, homeschooling, and growing up in the Midwest. 7 p.m. Tickets: $19-$85. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Music

Charly Bliss / See Through Dresses: May 1 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Brooklyn bubble-grunge four-piece Charly Bliss performs with Omaha’s See Through Dresses. 9 p.m. Tickets: $10. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Bastille

Bastille: May 2 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. The Grammy-nominated, British indie-pop band is bringing their “Wild, Wild World Tour 2017” to Omaha in support of their new album, Wild World. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $35-$55. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Say Anything / Bayside: May 4 at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. Say Anything has been making unclassifiable indie rock music since the members were around 14 years old. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $20 advance, $24 day of show. 402-345-7569.
theslowdown.com

Chris Mann

Chris Mann: May 5 at the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Known from his 2012 debut on The Voice, Mann sings music from the golden age of Broadway, The Great American Songbook, and more. 8 p.m. Tickets: $35. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The Return of Hairball: May 5 at Ralston Arena, 7300 Q St. High energy and big hair come back to Ralston Arena for this “Bombastic Celebration of Arena Rock.” 8 p.m. Tickets: $23 advance or $33 day of show for general admission; $30 advance or $40 day of show for club seats. 402-934-9966.
ralstonarena.com

Acid Mothers Temple / Babylon: May 5 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. A freak-out group for the 21st century, Acid Mothers Temple is a Japanese psychedelic rock band founded in 1995 and led by guitarist Kawabata Makoto. 9 p.m. Tickets: $12. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Lazerwolfe: May 6 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. This cover band pays tribute to such artists as Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Phish, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, The Band, Led Zeppelin, and more. 9 p.m. Tickets: $5. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Sam Outlaw with Michaela Anne: May 6 at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. An acclaimed, modern country musician from Los Angeles, singer-songwriter Outlaw refers to his style as “SoCal country.” 8 p.m. Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show. 402-345-7569.
theslowdown.com

McCarthy Trenching: May 6 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. An Omaha folk fixture and a staple of the city’s music community, Dan McCarthy has crafted five albums of easy acoustic melodies and lyrical craft. Teamed with bassist James Maakestad, the acoustic duo has made up McCarthy Trenching since 2010. 8 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The Brothers Comatose: May 7 at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. Brothers Ben and Alex Morrison front this string band that promises a high-energy show. The brothers, on guitar and banjo, respectively, are joined by Gio Benedetti on bass, Philip Brezina on fiddle, and Ryan Avellone on mandolin. 8 p.m. Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show. 402-345-7569.
theslowdown.com

Chance the Rapper: May 10 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St. Chance’s latest release, Coloring Book, was issued exclusively through Apple Music and was streamed 57.3 million times in its first week. He recently won three Grammys, including “Best New Artist” and “Best Rap Album.” 8 p.m. Tickets: $37.50-$77.50. 402-341-1500.
ticketmaster.com

Kansas: May 12 at Ralston Arena, 7300 Q St. This staple of classic rock from Topeka, Kansas, has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. The band released their 15th album in 2016: The Prelude Implicit. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $29-$89. 402-934-9966.
ralstonarena.com

Tim Kasher with Allison Weiss: May 12 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. Omaha’s own Kasher has pushed musical boundaries with his bands Cursive and The Good Life, as well as through his solo work. He has produced 17 albums and EPs over the course of 20 years. His third solo album, No Resolution, released March 3. 9 p.m. Tickets: $12. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Elevate with DJs Ben Jones & Lowercase Trés: May 12 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Bringing underground house music to Omaha by DJs who know how to rave, for real. 9 p.m. No cover. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Flogging Molly: May 14 at Sokol Auditorium, 2234 S 13th St. Los Angeles-based Celtic punk band Flogging Molly comes to Omaha for one night only to promote their first record release in six years, Life is Good. 8 p.m. Tickets $33. 402-346-9802.
sokolunderground.com

