Tag Archives: family

Vaccines for Seniors

October 29, 2018 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

Vaccines are not only for children. That’s one of many confusions about vaccinations, says Dr. Mark Rupp, a professor and chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“Certain vaccinations are very important for adults as they age in order to maintain their health,” he explains, “and especially important for those with chronic health conditions.”

Rupp says the most essential vaccines for seniors are for shingles, influenza, pneumococcal disease, and tetanus/Tdap.

Other common misconceptions concern the vaccines themselves. “People believe that if they get the influenza vaccine, for example, it will give them the flu,” he says. “But since it is made from a killed virus, not a live virus, there’s no way it can transfer the infection to you.” 

Meanwhile, misinformation has circulated in recent years about vaccinations causing certain illnesses or conditions, especially in children. “We may not fully understand what causes those conditions, but we do know there is absolutely no link between them and vaccines,” he says. 

A fraudulent study by British doctor Andrew Wakefield inaccurately linked the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to childhood autism in a now-retracted and discredited 1998 scientific paper. Unfortunately, the damage lingers still among conspiracy theorists. A movement of anti-science skeptics known as anti-vaxxers has led to increasing outbreaks of measles. 

“Vaccines aren’t perfect,” Rupp admits. “But they are our best weapon to protect us from horrible diseases.” As an example, he cites how vaccines for smallpox and polio have basically turned these devastating, life-threatening diseases into “medical curiosities” that are rarely seen today. “Viruses still remain in the world,” he adds, “and if we let our guard down, our children will experience these diseases just like our grandparents did.” 

Rupp believes we all need to be vaccinated because, “It’s the right thing to do…It’s called herd immunity,” he says, “where we form a protective bubble around those individuals who are immune-suppressed, for example, and cannot be given live-virus vaccines.” 

“All vaccines recommended for adults are carefully evaluated, and the benefit of getting them clearly outweighs the small risk of side effects or toxicity,” he says. The website of the Center for Disease Control also states that the current U.S. vaccine supply is the safest in history.

For those with chronic health conditions or high-risk factors, Rupp recommends talking with a doctor about additional or earlier vaccinations, and also to investigate which vaccines are covered by Medicare or other insurance providers. 


Recommended Vaccinations

Shingles

  • Recommended age: 50
  • Approved last year, the new vaccine Shingrix is a two-part injection given one to six months apart. 
  • Benefits over previous shingles vaccine:
    More effective in preventing shingles and complications from shingles (90-95 percent success rate compared with 50-60 percent); longer lasting immunity (four to five years); and doesn’t contain a live virus, so can be given to immune-suppressed patients.
  • Possible side effects include pain at injection site and low-grade fever. 

Influenza 

  • Recommended age: 6 months through adulthood, repeated yearly to keep up with changes in virus. 
  • New feature: no longer made from hen eggs, the vaccine is safe for individuals with egg allergies. 
  • Possible side effects include soreness at injection site, aches/pains, and low-grade fever. 

Pneumococcal 

  • Recommended age: 65 for healthy adults, younger for adults with diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or other chronic illness.

Tetanus/Tdap 

  • Recommended age: childhood through adulthood, with boosters every 10 years. 
  • One of those tetanus boosters should be the Tdap vaccine, which also protects against diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). 
  • The Tdap booster shot is especially important for grandparents, as whooping cough is very contagious and can be deadly for infants. 

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of 60Plus in Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Homecoming

September 16, 2018 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and contributed

The origins of the first homecoming celebration are unclear. Baylor University, Southwestern University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Missouri have all made claims, dating back to around 1910, that they originated the concept. 

Regardless of when and where it started at the college level, within a few decades high schools across the country were hosting fall celebrations tied to a football game and dance that welcomed graduates back to visit their alma maters.

Although certain traditional elements like the election of royalty and a pre-game pep rally can be found at nearly all homecomings, among local schools, there’s no one right way to celebrate this event. 

“We do quite a few different things; we’ve made homecoming more into a weeklong celebration rather than a Friday night celebration at a football game,” says Ralston High School Spirit Squads Sponsor Jordan Engel. 

Volleyball and softball games are incorporated, a “Mr. RHS” pageant for male students is a popular tradition, “spirit week” activities, and a pep rally are part of the fun, Engel explains. The middle school hosts its own spirit week concurrently, and in past years the school has organized activities for the residents of Ralston from a recreational fun run to a bonfire with s’mores. “We try to change it up each year for families of the students and the community,” she says. 

Jeremy Maskel, Ralston School District’s director of external relations and engagement, says the community involvement is especially important for the small, close-knit city. 

“I’m not native to the area but when I joined the district it really struck me—the amount of alumni who continue to live in district and send their own children to Ralston [High School],” he says. “That intergenerational pride is something I haven’t seen in any other school community I’ve been connected to. Last year we did our first alumni and family tailgate before the homecoming [football] game and we’re looking for ways we can continue to bring alumni in the community back to really celebrate the district and the high school during that week.”

Westside High School has made its homecoming week a districtwide event, says Meagan Van Gelder, a member of the board of education and immediate past-president of Westside Alumni Association. She was also the 1987 Westside homecoming queen.

