Tag Archives: Gary Kerr

J.E. George Boulevard

July 3, 2015 by

This article appears in July/August 2015 Omaha Home.

If you’re looking to experience a small-town parade in the middle of Omaha, look no further. This summer marks the 65th annual J.E. George Boulevard Fourth of July Parade. The parade was founded in 1950 by residents Bob and Lu Adwers.

Children don festive costumes in the Americana theme, dress up their dogs, and grab wagons, tricycles, and other forms of transportation for a joyous display of patriotic pride.

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J.E. George Boulevard is a stately, tree-lined thoroughfare just north of Memorial Park. It gets its namesake from early Omaha real estate developer John Edward George. According to the Douglas County Historical Society, he was a member of the city planning commission who played a big role in the St. Mary’s Avenue grading project.

League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha President Peggy Adair participated in the parade for her first time last year. “I’m from west Omaha and I love this. It’s like old home. It just makes you smile to be here,” she says.

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Many local politicians also join in the fun by marching in the parade wearing brightly colored campaign slogan tees and passing out stickers.

Each year there is a grand marshal and special guests invited. Past grand marshals have included longtime J.E. George Boulevard resident Barbara Raffensperger and Godfather’s Pizza founder Willy Thiesen. Past special guests included TV personalities Bill Randby and Gary Kerr, and radio personality Tom Becka. The J.E. George Navy Band has also been a popular attraction of the parade since the 1980s.

Each year Sandy Wray of Elkhorn attends the parade with her sister, Terry Price. Price is a J.E. George Boulevard resident who is active in the community and serves as the Neighborhood Watch point person. “I think it’s just great that we honor our country,” Wray says.

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“It’s a good way, I think, for the kids to learn some traditions about our country and keep that alive instead of thinking it’s just a way for them to party.”

The parade begins to assemble at 9:30 a.m. at the corner of J.E. George Boulevard and Western Avenue. The parade begins at 10 a.m. and moves south down J.E. George Boulevard, ending with a celebration at Memorial Park. Prizes are awarded at the baseball diamond for best costumes and floats.

Joe Pepitone of Bloom Companion Care has been emceeing the parade for more than five years. “All of the kids have a great time. It’s really important that they get a chance to showcase their hard work, putting together their floats and their costumes, and get a prize,” Pepitone says.

“It’s really all about the kids,” he reflects.

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Omaha Press Club

October 29, 2013 by
Illustration by Jim Horan

While other city clubs have closed in defeat, the Omaha Press Club marks its 42nd anniversary on the 22nd floor of the First National Center in Downtown Omaha.

Does the club stay open because of the spectacular view from windows stretching to the ceiling? The glowing copper fireplace? The food?

Executive Director Steve Villamonte explains the club’s durability, even through a recession: “There is something going on all the time. The club offers events from lunch-and-learn opportunities to wine dinners to holiday buffets.”

Retired WOWT newscaster Gary Kerr and his committee hold monthly educational events. Sports forums at noon feature such topics as Nebraska football and 
Creighton basketball.

Each year, journalists are inducted into the OPC Hall of Fame. Their names are engraved on a plaque in the club’s Hall of History. Among the first inducted in 2008 were Omaha Star publisher Mildred Brown (read more on Brown), NBC-TV’s Floyd Kalber, and legendary radio sportscaster Lyell Bremser.

The OPC Foundation’s annual Omaha Press Club Show, which raises funds for journalism scholarships, will be held next year on April 3.

The space’s premier event is the ‘Face on the Barroom Floor’ dinner. When the club’s restaurant opened in 1971, members decided to celebrate the people who give journalists something to write about. Walls are now covered with caricature drawings of 
newsmakers’ faces.

The satirical artwork by artist Jim Horan (full disclosure…yes, the author is Jim’s wife, and she also serves on the organization’s board) is presented in fun as friends roast the subject. A zinger directed to Larry the Cable Guy is a sample of the teasing that honorees endure: “I’m happy to say fame has not gone to his [Larry’s] head, only to his waistline.”

The most recent honoree was Omaha Magazine publisher Todd Lemke.

The first caricature was that of fun-loving Omaha Mayor Gene Leahy. Nebraska football coach Bob Devaney followed him in 1972. Also that year, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew dropped by the club to see his ‘Face.’

Agnew had a love-hate relationship with the press, whom he once famously described as “nattering nabobs of negativism.” So it was with tongues in cheek that Omaha Press Club officers named a private room at the club the “Spiro Agnew Room.”

Among other well-known ‘Faces’ hanging on the club’s walls are Bob Gibson, Chuck Hagel, Tom Osborne, and Johnny Carson.

Horan said that his drawing of Warren Buffett is his favorite because of the billionaire’s unruly hair: “Warren looked at his caricature the night he roasted Walter Scott at a ‘Face’ event and quipped, ‘I’ve got to rethink that 25 cent tip for my barber.’”

The disappearance of Buffett’s ‘Face on the Barroom Floor’ became national news in 2008. The New York Times and Forbes magazine were among media that published stories about the missing artwork. Omaha heaved a sigh of relief when the drawing was finally found.

On Sept. 9, the Lauritzen Room was dedicated to honor the First National Bank family that helped open the club 42 years ago.

“Without their continuing support,” Villamonte says, “it would have been difficult for us to succeed.”