Oddisee: May 17 at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. Oddisee is influenced by soul and rap. His “Beneath the Surface” Tour 2017 will also feature Good Company and Olivier St. Louis. 8 p.m. Tickets: $15 advance, $17 day of show. 402-345-7569.
theslowdown.com

Hope Country / Will and Jane: May 19 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. This folk singer/songwriter features heartfelt songs about life. 9 p.m. Tickets: $8 advance, $10 day of show. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

The Shins: May 20 at Stir Concert Cove, 1 Harrah’s Boulevard in Council Bluffs. This indie-rock band comes to Council Bluffs to promote their new album Heartworms. Their 2007 album Wincing the Night Away peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and earned the group a Grammy nomination. 8 p.m. Tickets: $37-$98. 800-745-3000.
ticketmaster.com

The Dear Hunter: May 20 at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. The Dear Hunter will be showcasing their most recent album Act V: Hymns With the Devil in Confessional. 8:30 p.m. Tickets: $20 advance, $23 day of show. 402-345-7569.
theslowdown.com

Benson Soul Society: May 20 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Once a month, Andrew Monson, Eric “EZ” Ziegler, and Roger Lewis bring their all-vinyl soul dance party to Reverb. 9 p.m. No cover. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

SoMo: May 24 at Sokol Auditorium, 2234 S. 13th St. SoMo, made famous for his wildly popular YouTube covers gaining him instant success, is touring the U.S. for a second time. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets: $22-$60. 402-346-9802.
sokolunderground.com

Robby Wicks Band / Time Giant: May 26 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Hailing from the Rocky Mountains, the Robby Wicks Band brings an array of talent, skill, and originality. 9 p.m. Tickets: $7. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Memorial Day Massive Block Party After Party: May 27 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. After the outdoor concert concludes, Reverb will feature a dope local lineup of artists and the EZ B stage design. 11 p.m. No cover. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Centerpiece EP Release / Lonely Estates / Wingman: June 3 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Indie-rock band with Will Conner, Paul Knapp, Jay Nesmith, Dave McInnis, and Jon Ochsnder. 9 p.m. Tickets: $7. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Norah Jones: June 5 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. The nine-time Grammy-winner who has sold over 45 million albums worldwide will be supporting her newest album Not Too Late, on her “Day Breaks World Tour.” 8 p.m. Tickets: $57-$73. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Daniel O’Donnell

Daniel O’Donnell: June 7 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. O’Donnell’s music has been described as a mix between country and Irish folk. He made history this year by charting at least one new album every year since 1988. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $49.25-$69.25. 402-345-0606.
ticketmaster.com

Brantley Gilbert: June 9 at Stir Concert Cove, One Harrah’s Boulevard in Council Bluffs. Country music star Brantley Gilbert’s latest tour, “The Devil Don’t Sleep,” comes to Council Bluffs. Gilbert, winner of CMA’s 2013 Triple Play Award, has reached No. 1 on the U.S. country charts for the album of the same name. 8 p.m. Tickets: TBD. 800-745-3000.
ticketmaster.com

New Kids on the Block with Boys II Men and Paula Abdul: June 11 at CenturyLinkCenter, 455 N. 10th St. On the road for the first time since 2013—this “Total Package Tour” is the biggest lineup yet from these ’80s and ’90s hit-makers. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $29.95-$199.95. 800-745-3000.
ticketmaster.com

Brandy Clark and Charlie Worsham: June 18 at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Brandy Clark has received six Grammy nominations over the past four years for co-writing hits for Miranda Lambert and Kasey Musgraves. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20 advance, $25 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Electric Six: June 21 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Rock music infused with elements of garage, disco, punk, new wave, and metal. 9 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Blue October: June 24 at The Waiting Room (outdoors), 6212 Maple St. Topping multiple charts and shattering many records is something Blue October is used to. With their eighth studio album Home now out, they plan to do it all over again. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $35. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

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 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

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 at SAC.

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

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

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.

Nick Manhart

January 18, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The sign on the pedestrian bridge that spans Dodge Street connecting Memorial and Elmwood parks is somewhat out of date, says Nick Manhart.