“Part of our goal is to keep the connection alive for our graduations, so we have tried to create a pathway for alumni to return home, and one way we do that is [with] a homecoming tailgate the Friday before the football game. In the past we had it in the circular area of the parking lot. Recently we have moved it to the grassy area on the alumni house with a nice buffet dinner. There is a parade in the neighborhood around the high school. There is a pep rally that follows the parade, and [that] is when they announce the homecoming court. There are fireworks after the game.”

Millard School District has three high schools, and each organizes its own homecoming activities. Millard West Principal Greg Tiemann says, “We’ve kept the week relatively the same since the building opened in 1995.” In conjunction with the designated football game, the Millard West Student Council coordinates themed dress-up days, a pep rally, and the elections for junior and senior homecoming royalty. The activities are mainly for the students.

Millard North’s student council also coordinates a homecoming week featuring themed attire days, a dance the week of the football game, and other schoolwide events. This high school, however, has abandoned the practice of electing a homecoming court. 

“As a ‘No Place for Hate’ school, and out of concern for protecting students from being bullied or excluded, Millard North has not recognized royalty since 2010,” says principal Brian Begley. “Instead, they make a concerted effort to engage and involve all students in homecoming activities, including those with special needs.”

Bellevue Public Schools’ two high schools coordinate some activities but most of the festivities are school-specific. Amanda Oliver, the district’s director of communications, says parent and student groups are involved in planning.

“Bellevue East has brought back an old tradition, a homecoming parade, the last two years,” she says. “We’ve seen a lot of alumni and former staff, long-time community members.”

Bellevue West now hosts a Unity Rally at the beginning of the school year. Although not technically a homecoming event, “It allows us to feature and highlight all our schools and all our kids, and we’ve seen the community piece behind that,” Oliver says.

Elkhorn also has two high schools that plan homecoming activities independently.

 “We have spirit days, a trivia competition about the school, a powder puff game and pep rally that introduces the homecoming court, the cheerleaders and dance team do a special dance and cheer at halftime together, Pinnacle Bank has a pep rally with hotdogs before the game, and the dance is Saturday night,” says Brooke Blythe, Elkhorn South’s cheer coordinator. She adds. “The middle schoolers always have their own section in the stands at the football game.”

According to Omaha Public Schools Marketing Director Monique Farmer, students at each of the district’s seven high schools organize their own homecoming events—and alumni are invited to them at many schools—and create unique traditions. Benson holds a classroom door decorating contest, Bryan has a pep rally at the stadium, Burke concentrates on targeted inclusion for special education students, and North and Northwest host parades. Last year, J.P. Lord School, an all-ages school for students with a variety of complex needs, hosted what Farmer believes to be its first homecoming dance. Parents were welcome and the evening’s culmination was the coronation of a king and queen. 

“That was pretty neat to see,” Farmer says.

Westside alumni association Immediate Past-president & 1987 Westside homecoming queen


 

Written By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman

Photos contributed by Glenwood Opinion-Tribune

Homecoming is a huge celebration for this town of 5,300, which more than doubles in size for one fall weekend each year.

“I’ve been in other school districts, and it’s frequently a presentation of the king and queen at the football game and a dance afterwards. This town, this week, is amazing,” says Glenwood Schools Superintendent Devin Embray.

Beyond the coronation of a king and queen, Glenwood recognizes its 25-year reunion class as the “honor class.” Most of the class members return for this weekend in which they are honored at the pep rally and circle the town square twice during the parade. They are also a part of the Saturday-night coronation ceremony, as the past student body president gives a speech to the senior class that is similar to a graduation speech.

While many homecoming parades feature the high school classes, clubs, and athletics along with a few politicians, Glenwood’s parade includes at least 180 entries, with class floats from kindergarten through seniors; class reunion floats from five-year through 50-year and higher, entries from homeschoolers and special interest groups such as tractor clubs, and more. 

Coronation is open to the public and includes the presentation of pages, scribes, and gift bearers along with the king and queen. The prior year’s king and queen come back and sit in their thrones before turning them over to the newly-crowned monarchs.

“I can’t even explain the coronation—you have to see it to believe it,” says high school principal Richard Hutchinson.

Glenwood’s homecoming also includes the Outcasts, which was started by a group of non-native residents who felt like outsiders. This group now crowns their own king and queen each year, has a float and royalty car in the parade, and holds a separate dinner and dance.

“There’s so many people within the town that play a big part in this,” says Hutchinson. “The band parents have been the ones that oversee the king and queen nominations. There are parents in charge of the coronation. We have [community members] that oversee the parade…It is a community event.”


This article was printed in the Fall 2018 edition of Family Guide.

A Culinary Master in the Making

July 4, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The metal crank wouldn’t work. Witney Stanley had to think of a solution fast. The pressure heated up the kitchen at the Pinnacle Bank Expo Center in Grand Island. The clock ticked tauntingly.

Thirty minutes remaining. 

The SkillsUSA Culinary Arts Championship was on the line. Each participant had to present judges with an entrée from a fabricated whole chicken, a sauce, a vegetable, and a starch. Judges would be expecting a composed salad as well. Only items in the kitchen’s pantry were allowed to be used to create the dishes, and the dinner needed to be cooked in two hours and 30 minutes. Think Top Chef with high school students. 

But the crank was being…well…cranky. 

