Tag Archives: Nebraska

Great Scot!

October 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

He began serving as the vice president of LGBTQ+ advocacy organization Heartland Pride last fall, but David Kerr hails from nowhere near Nebraska. The Glasgow, Scotland, native followed love to Omaha in 2013, and although his relationship ended, his business venture, The Tavern, blossomed in the heart of the Old Market. Today, Kerr jokes about printing cards to answer the daily question of how and why he ended up in the middle of America, but maintains he’s found a good fit in his adopted city.

“Omaha is hugely supportive of young entrepreneurs and business startups, and they have a sense of community here that you would never find anywhere else to nurture someone like that,” he says. Kerr prides himself on running an inclusive establishment that welcomes all; he’s even one of the first locally to offer gender-neutral bathrooms.

In turn, his business supports numerous nonprofits by serving as an event venue, participating in giving program Together A Greater Good (TAGG), and even directly supporting fundraising efforts. Kerr’s interest in giving back to the community began an ocean away, but one particular cause will always be close.

David Kerr

“Before I called Omaha my home, I volunteered for an LGBTQ+ organization in London called ‘The Albert Kennedy Trust,’ and they did some incredible work. And it really gave me an appetite to work for change no matter where I am,” he says.

The 1969 Stonewall riots are largely regarded as the catalyst that brought forth the U.S. gay pride movement. Heartland Pride’s official beginnings trace back to 1985. It’s a better world today for most LGBTQ+ people, Kerr says, but there’s still work to be done.

“Since then it’s remained crucial to our community to remain visible and proud. It’s easy to get complacent when we make strides,” he says. “For the gay community, it’s still relevant because honoring and celebrating our culture is still relevant.”

Dozens of countries around the world still criminalize same-sex activities, Kerr points out, and in eight countries death is a legal punishment.

“It’s important to remember the tradition of honoring those who went before us, the ones who were denied their human rights, and the ones who physically lost their lives as well. It’s important to still get out and be proud to honor those lives and shine a beacon of hope to people around the world. There are people who are suffering way more than people here in the United States,” he says. “We’re not acing it here by any means, but at least we’re making strides.

Allies should take notice, too, he adds. Locals may associate Heartland Pride with its annual June parade and surrounding events, but it’s also an important fundraiser for the nonprofit—run completely by volunteer efforts—whose activities include a scholarship program, a community action grant, and several youth programs.

“It’s obvious in this political climate that anyone’s rights can be called into question at any point by any government, and that’s not just true for the United States. Things are not static; they’re constantly moving, so we need to remain proud and visible so that no one ever does infringe upon our rights again,” Kerr says. “And that’s true for many communities, not just LGBT.”

Visit heartlandpride.org for more information about Omaha’s LGBTQ+ community.

This article appears as part of the September/October 2017 edition of Encounter Magazine.

2017 September/October Explore!

September 1, 2017 by
Photography by contributed

State of Nebraska

Apple Jack Festival in Nebraska City Sept. 15-17.

Apple Jack Festival Sept. 15-17, various locations, Nebraska City. Drawing 60,000-80,000 people to Nebraska City every year, this festival celebrates the beginning of apple harvest. Named one of the Top 10 Fall Harvest Festivals in the United States by USA Today, everything is entirely apple-themed. Apple pie, apple cider, candy apples, caramel apples, apple fritters, and more goodies will be available. 402-873-8757.
gonebraskacity.com/festival/apple-jack-festival

Harvest Festival Sept. 16-17, Legacy of the Plains Museum, 2930 Old Oregon Trail, Gering. Now in its 21st year, this event attracts thousands of travelers from throughout Nebraska and neighboring states. There will be a pick-your-own potato patch, demonstrations of antique farm equipment, a corn maze, and more. 308-436-1989.
legacyoftheplains.org

Annual Ogallala Indian Summer Rendezvous Sept. 21-23, Rendezvous Square, 112 E 2nd St., Ogallala. The 33rd annual event features a chili cook-off, car and bike show, 5K and one-mile run/walk, music, and entertainment. 308-284-4066.
ogallalaindiansummerrendezvous.com

Lincoln Symphony Orchestra presents Joshua Bell & Bruch Sept. 26, Lied Center for Performing Arts, 301 N. 12th St., Lincoln. Performing composer Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell will join the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra for their season-opening performance. 402-476-2211.
—lincolnsymphony.org

Luke Bryan Sept. 28, Bob Benes Farm, 701 S.W. 63rd St., Lincoln. Billboard’s top country artist in 2016 is bringing his “Farm Tour” to Lancaster County resident Bob Benes’ farm. With special guest Jon Pardi, the show is the first of the ninth year of the tour that brings country music to rural farm fields. No phone number available.
lukebryan.com/farm-tour

Lincoln Calling Sept. 28-30, various locations, Lincoln. The annual non-profit music festival put on by Hear Nebraska will feature emerging artists as well as some better-known ones, such as headliner Charli XCX. No phone number available.
lincolncalling.com