“It says ‘Most beautiful bridge.’ But the sign is completely rusted, which is ironic,” says the longtime Dundee resident.

The sign once had truth to it. The pedestrian bridge was built in 1968. In 1969, the American Institute of Steel Construction named the bridge “The Most Beautiful Bridge in the U.S.”

That was almost 50 years ago. The bridge is now structurally sound, but rusted. Something needed to be done to bring the iconic treasure back to its previous beauty. And Manhart is determined to do it.

The stay-at-home father has lived in the area most of his life. As a child, he walked the bridge for eight years to and from St. Margaret Mary School.

Today, the five children of Manhart and his wife, Dr. Carolyn Manhart, walk over the bridge to St. Margaret Mary School just as their father did. He has a strong interest in rehabilitating the Dodge Street pedestrian overpass in time for its 50th birthday in 2018.

He found it difficult to get others to feel the same passion. He contacted the City of Omaha and received no response. But the story interested World-Herald columnist Erin Grace, who wrote about his campaign.

Grace’s article caught the attention of Pete Festersen, the city council member who represents the area. In March, the group Friends of the Bridge was organized.

“Without Pete’s leadership and advocacy, we would not have had the success,” says Manhart. “We were able to ultimately raise $300,000.”

The donations were collected through a form on the Dundee Memorial Park Association. DMPA then distributed the funds to Friends of the Bridge. Friends of the Bridge also raised money through a series of neighborhood activities, such as parties prior to the annual Memorial Park concert. Money poured in from 24 different zip codes, spanning the country from Portland, Oregon, to Washington, D.C.

Out of total restoration costs, $150,000 will come from the City’s bridge maintenance fund.

The bridge brings back fond memories for many ex-Omahans. Its rich history started with a program in the early 1960s, launched to construct pedestrian bridges around the city. Between the 1960s and 1980, 19 bridges were built.

The Memorial Park bridge was the only pedestrian bridge in Omaha’s network of 19 where aesthetics were taken into consideration, says Manhart.

“We are planning an event for next fall when the work is done,” he says. “We would like to recreate the event.”

The event Manhart wants to recreate is the ribbon-cutting ceremony from April 1968, when city dignitaries, school children, and volunteers came to help inaugurate the new bridge.

The plan is to start work on the bridge after the Memorial Park Bank of the West “Celebrates America” concert in July 2017. The hope is for the bridge to be open again before school starts.
Renovations to the bridge—also known as the Dodge Street Overpass—will include lead paint remediation, rust removal, repainting, and the repair of decking.

Manhart’s passion for the bridge has not abated. Born in 1969, he says, “I am confident it will outlive me and generations of other people will benefit by it.”

Visit dodgestreetoverpass.org for more information.

nickmanhart2

Cirque de Amateur

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The term “amateur” gets a bad rap. While suggesting a lack of skill, the word actually comes from the Latin “amator” or “lover.” An amateur is someone who does what they do for the love of it, and in Omaha, some love the circus arts. People are flocking to the traditions of the big top for myriad reasons: hobby, self-expression, exercise, paid performance, or social activity. 

Ciara Searight is a professionally certified aerial trainer who studied with Aircats at the Boulder Circus Center, Aloft Loft in Chicago, and Circus School of Arizona. Searight is an aerialist, acrobat, and dancer. Gracefully, she performs above the ground, defying fear with seeming effortlessness.

“I’m a certified teacher, but I’m an amateur performer,” says Searight, who started FreakWorks Entertainment in Omaha to teach and reach out to those with a similar love for the art of the aerial performance. The group meets frequently on Sundays in Elmwood Park, and she welcomes the public to join them. Parks have always allured young acrobats.

“I did gymnastics when I was younger, but I was inspired by playing around on tall swings, flipping around and hanging upside down. I thought, ‘there’s got to be something like this out there,’” says Searight of what led her to aerial arts such as silks, corde lisse, sling, lyra, trapeze, flying trapeze, straps, chains, pole, Spanish web, and more.