Witney, a senior at Omaha Central, wanted to win it all. Her competitive drive wouldn’t allow faulty equipment to squash her chances at a medal. After a frustrating five minutes, she grabbed a rolling pin instead to smooth out the dough for her tortellini. She cut it and filled it with spinach, garlic, tomato, and olive. 

Witney inserted the thin thermometer into her roasted chicken thighs. 

155 degrees. 

She rushed to the pantry for oil. The pastor’s daughter took a long deep breath and said a short prayer. Showtime. Only seven minutes, not nearly enough time to cook it completely in the oven. She finished off the chicken on the stovetop with a pan-fried sear. 

The white wine sauce created a challenge as well. Since Witney was only 18 and not legally old enough to drink, she needed to be creative. The young cook substituted white vinegar, onion, and homemade chicken stock. 

She sliced the (finally) cooked chicken, a technique she mastered in between school and tennis. She added Tuscan vegetables and tourné cut potatoes. 

Time.  

At the April 2018 competition, Witney came away with a bronze medal and a passion for competing. 

But her love of all things savory and sweet is deeply rooted in family heritage. When she was only 4 years old, as her sisters prepped for monthly church outreach banquets alongside their mother, Witney would stand on a stool washing cabbage or setting tables for guests. 

“My mom is a genius in the kitchen,” Witney explains. “She doesn’t trust anyone in there except her daughters.”

Her mother, Alyssa, enrolled all six of her children into cake-decorating classes at Michael’s. Witney, 10 years old at the time, started baking cakes whenever she could for birthdays or other special occasions. After a recommendation from a neighbor, the girls decided to sell their homemade yellow and devil’s food cupcakes with buttercream frosting at the Gifford Park Neighborhood Market. 

“I was hesitant at first,” Witney recalls. “Then I thought, what’s the worst that could happen? I could end up with a tray of cupcakes, and I could eat them.”

The money, though, wasn’t to buy more supplies, candy, or even toys. Instead, the sisters saved it for someone special. It took an entire year, and the older girls had to get side jobs, but it all went to purchase a bedroom set their mother had her eye on for a while. 

“From that point on, they were known for those cupcakes,” Alyssa says. “All just to surprise me with a Mother’s Day gift.” 

It turned into a business, Stanley Southern Sweeties. Each sister plays a role—whether creating roses, borders, or letters. 

Their mother saw something special in Witney and pushed her to cook for the family. She started experimenting even if it meant getting dinner to the table later than usual. 

In order to play tennis, Witney made the move from home-school to Central High School. Introverted and painfully shy, the teenager couldn’t fathom it all. So her sister Justine, who was taking online classes at Metropolitan Community College, went to every single class to watch out for Witney that first year. After taking the No. 1 spot in tennis, Witney soon made friends and discovered culinary classes. Entering her senior year, she started taking classes at the Omaha Public Schools Career Center for college credit. She continued practicing in the kitchen at every opportunity, soaking up knowledge like a sponge cake.

“She’s an example of what we should be seeing in every student,” says chef Perthedia Berry, a culinary instructor at Metro. 

Berry, sometimes referred to as the “female Gordon Ramsay,” can intimidate students. Witney prefers the tough love as it reminds her of her own upbringing. 

“I love the intensity. She [Berry] wants her students to do well. She’s preparing me for the future. If you can get through her, you can get through anything,” Witney says. 

The main issue for the aspiring cook is speaking up. Berry yells at her to stop worrying about offending people. Chefs should be concerned with getting dinner to hungry guests; save the politeness for later. 

With each class, Witney gained confidence. She earned the Best Beef Award at her first invitational (the Metropolitan Community College Institute for Culinary Arts High School Invitational in February 2017). In another competition, two teammates dropped out, but Witney took it upon herself to take all the responsibility. 

“Witney pushes forward, and she’ll be someone you know in this community,” Berry says. 

Her mother, originally from New Orleans, was a mentor for last year’s Metro invitational. So Witney simmered a New Orleans gumbo on the stove and, along with Omaha North’s Ajana Jones, took home the silver medal. 

Witney plans to open a restaurant or a bakery someday, maybe with her sisters. After she takes the accelerated Culinary Arts program at Metro, she plans to enroll at Creighton University for a business degree. The pitfalls are well-known, but that doesn’t stop her. 

“She’s fearless,” her mother says. 

For now, Witney is carefully measuring each step, weighing the consequences, and stirring in a pinch of prayer that her dream will become a reality.


Visit ccenter.ops.org for more information about culinary classes at the OPS Career Center and mccneb.edu for details on Metropolitan Community College’s Institute for the Culinary Arts.

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

Campfire Stories

July 2, 2018 by

Stories for Kids

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

The Fisher Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cornfield Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Seeking Counsel of the Wilderness in Summer

May 20, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Spencer Hawkins has encountered bears 24 times in his life.

One encounter happened when he woke up early to fish. Pausing to change his lure, he says, “something felt wrong. I turned over my shoulder, and from where I had just walked, a grizzly bear was walking into the water right at me.” With nowhere to go in deepening river, Hawkins called out for fellow camper Ben Bissell, who immediately came to the rescue, bedecked in nothing but boots, boxer shorts, and a shotgun. Then, the bear picked up a dead salmon from the riverbank and simply walked away.

The vast expanse of nature can be intimidating for some, but for Hawkins, it is his summer home. In the remaining nine months of the year, Hawkins is a counselor at Andersen Middle School. He enjoys telling his students about his travels, enriching their lives with his stories while imbuing them with a respect for nature and its beasts. 

Hawkins’ thirst for adventure started in college, when he and three friends began traveling to national parks in Utah and Montana to rock climb. One friend wanted to fish in the location of the film, A River Runs Through It, which gave birth to their new pastime. This gave way to a rock climbing trip to Devil’s Tower in northeast Wyoming.

The friends’ first big trip to Alaska was prompted by a friend about to enter medical school. They spent 35 days in the wilderness, relying on nothing but each other and their intuition for survival. Hawkins says, “We were really remote, so we had no help. You couldn’t call on your cellphone, we didn’t have anything that worked, so we just relied on each other, caught and ate a lot of fish, moved camp, got rained on, made a fire, and [moved to a] new camp.” Floating down the river for three weeks, the explorers ate only the plants available and fish they caught, which lead to noticeable weight loss.

Fishing has probably made them more attractive to bears. Once, while Hawkins and his travel companions were sleeping, they heard a rustling outside of their tent, and the sound of something rummaging around the surrounding brush. Hawkins, springing from his tent suddenly, saw a 500-pound black bear that had been rifling through the camper’s equipment take off through the forest, snapping trees in half like they were twigs. Luckily, Hawkins recalls, the bear hadn’t found their inflatable raft full of supplies down at the riverbank, which could have easily been destroyed by the massive beast, stranding them in the Alaskan wilderness with no way to call for help. 

Bears aren’t the only animal Hawkins has seen. While cooking freshly caught fish in the dark one night, Hawkins heard noise coming from the other side of the campsite. He shone a flashlight into the woods, where about 10 pairs of glowing eyes stared back at him from behind the foliage. A pack of wolves had come to investigate the culinary aroma. Following a one-minute stare-down that seemed like ten minutes, the winner of the fish supper was the humans.

Hawkins’ days of asking friends to run after a bear in their underwear may be behind him. These days, his trips tend to be more family-friendly, although he continues to frequent national parks.

“When you are rock climbing you have to focus only on what you are doing and the rocks and trees around you. The worries of the world, your everyday life, you don’t have time to worry about.”


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

2018 May/June Family & More

April 25, 2018 by

Farmers Markets
Gardening season is open in Omaha, and those desiring fresh produce will find plenty of options in the area, along with artisan cheeses, farm-raised meats, freshly baked breads, assorted treats, and craft items.

• Aksarben Village (67th and Center streets) 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays starting May 6

• Council Bluffs (Bayliss Park) 4:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday starting May 3.

• Gifford Park (33rd and California streets) 5-8 p.m. Fridays starting June 1.

• Florence Mill (9102 N. 30th St.) 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays starting June 3.

• Old Market (11th and Jackson streets) 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays starting May 5

• Papillion (84th and Lincoln Street) 5-8 p.m. Wednesdays starting May 30.

• Village Pointe (168th and Dodge streets) 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays starting May 5.

Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder’s Weekend
May 4-6 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St. Shareholders in the company created by Oracle of Omaha Warren Buffet can learn about the year’s earning at this annual meeting. Events include the “Invest in Yourself” 5k run, a bridge tournament, shopping, and more. Times vary. 402-341-1500.
centurylinkcenteromaha.com

Cinco de Mayo Parade
May 5, along 24 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. Other event festivities take place May 4-6, before and after the parade along L to P streets. Rain or shine. 10 a.m. Admission: free.
cincodemayoomaha.com

Beer, Brats & Begonias
May 5 at the Garden Gallery, 2721 N. 206th St, Elkhorn. This annual event features art, music, and beer. Event festivities include live music and over 30 artists, along with plants to gaze at: annuals, perennials, tropicals, and hanging baskets. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: free. 402-707-0056.
the-garden-gallery.blogspot.com

Lantern Fest
May 5 at Raceway Park of the Midlands, Jesup Ave., Pacific Junction. Before sundown, friends and families can enjoy food, live music, a stage show, familiar princesses, face painters, s’mores, balloon artists, and more. When the time is just right, visitors will get the chance to light the sky with their highest hopes and fondest dreams. 3-11 p.m. Admission: $7-$60. 1-800-994-2515.
omaha.eventful.com

Saturdays @ Stinson Concert Series
Starting May 5 at Stinson Park, 2285 S. 67th St. Food, drinks, face painting, and balloon artists will all be available during these live concerts, which feature talented bands in Omaha. 7-10 p.m. Admission: free. 402-496-1616.
aksarbenvillage.com

Renaissance Festival of Nebraska
May 5-6 and 12-13 at Bellevue Berry Farm, 11001 S. 48th St. Step back in time to the days of knights in shining armor with full contact sword play, equestrian jousting, six unique performance locations, 100+ costumed characters, and free make-and-take crafts. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission: $13 adults, $8 children. 402-331-5500.
renfestnebraska.com