Anyone can do something in the circus arts, from the highest tightrope to yoyo tricks, unicycling, or sleight of hand—the possibilities are limitless. All it takes is one specific talent and to know approachable circus folks like her, according to Searight.

Circus-Arts2“Even pets can be taught tricks to perform. FreakWorks has had fire breathers, sword fighters, aerial silk performers, a lyrist, unicycle, whip, rola bola, breakdance, acrofusion, juggling, fire fingers, fire staff, poi, ballet, hoopers, flag, hand tut, pole. I wish we had BMX and skateboarders. Contortion and hand balancing would be great. Also teeter totter and trampoline artists would be amazing.”

The athleticism in aerials is obvious, but performing in most circus arts is a guaranteed workout.

“It’s great exercise. It works every part of your body,” Searight says, adding that core strength is what makes it look so easy. “I always enjoy watching people for the first time and how proud they are after doing their first real pose.”

Sara Gray describes herself as one of the obsessed ones. As Purple Pyro (her pseudonym), Gray is pushing her limits.

“I practice several movement arts: I breakdance with a local dance crew, Organix, I perform fire spinning and fire eating with Animatikz Entertainment, and aerial acrobatics with Flight Motion Studios.”

As a kid, Gray used to attempt handstands and splits with her friends with little success.

“I never got them. I decided that it would just never happen for me, and that’s what I told myself my entire life. Now I can hold a handstand with a fire staff on my neck and do the splits.”

Gray believes everyone should revisit the limits they have set for themselves as she did when she came across FreakWorks.

“I got into the circus arts last summer when my boyfriend and dance partner introduced me to a small circus group in Lincoln. After climbing into the aerial hoop for the first time, I was hooked,” says Gray. “I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life and I can never get enough. When you start off barely being able to get into the hoop, and then you work hard enough to build up the upper body strength that most people lack, there is a sense of empowerment that becomes addicting. It really helps you realize that you can break any limit that you may have set for yourself at an early age.”

Andrea Grove fits the enamored hobbyist profile. She discovered circus artistry through a roundabout route. While she had excelled at gymnastic floor exercises as a child, she eventually gave up the sport. She tried replacing gymnastics with cheerleading, but she hated it.

“Unfortunately, I felt too old to be a gymnast, and then I eventually got caught up in being a confused teenager,” says Grove. Around 20, she began attending music festivals, where circus performers flourish.

“I saw my first hula hoop dance at a festival in Minnesota and was blown away. It looked like magic. So I went home, bought a hoop from Target, and started teaching myself through YouTube tutorials.” 

Elmwood meet-ups with FreakWorks, as well as contortion training at Laurel Feller’s FlightMotion Studios, helped Grove branch out, adding to her list of skills and her family. Because circus people are tight like that.

“It captured my heart,” Grove says. “That magical feeling of seeing my first hoop dance hasn’t gone away; it’s only grown. That’s why I do it. It is an escape from the mundane, and I hope to someday spark that magic in someone else’s life. They can join my family.”

Visit facebook.com/Freakworks for more information. Omaha Magazine

Monkeying Around

July 6, 2016 by
Photography by Contributed by Douglas County HIstorical Society

You would think Omaha, safely ensconced in the Midwest, where no monkeys come from, wouldn’t have much of a monkey problem. But Omaha history is surprisingly full of problematic monkeys and apes—here are just a few:

Our first was a female baboon who appeared at the Creighton theater downtown in 1899. The ape was trained, and was part of an animal act by Professor Fred Macart. The baboon acted as a sort of animal stagehand, cleaning up after other acts.

But on this night, the baboon went wild, attacking a stage manager and then running rampant through the theater. The baboon then charged into an attached bar and stole a bottle of whiskey and two bottles of beer, drinking them and then flinging the bottles through mirrors. The whole ordeal ended when Macart calmed the animal, putting her to sleep with a towel around her head, as you would with anyone suffering from a hangover.