Yoga Rocks the Park
Starting May 6 at Turner Park, 3110 Farnam St. This healing arts festival takes place on Sundays and combines yoga and live music as a way to heal your mind and body. 4 p.m. (3:30 registration). Admission: free; donations accepted.
midtowncrossing.com

Leashes at Lauritzen
May 7 and 14, June 4 and 11 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. Bring your canine friends to explore the grounds and enjoy the outdoors. Heel for family photos, learn about local dog-related nonprofits, and enjoy treats/samples with your pup. 5-8 p.m. Admission: $10 adults and $5 for dogs; free for garden members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Soundry Workshop: Instrument Building
May 10 at KANEKO, 1111 Jones St. Adult learners (18 and up) will investigate the art of sound installation, instrument building, and 21st compositional techniques. Participants will be able to create, play, and take home their very own instrument. 6-7 p.m. Admission: $20. 402-341-3800.
thekaneko.org

Sip Nebraska Wine Festival
May 11-12 at Mahoney State Park, 28500 W. Park Hwy. Celebrate spring and wine and this 5th annual wine event highlighting vintages from Nebraska wineries and craft breweries. Live music, unlimited wine, hard cider, craft beer, food, art, and more will be available. 4-10 p.m. (Friday), 1-10 p.m. (Saturday). Admission: $25-$120. 402-882-2448.
blurparties.com

Celebrate CB
May 11-12, 19 in Council Bluffs, various locations. Hop across the river for events like Celebrate at The River, a barbecue, a parade, and more festivities. Times vary. Admission: free. 712-396-2494.
celebratecb.com

Spring Night Hike at the Wetlands
May 12 at Wetlands Learning Center, 695 Camp Gifford Road. Join in on a night hike in the wetlands as we try to identify any animals we observe. Participants should bring a flashlight or headlamp and dress for the weather. 7-10 p.m. Admission: regular admission, free to members. 402-731-3140
fontenelleforest.org

Omaha Rollergirls Roller Derby
May 12 at Ralston Arena, 7300 Q St. It’s double the action with this double header on Star Wars/Family Night. Get a $1 beer while watching the show, during the first hour only. 6-8 p.m. Admission: $12 adults, $6 children (4-10), free for children 3 and under. 402-980-5579.
ralstonarena.com

Florence Days
May 12-13 in downtown Florence, 30th St. between State St. and I-680 N. Historic Florence retains its own small-town feeling with this annual event. Activities include a parade, art displays, a melodrama, talks about the historic Florence Mill, and more. 10 a.m. Admission: free.
historicflorence.org

High Tea and Talons
May 13 at Fontenelle Forest, 1111 Bellevue Blvd. Enjoy Mother’s Day surrounded by birds. At this event, guest will enjoy tea, small pastries, and sandwiches while learning about birds of prey. Fancy dress is encouraged. 1-3 p.m. Admission: $5 for members, $15 for non-members (includes daily admission). 402-731-3150
fontenelleforest.org

2018 national Golden Gloves Finals
May 14-19 at Ralston Arena, 7300 Q St. The finals come back to Omaha for the first time since 2006! Top Golden Gloves competitors will vie for the national title. 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Admission: $10. 402-934-9966.
ralstonarena.com

Kevin Hart
May 17 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St. Comedian and actor Kevin Hart brings his stand-up comedy show to Omaha on his “Irresponsible Tour.” 7 p.m. Admission: $35-$125+. 800-745-3000.
centurylinkcenteromaha.com

Third Annual Food Truck Rodeo
May 18 outside Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Here’s a chance to sample some of Omaha’s favorite food on wheels all in one location. 15 food trucks will unite with a DJ and multiple outdoor bars for this local favorite. 4-11 p.m. Admission: free. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Elkhorn Antique Flea Market
May 20 at Walworth County Fairgrounds, 411 East Court St. This Elkhorn event, held four times a year, hosts over 500 vendors each with their own unique treasures. 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Rain or shine. Admission: $5. 414-525-0820.
nlpromotionsllc.com

Salute to Summer Festival
May 24-27 in downtown La Vista. Old-fashioned fun will be available at this annual event, which takes place on Memorial Day weekend. There will be a carnival in Central Park, a parade down Park View Boulevard, and more. Times vary. Admission: free. 402-331-4343.
cityoflavista.org/lavistadaze

Loessfest
May 25-28 at River’s Edge Park. Come to Council Bluffs for outdoor activities at this Memorial Day Weekend event. Events include a free community concert, carnival, parade, and much more. Times vary. Admission: free. 712-328-4650.
loessfest.com

Helicopter Day
May 26 at Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, 28210 W. Park Hwy. Visitors can watch helicopters fly away and land right in front of them. Inside the museum, workshops and family-friendly activities await the visitors. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission: $12 adults; $6 children. $65 if you want to take a ride in a helicopter. 402-944-3100.
sacmuseum.org

Vibes at Village Pointe
Starting May 31 at Village Pointe Shopping Center, 17305 Davenport St. Stop by the shopping center every Thursday for live music. Make sure to bring a blanket or chair. 6:30-8:30 p.m. Admission: free. 402-505-9773.
villagepointeshopping.com

Benson Beer Fest
June 2 in Benson, 60th and Maple. This beer-lovers’ festival hosts hundreds of breweries, local food vendors, raffles, giveaways, and music for one day. 3-7 p.m. Admission: $35 general, $40 day of event, $45 VIP.
bensonbeerfest2018.com