Then there was Diavolo, whom the World-Herald declared an “outlaw” in 1901. He had been a pet monkey to an organ grinder in Little Italy, but escaped and terrorized the neighborhood for several weeks. Diavolo bit a child, which monkeys will do once in a while, then attempted to steal money from the boy.

Diavolo made a habit of breaking into neighbors’ houses while they were sleeping and waking them by smashing their possessions against the ground. He became especially notorious for murdering the neighborhood’s canary birds. Neighbors eventually rallied to bring the monkey to justice—if need be, to execute him—and called on Officer Sam Riegelman, one of the city’s first bicycle cops, to find or kill the creature.

The newspaper never followed up on the story, so perhaps they are out there still, Riegelman on his bicycle, chasing the chattering figure of a tiny monkey through the Omaha nights.

We should also mention Monkey Island, which was a bit of design disaster, built in Elmwood Park in 1933. The plan was simple: The city would build a little island in the park, fill it with monkeys, and then put a fence around the monkeys. Unfortunately, they seem to have forgotten that monkeys can climb fences, and so the opening of Monkey Island was soon followed by a mass jailbreak. Monkeys were found miles away, and some were never recovered.

Finally, we come to the greatest escape artist in the history of apedom. His name was Fu Manchu, and he was an orangutan at the Henry Doorly Zoo in the late 1960s. Fu Manchu had a bizarre talent for escaping his enclosure, often accompanied by
other orangutans.

At first, this was chalked up to human error, as a connecting door from the enclosure to the furnace room was found opened. But it continued to happen, and nobody could be found who might be responsible for leaving the door open.

One day, the head keeper caught Fu Manchu headed down toward the door, and noticed he had a piece of wire in his mouth. The ape kept the wire hidden during the day and used it to pick the door lock when unobserved. Without his trusty lock pick, however, Fu Manchu was trapped, and so faded from the news, as all apes eventually do.

More recently, the Henry Doorly Zoo’s silverback gorilla—Kijito—made international headlines with his glass-pounding displays of dominance. In 2015, Kijito broke his enclosure’s safety glass. His antics went viral online after terrifying a visiting family.

Monkeys

Omaha’s Summer Festivals

May 5, 2016 by
Photography by contributed

Nothing brings back fond memories like festival season, with the incessant summer heat carrying vivid recollections of outdoor parties. No need to reminisce when we can take you back ourselves. Here are some of our favorite festivals that have prevailed over the years.

Arbor-Day1

Arbor Day

April 29-May 1, Nebraska City, Nebraska

Not every celebration can boast an entire holiday dedicated to the preservation of trees. In 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted in Nebraska, marking the first Arbor Day in American history. But you don’t have to be a tree hugger to enjoy the 260-acre expanse of orchards on the Arbor Day Farm. Though many of the original orchards and estate structures still stand, Arbor Day Farm offers contemporary attractions such as interactive exhibits, hiking trails, and a 50-foot treehouse.

Cinco De Mayo festivities along S. 24th St.

Cinco De Mayo festivities along S. 24th St.

Cinco De Mayo

May 5-8, 24th and L streets

A lively tradition full of community spirit, South Omaha’s Cinco De Mayo celebration dates back to the 1970s. Whether it’s the thrill of the bull races or the harmonious melodies of the Mariachi, memories of Cinco De Mayo are strong recollections that seem to stand the test of time. Sample some delectable food and honor the city’s rich, Mexican heritage, all whilst having fiesta flashbacks.

Food Trucks abound at the RIverfront during Taste.

Food Trucks abound at the RIverfront during Taste.

Taste of Omaha

June 3-5, Heartland of America Park and Lewis and Clark Landing

Omaha was just beginning to be known for food other than steaks in 1997, when Taste of Omaha began. These days, attendees can discover some of the finest restaurants in the area. They can taste the specialty dishes of local eateries, meet local chefs and enjoy live music performances across the festival’s multiple stages.

People admire art from all over the nation at OSAF.

People admire art from all over the nation at OSAF.