Elkhorn Days
June 1-3 throughout Elkhorn. This year’s festival is themed “Fun and Games” and features a casino night, hot air balloon rides, a movie night, parade, fireworks display, and other family fun. Times vary. Admission: free. 402-289-9560
elkhorndays.com

Taste of Omaha
June 1-3 at Omaha Riverfront and Heartland of America Park, 800 Douglas St. This annual food-filled festival features eats from nearly 50 restaurants. Accompanied by live music, entertainment, and activities at Heartland of America Park, Lewis & Clark Landing, and River’s Edge Park. Times vary. Admission: free. 402-346-8003.
showofficeonline.com

Omaha Oddities and Art Expo
June 2 at Comfort Inn and Suites, 7007 Grover St. This first annual expo and sale will offer a variety of oddities, curiosities, and art from over 30 vendors. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: $5 ($4 with can food donation), free for children 13 and under. 402-506-5852.
voodoosoddshop.com

Castlepalooza
June 2 at Joslyn Castle, 3902 Davenport St. This community festival will take place on the grounds of the historic Joslyn Castle. Enjoy a historic neighborhood tour on bicycle that concludes on the castle grounds, where live music, family activities, vendors, food trucks, and craft beer will be waiting. 4-10 p.m. Admission: free. 402-595-2199.
joslyncastle.com

Wine, Beer, Blues, and Balloon Festival
June 2 at Soaring Wings Vineyard, 17111 S. 138th St. The 14th annual blues event will feature musical guests Rex Granite Band, Sarah Benck, Connie Hawkins and the Blueswreckers, Keeshea Pratt Band, and Harlis Sweetwater Band. Bring a chair and blanket to take in the music and the hot air balloon show to follow. 4 p.m. Admission: $25 for those 21 and over (includes a glass of wine or beer), $15 for ages 12-20, free for kids under 12. 402-253-2479.
soaringwingswine.com

Moo at the Zoo
June 2-3 at Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St. Meet in the Desert Dome Plaza for an day filled with agriculture. Get up close to multiple breeds of dairy cows and try some country cooking. Dancing, airbrush tattoo, and carnival games will also be available. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: regular zoo admission, free to members. 402-733-8401.
omahazoo.com

Countryside Village Art Fair
June 2-3 at Countryside Village Shopping Center, 8722 Countryside Plaza. The annual fair showcases a mix of styles, perceptions, and media. The artwork selection inspires casual visitors to start art collections, and connoisseurs to add to existing collections. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission: free. 402-391-2200.
countryside-village.com

Annual Veterans Appreciation Rally
June 3 near North Omaha Airport, 12005 N. 72nd St. All to honor veterans, this event features classic cars, motorcycles, and airplanes. Activities include raffles and skydiving shows. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: free; $5 donation requested. 402-714-4269.
—@heroesoftheheartlandfoundation on Facebook

Monday Night Movies
Mondays June 4-July 30 at Turner Park, 3110 Farnam St. Laugh, cry, and relax with classic movies under the stars this summer. Children and pets are welcome to enjoy this free night out. Movies begin at dusk. Admission: free.
midtowncrossing.com

Santa Lucia Italian Festival
June 7-10 at Lewis and Clark Landing, 345 Riverfront Drive. Come experience the richness of Italian history and culture at the 94th annual event. Carnival rides, authentic Italian foods, music, and nightly entertainment will all be available. Times vary. Admission: free. 402-342-6632.
santaluciafestival.com

Summer Arts Festival
June 8-10 at Gene Leahy Mall, 1302 Farnam St. Over 135 artists from across the country will showcase and demonstrate their work here. Food and live entertainment also available. Times vary. Admission: free. 402-444-5900.
summerarts.org

Stars and Stripes Day
June 9 at Gifford Farms, 700 Camp Gifford Road. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a day at the farm. Be prepared to learn about planets, stars, and constellations, while also seeing a police cruiser, a motorcycle, a firetruck, and farm animals up close and personal. This event is a tribute to those who serve. 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Admission: $5 ages 2 and up. 402-597-4920.
esu3.org

Rose Day and Show
June 10 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. Join the Omaha Rose Society to promote the culture and appreciation of the rose. See a variety of rose blooms and arrangements on display for judging, visit with rosarians, and explore the rose garden. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for children under 6. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Tempo of Twilight
June 12, 19, 26 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. This outdoor concert series brings local entertainment to the garden, perfectly blending music and nature. Bring chairs, food, and the family for a night of fun. 6-8 p.m. Admission: regular garden admission, free for members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Papillion Days
June 13-17 in Papillion. Treat Dad to a festival over Father’s Day weekend. This annual event includes a parade, fireworks, carnival, and much more. Times vary. Admission: $25 for carnival tickets. 402-331-3917.
papilliondays.org

College World Series Opening Day
June 15 at TD Ameritrade Park, 1200 Mike Fahey, St. Before the series starts, come to the park for a day full of events, including FanFest, team autograph sessions, practices, Olympic-style opening ceremonies, a concert, and a fireworks finale. Activities begin at 9:10 a.m. Admission: free. 402-554-4422.
cwsomaha.com