Omaha Summer Arts Festival

June 10-12, Farnam Street from 10th to 15th streets

This festival started in 1975 with visual arts lining the streets outside the courthouse. Today, Farnam Street is decorated with national performers and giddy children with painted faces, as well as the 135 juried artists that have gathered from around the globe. An ever-changing landscape that manages to uphold a memorable Omaha tradition, the Summer Arts Festival is not to be missed.

Bocce, anyone?

Bocce, anyone?

Santa Lucia

June 9-12, Lewis and Clark Landing

Most of us weren’t born in noble, Roman families…but we can certainly pretend. With Italian music at our fingertips and a queen coronation to look forward to, Omaha’s Santa Lucia festival has given us a celebration to enjoy time and time again. Whether it’s the annual feast or the image of the Santa Lucia statue that prevails in your mind, this festival is one full of tradition and poignant memories.

ShakespeareWide2

Shakespeare on the Green

June 23-30, Elmwood Park

Marking the fourth centennial of Shakespeare’s death, Shakespeare on the Green’s 30th anniversary continues to engage, educate, and entertain. Though the idea for an outdoor Shakespeare festival in Omaha wasn’t conceived until the early ‘80s, many of us have immersed ourselves in the talented performances and natural beauty of Elmwood Park over the years. Don’t miss this year’s literary workshops or the annual sonnet contest.

   

Lisa Tosone

October 1, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When it comes to defining the word ‘family’ in 2014, it is no longer restricted to a nuclear family of a mom, dad, and a kid or two. For many addresses in the Fairacres neighborhood, postal carrier Lisa Tosone has been added to the bunch.

With 30 years at the post office under her mailbag, Tosone knows her way around Omaha and has enjoyed every minute. Since taking her current route in 2009, Fairacres has become her favorite.

Though her days begin inside the Saddle Creek Station, she finds her happy place cruising the streets and spending her lunches among the beautiful greenery.

“People don’t think about landscaping for their postal carrier,” Tosone says, “but I’m the one who truly gets to enjoy it season to season. It’s the perfect job for me.”

An Omaha native, she has a degree in photography and was working at a portrait studio in South Sioux City, Neb., when her brother convinced her to complete the civil service exam. Tosone moved back to Omaha in 1983 and began work at the post office the next year.

Since then she has accumulated many new friends along the way and can’t go anywhere without someone waving ‘hello.’ Just another neighborhood family member saying ‘hi.’ She is even on the email list for the Neighborhood Watch.

“She looks after us, and we look after her,” explains area resident Sue Conine. “We don’t want to lose her.”

She still enjoys taking on small photo projects, whether it’s a portrait in Elmwood Park or creating the perfect shot for her Christmas cards, which are quite popular in the neighborhood. She sends over 200 cards a year. Even though there’s no employee discount for stamps, nothing can stop this mail-delivering powerhouse from spreading a little holiday cheer throughout the ‘hood.

Not even a bilateral knee replacement in February.

Ten short weeks later she was right back on the streets with her eight-hour strolls. Add “through knee replacements” to the post office’s motto of rain, sleet, or snow…and you have Tosone.

Tosone has been retirement-eligible for over three years, but feels she has a few more miles in her, especially when each step and every turn of an ignition brought her closer to posting a major milestone in the world of postage. In July, she was honored with the postal service’s Million Mile Award, which is given to postal employees who drive without an accident for a total of one million miles or 30 years.

With a personal mantra of “When you give good, you get good” in mind, Tosone goes above and beyond the call of duty. And, not surprisingly, she’s something of a mail geek.

“I’m not only a mail carrier,” she chuckles, “but I’m one of our biggest customers. I love to get mail and send mail. I just like everything about it!”

 

Shakespearean Power Couple

May 20, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Battling brain drain is the subject of much discussion in business circles, but the same challenge applies to the arts and their role in the vitality of any city.

Despite the fact that Omaha boasts an unusually vibrant cultural landscape, especially for a city our size, a metro area of less than 1,000,000 people can offer only so many opportunities for professionals to thrive. Too often the only solution to advancing career dreams in the arts is to pack one’s bags for brighter lights in Chicago, New York, and L.A.