College World Series
June 16-26/27 at TD Ameritrade Park, 1200 Mike Fahey St. This annual baseball tournament offers fans the chance to be a part of a cherished tradition that includes tailgating and cheering on your favorite college baseball teams. 2 or 7 p.m. Admission: $35-$100. 402-554-4422.
cwsomaha.com

Community Paint Day
June 16 at The Union for Contemporary Art, 2423 N. 24th St. The Union’s Neighborhood Arts program and Creighton University Graphic Design II students led by professor and former Union Fellow Betni Kalk teamed up to complete a new mural design for the Omaha Small Business Network’s Business and Technology Center. All ages and no painting skills necessary to participate. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission: free. 402-933-3161
u-ca.org

Polish Fest
June 23 at Crescent Moon and Huber-Haus German Bier Hall. Try a variety of Polish beers at this festival, which celebrates food and drink from the land that gave us Pope John Paul II. Food includes Polish sausage, glombki, and perogies. Noon-11 p.m. Admission: 402-345-1708.
beercornerusa.com

Zydeco Festival
June 23 at Turner Park, 3110 Farnam St. Enjoy a day of Creole and Cajun-style food, as well as activities and music from artists from throughout the New Orleans region. 3-10 p.m. Admission: free.
midtowncrossing.com

Omaha Celebrates America, featuring Starship and Survivor
June 29 at Memorial Park, 6005 Underwood Ave. Omaha’s 28th annual pre-Fourth of July event will feature music from Starship and Survior, with the Confidentials as the opening act, followed by fireworks. 6 p.m. concert and 10 p.m. fireworks show. Admission: free. 402-444-5900.
omahacelebratesamerica.com

Heartland Pride Festival
June 29-30 at various locations. This festival is about the celebration, recognition, and integration of LGBTQ+ people and culture. Events include a parade in Council Bluffs, a youth pride festival, and a pride festival at Baxter Arena. Times vary. Admission: $52 VIP, $12 festival entrance, free for outdoor festival grounds.
heartlandpride.org


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

60Plus Opener

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Gwen Lemke, Contributing Editor for 60Plus In Omaha

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.

Food for the Heart

August 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Marie Losole still laughs when telling what she calls “the story of our escapade,” a 1967 elopement by train to Idaho, one of two states where 18-year-olds could get married at that time without parental permission.

Fifty years after running away together, Don and Marie Losole are still running—running a restaurant together. Its name, Lo Sole Mio, is a play on words, combining their last name and the famous Italian love song “O Sole Mio.”

Like their love, the restaurant has endured. August marks 25 years for the venture that embodies their passion and lifelong dream.

The couple, who met at Central High School, both come from restaurant families and began their restaurant careers at age 14. Don was head chef at a large country club by the time he was only 21.

In 1975, the couple opened their first restaurant, Losole’s Landmark, a favorite with the downtown lunch crowd. A job opportunity briefly took the family to California a few years later, but they soon realized the West Coast was not a good fit for them.

After their return to Omaha, Don worked on the supply side of the restaurant industry while Marie began creating dishes for delivery, a side business that “pretty soon got so big that we knew we couldn’t keep doing this from home,” she says.

In 1992, the family took a leap of faith that became Lo Sole Mio. Villa Losole, an event venue, followed in 1997.

Both facilities are located near the Hanscom Park area, tucked away in a quaint neighborhood, exactly the sort of location that the Losoles were seeking—a destination. The charming ambiance is a perfect backdrop for the Italian cuisine and family atmosphere.

“We are a family supporting other families…We are very blessed to have some good employees who’ve been here a long time and some loyal customers who have become friends,” Marie says. “I like to walk around and visit with my customers and see what brings them in, just thank them for coming here…I love being a part of people’s memories.”

Lo Sole Mio has employed all six of their children over the years and now some of their older grandchildren (they have 17).

“My mother always used to say to me, ‘as you get older, time goes by faster.’  Well, my summation of that is that time doesn’t go any faster, it’s just taking us longer to do what we used to do,” Marie says.

Sure, the couple boasts some artificial joints between them, and Marie says “my feet ache a little more, my back aches a little more,” but the Losoles are proud to continue maintaining their “old-school” work ethic and hands-on management approach.

“We make sure it’s something we’d want to eat; quality is very important for us,” Marie says. “We are now at the point where we can enjoy life a little bit more without having to be here 80 hours a week or more. But this is still our first priority. We will probably be here until we pass away, I would imagine.”

In fact, she says, “My husband says to me, ‘This is what’s keeping us young.’”

Visit losolemio.com for more information.

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of 60Plus.

La Famiglia di Firma

August 8, 2017 by
Photography by Contributed

Like a good book title, the names of the Firmature brothers’ bars and restaurants could almost paint a picture of what awaited customers.

At The Gas Lamp, you could savor a prime rib and listen to a live ragtime band from your marble-top table (provided you wore a suit or a nice dress during its early years of operation). A Sidewalk Cafe offered diners a chance to people-watch at Regency while they ate a crab salad. The Ticker Tape Lounge gave downtowners a brief respite from work and prominently featured an antique stock market ticker tape. And if you really had a rough day, you could always drop by Brothers Lounge, get a cocktail, and flop down on a couch or a rocking chair.