Vincent and Sarah Carlson-Brown have mentally packed their bags many times as they eye invitations and opportunities to move to bigger stages in major metros. But they have always found good reasons to just as quickly unpack their things—and it’s not just because they skipped laundry day and were digging for clean socks and undies.

Nebraska Shakespeare, not to mention the entire community, have benefitted from the fact that the couple’s luggage is gathering dust in a closet.

Sarah is the non-profit’s director of education and Vincent is artistic director.

“We had talked about Chicago, maybe Minneapolis as a good move just so we could get more work,” says Vincent. “But we think it is meaningful to create art and do what we do right here in Omaha.”

The Shakespearean power couple met as students at the University of Nebraska–Omaha and before graduation had become founding members of the Blue Barn’s Witching Hour, the late-night company known for a special brand of boundary pushing devised theatre. At about the same time they began what became a long affiliation with the outfit whose flagship offering is the annual Shakespeare on the Green series.

“That’s not to say that this has been easy,” Sarah adds. “I’ve worked for Omaha Performing Arts in the ticketing office for nine years to supplement our income. We both still take acting and other jobs here and in other cities when schedules allow.”

Despite their “office” gigs with Nebraska Shakespeare, both yearn to be in the footlights at every opportunity.

Look for Sarah in the role of Miranda and Vincent as the villainous Antonio in Shakespeare on the Green’s The Tempest. Sarah will also be an ensemble member in The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), which Vincent will direct. He’s also producing and acting as fight coordinator for both productions.

“A lot of our colleagues and friends took the path of moving on in order to find work.” Vincent says, “A few of them did, but more came back home. It’s important to us to make Omaha better in any way we can. You can’t make a city better by leaving it.”

Nebraska Shakespeare on the Green will present The Tempest June 19-21 and July 1, 3, and 6. The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) June 26-29 and July 2 and 5. Both performances are free and will take place in Elmwood Park. Visit nebraskashakespeare.com for additional information.

20140408_bs_6437

The Art of Architecture

December 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When asked about the design principles behind his contemporary, DIY home, Joel Holm employs a more-than-pregnant pause. Finally collecting his thoughts, he borrows—intentionally or otherwise—from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

“The idea,” he says, “was to do…something completely different.”

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But there is so much more than “something completely different”—as dramatic as it is in this case—about the plot of land just a few doors south of Leavenworth on 52nd Street. The home, which he shares with his wife, Melissa, and their three children, is something of a forever-in-progress DIY project for Holm. He built most of it himself. More than just a basement workshop tinkerer with a table saw and tool belt, Holm is a remodeler whose H Aesthetics business recently merged with Workshop Unknown.

The design vision for the home and everything that followed became for the Holms an exercise in 
simple living.

“I’ve often thought about why we use this material instead of that material in homebuilding,” Joel explains, “especially when it would be cheaper, friendlier to the environment, and would last a heck of a lot longer if we used what we normally think of as industrial materials—and used them in new ways.”

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Square Hardie Board panels form a blocky geometrical array on the home’s exterior. Affixed with rivets that are proudly left visible and with the material’s aquamarine hue, the home almost takes on the vibe of a vintage seafaring vessel, that of an algae-encrusted steamer or battleship. Abutting those lines and introducing a contrasting motif is corrugated, recycled roofing material in red. The material’s striated ridges disrupt the cube theme that could otherwise dominate the façade. Adding to the industrial look are heated cement floors, commercial windows, and a CMU, cinder block-style 
block foundation.

Reclaimed strips of acrylic ingeniously incorporated into the pivoting front door create a dramatic, twice-daily light show. Viewed from inside the home, the morning sun streams through the door’s acrylic insets. At night and from curbside, the home’s interior lighting hits the slats in reverse fashion. The overall effect is that of electrified neon, and it takes closer examination to discern that there is nothing more at play here than beams of filtered light.

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A passerby’s first impression may be that the boxy, 3,500 square-foot home is a volcano of “contemporary” erupting in the brick-clad charm of the surrounding Elmwood Park neighborhood. But take a step back for a wider view, and you’ll notice that the Bauhaus-ish lines of the home subtly mirror those of the Prairie-esque ones of the property next door to the south.

“We didn’t have any particular architectural influence in mind with the design of this home. When I think of what we did here, it is that this is a just a better way to build a house,” he says of the home that was showcased in the 2011 Green Omaha Coalition Tour.

“Too many homes, to us, look alike,” adds Melissa. “After awhile, traditional homes built with traditional materials all tend to be 
the same.”

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The master bedroom suite is located on the main level while the kids’ bedrooms occupy the upper level. Instead of a standard hallway in a home where nothing standard is to be expected, the children’s bedrooms are connected by a wide concourse that acts as a play and study area all their own. Oversized sliding bedroom doors provide alone time in this most open and airy of settings.

“Having it be a very open space was important to us,” says Melissa. “It’s a lot of house, especially when compared to where we came from [only blocks away]. Our previous home was very quaint and charming, but it was cut up into too many individual rooms. When company came or when we had parties in the old house, it was always that awkward sort of arrangement where four people would have to be seated in another room and then a few more would be tucked around the corner from there.”

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Initial construction of the home designed in collaboration with architect Eddy Santamaria of Contrivium Design + Urbanism spanned almost two years.

A walking club made up of seniors from Elmwood Tower, a nearby independent living facility, peppered Joel with questions almost daily as work progressed. “I could have talked to them all day about what we were building,” he quips. “I’m sure I lost a month in the construction process talking to them.”

“And we were both surprised how much most of them liked it,” Melissa adds. “We had thought that older folks might not get it—might not get what we were doing—because even a lot of younger people don’t get it. People either love it,” she says with a shrug, “or hate it.”

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Such major additional projects as a fireplace are planned as time allows sandwiched in between a busy schedule of school and other activities for daughters Avery (7) and Kinley (15) and son Kaleb (12).

The Holms are also thinking about getting around to doing something with a pair of “doors to nowhere,” ones  that will eventually lead to a yet-to-be-built deck in one case and balcony in the other.

Mirroring the contours of a softly sloping lot, the home has six distinct levels plus a basement. To travel from the mudroom at the rear of the house to the front door, for example, it is a gradual one-two-three ascent of gently rising levels. In between, the space is full of subtleties that serve to break up the right angles that are otherwise everywhere to be found. A mini-flight of steps leading from the living room down to the kitchen area, for example, is sliced into a wedge configuration. The continuity of the open living room/kitchen space is never completely severed, Joel explains, but is instead merely interrupted in a way that delivers a sense of “roomness” between the two.

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The centerpiece of the kitchen is a custom table crafted by Workshop Unknown. Its acrylic surface and arcing, birch-laminated legs complement the acrylic and birch found elsewhere throughout the home.

“It’s such a simple and elegant wood,” Joel says of the birch, “and it’s a lot cheaper than many of your other choices.”

Expansive walls of glass in the main living area make for wide-open vistas but took some getting used to, Melissa says, especially when the family first moved in.

“We had people showing up outside and cupping their hands against the glass to get a look inside,” she chuckles. “They must have assumed it was a dentist’s office or something like that because our home is so different from everything else around here. I’d be reading a book or watching TV, and I’d catch some movement out of the corner of my eye, and there’d by some guy making nose prints on my windows!”

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If the home was in any danger of feeling cold or sterile, works by area artists and beyond lend a warm and vibrant touch in a color palette grounded in organic ochres.

“That was also an important driving force in planning our home,” says Joel. “We knew we wanted a place where we could display a lot of art, some of it on a pretty large scale.”

Everything about the lines, forms, and spatial composition of the Holms’ place suggest an acute attention to the art of architecture and the architecture of art.

“We do consider the house a work of art,” Joel explains as Melissa nods in agreement. “It’s something of a living sculpture but a very functional one for our family.”