With the exception of Brothers Lounge at 38th and Farnam streets, none of these places exist anymore. When Robert Firmature turned Brothers Lounge over to current owners Trey and Lallaya Lalley in 1998, it ended nearly 70 years where the Firmature family had a major presence in the Omaha restaurant community.

In the early 1930s, Helen and Sam Firmature opened Trentino’s, an Italian restaurant, at 10th and Pacific streets (which would later become Angie’s Restaurant). The restaurateur family also consisted of Sam’s brother, Joseph, and his wife, Barbara, along with their three sons: Robert “Bob,” Jay, and Ernest “Ernie.”

Ernie cut his teeth bartending at Trentino’s and at a motor inn (The Prom Town House, which was destroyed in the 1975 tornado) before he opened The Gas Lamp in 1961. He also briefly managed a club called the 64 Club in Council Bluffs.

Located in the predominantly middle-class neighborhood of 30th and Leavenworth streets, The Gas Lamp was a destination spot for anniversaries, promotions, and proposals. Flocked wallpaper, antique lamps, and Victorian velvet furniture was the décor. Live ragtime was the music. Prime rib and duck à l’orange were the specialties. In an era where female roles in restaurants were still primarily as waitresses and hostesses, The Gas Lamp had two women with head chef-style status. Katie Gamble oversaw the kitchen. And Ernie and Betty’s son, Steve Firmature, and daughter, Jaye, were routinely corralled to help with clean-up—the cost of living in a restaurant family.

The Italian family name was originally “Firmaturi.” A popular account of the spelling change involves a bygone relative trying to make their name more “Americanized.” After researching family history, Steve suspects the name changed as a result of a documentation error—a mistaken “e” in place of the final vowel. Steve says those style of errors were common back then (due to errors in ship manifests or as depicted in a scene from the movie The Godfather: Part II).

Before she was even a teenager, Jaye Firmature McCoy was tasked with cleaning the chandeliers and booths. While cleaning, she would occasionally dig inside booths for any money that may have accidentally been left by a customer. At 10, she was promoted to hat check girl. At 14, she was the hostess. Steve did everything from bus tables to help in the kitchen.

“Back in those days, we didn’t have titles for people that cooked. Today, I think we’d call them a sous chef and a chef. We had two cooks,” Steve says with a laugh.

In the early ’60s, Ernie enforced a dress code for customers.

“When we first started, a gentleman couldn’t come in without a coat and tie. A woman couldn’t come in wearing pants [dresses only],” Jaye says.

The dress code (which eased in the late ’60s) may have been formal, but the restaurant retained a friendly atmosphere where some patrons returned weekly.

William and Martha Ellis were regulars. Speaking with Omaha Magazine over the phone from their home in Scottsdale, Arizona, they recalled going to The Gas Lamp almost every weekend. They became good friends with Ernie, to the point where all three of their children eventually worked for the Firmature brothers (mainly at A Sidewalk Cafe).

“Ernie wanted you to think he was this sort of tough Italian mobster, but he was really sort of amusing,” Martha says.

The Gas Lamp came to an abrupt end in 1980 when a fire destroyed the restaurant. It was ruled as arson, but a suspect was never caught. Instead of rebuilding, the family decided to “transfer” some of the signature dishes of The Gas Lamp to A Sidewalk Cafe. The Firmature brothers had purchased the restaurant from Willy Theisen in 1977.

Along with the three brothers, another Firmature, Jim (Helen and Sam’s son), was also a partner in owning A Sidewalk Cafe. Bob spent much of his time managing Brothers Lounge. Ernie managed A Sidewalk Cafe until he retired. Jim and Jay also helped manage the place. Jay (who is the only surviving member of the three) primarily worked in the business area. He was brought in by Ernie from Mutual of Omaha.

“He always said, ‘I should have stayed at Mutual,’” Steve says with a laugh.

Though not as formal as The Gas Lamp, A Sidewalk Cafe was still a destination spot. Located in the heart of the Regency neighborhood, the cafe aimed to pull in people who may have assumed Regency was out of their price range. Still, the cafe maintained an upper-end dining experience. DJ Dave Wingert, who now hosts a morning show on Boomer Radio, would routinely take radio guests to the Sidewalk Cafe in the ’80s. One guest was comedian and co-host of the NBC pre-reality show hit Real People—the late Skip Stephenson.

“I remember the booth we were sitting in, and telling him about being shot at Club 89,” Wingert says.

Since A Sidewalk Cafe closed its doors in the late ’90s, Omaha’s food scene has only grown in regard to available dining options and national recognition. Wingert says A Sidewalk Cafe would fit with today’s culinary landscape. Jaye agrees.

“It was probably the one [restaurant] that was the most survivable, I think,” she says.

Jaye has left the restaurant business. She is now owner and president of FirstLight Home Care, an in-home health care business. Though the industries are vastly different, Jaye says much of her experience with the restaurants has carried over to health care.

“Restaurants and bars are something that get into your blood,” she says. “It’s about the people and taking care of people.”

Find the last remnant of the Firmature family bar and restaurant empire at @brothersloungeomaha on Facebook.

From left: Ernie, Robert “Bobby”, and Jay Firmature

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of 60Plus.