B-52s at Lied Center for Performing Arts Sept. 30

B-52s Sept. 30, Lied Center for Performing Arts, 301 N. 12th St., Lincoln. Known for their hit singles “Love Shack,” and “Rock Lobster,” the B-52s have sold over 20 million albums, bringing a party with them to every city they visit. 402-472-4747.
liedcenter.org

Prairie Loft Harvestfest Oct. 1, Prairie Loft Center for Outdoor & Agricultural Learning, 4705 DLD Road, Hastings. This free annual event celebrates the harvest season in Nebraska, offering kids’ activities and music, a tractor display, hayrack rides, farm animals, food vendors, and more. 402-463-0565.
prairieloft.org

Trevor Noah Oct. 6, Lied Center for Performing Arts, 301 N. 12th St., Lincoln. The host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show will perform an evening of stand-up. He was the first South African stand-up comedian to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. 402-472-4747.
liedcenter.org

Great Pumpkin Festival in Crete Oct. 6-8

Great Pumpkin Festival Oct. 6-8, along Main Street in Crete. Downtown Crete will be packed full of autumn fun. Highlights include hayrack rides, carnival games, food, and the Great Pumpkin Giveaway. 402-826-2136.
cretepumpkinfest.com

Prairie Lights Film Festival Oct. 20-22, The Grand Theatre, 316 W. Third St., Grand Island. This three-day film festival promotes and showcases Nebraskan-made films and encourages networking and public support. This year includes the world premieres of the documentary Prairie Pints and short film The Bagman Died First. 308-381-2667.
prairielightsfilmfest.com

Motown the Musical Oct. 21-22, Lied Center for Performing Arts, 301 N. 12th St., Lincoln. This show follows the American Dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy, who assisted in launching the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and others. Motown the Musical features hit songs such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” 402-472-4747.
liedcenter.org

Boo on the Farm Oct. 22, Wessel Living History Farm, 5520 S. Lincoln Ave., York. This Halloween event is for children in preschool through fifth grade. Games, treats, wagon rides, and Starbucks coffee will be available all day long. Each child will receive a pumpkin to take home. 402-710-0682.
livinghistoryfarm.org

Boo at the Zoo Oct. 26-30, Lincoln Children’s Zoo, 1222 S. 27th St., Lincoln. With over 40 trick-or-treat booths, Boo at the Zoo is Lincoln’s largest Halloween event. All of the money raised directly supports the animals, and children can see their favorite critters while snacking on candy. 402-475-6741.
lincolnzoo.org/events

The Good Life Halfsy Oct. 29, throughout Lincoln. This half marathon goes through several area green spaces. Runners also pass stadiums and iconic buildings before finishing downtown. 402-937-8515.
goodlifehalfsy.com

Punkin’ Chunkin’ Oct. 29, along Highway 32 one mile east of Petersburg. Competitors enter their machines to shoot, launch, throw, or fly pumpkins weighing 6 to 12 pounds. Pumpkins will be flung across fields all day long, and the event is held in conjunction with the World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ Association. 402-386-5551.
ci.petersburg.ne.us

Iowa

Iowastock 2017 Music and Art Fair Sept. 1-4, Avenue of the Saints Amphitheater, 3357 St. Charles Road, St. Charles. This new festival to central Iowa has a major goal in mind of highlighting the state’s homegrown talent. Along with music, the four-day event will feature food vendors, arts and crafts, and after-parties. 515-770-1218.
iowastock.com

Harvest Wagon Rides at Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa, throughout September and October.

Harvest Wagon Rides Sept. 9, 16, and 23, and Oct. 14, Living History Farms, 11121 Hickman Road, Urbandale. This evening of horse and wagon rides through fields and country roads also includes light refreshments and other autumn fun. 515-278-5286.
lhf.org

World Food & Music Festival Sept. 15-17 in downtown Des Moines. This food festival celebrating cuisine from around the world is returning with live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, and a fireworks show. 515-286-4949.
worldfoodandmusicfestival.org

ZZ TOP Sept. 17, Civic Center, 221 Walnut St., Des Moines. The legendary rock band has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. 515-246-2300.
desmoinesperformingarts.org

Oktoberfest in downtown Des Moines Sept. 22-23

Oktoberfest Sept. 22-23, downtown Des Moines from Mulberry Street to Grand Avenue. Featuring polka bands, authentic German food, a rooftop bier garden, beer villages, dance lessons, and a stein holding competition, the 14th annual Oktoberfest is held in the heart of the Historic Court District. 515-286-4950.
oktoberfestdsm.com

Halloween Hike Oct. 23, Annett Nature Center, 15565 118th Ave., Indianola. Trek down a trail lit by jack-o’-lanterns and meet several costumed characters along the way. Crafts and snacks will follow the adventure through the woods. 515-961-6169.
warrenccb.org

Family Halloween Oct. 26-29, Living History Farms, 1121 Hickman Road, Urbandale. This non-scary family event includes horse-drawn wagon rides, storytellers, pumpkin bowling, trick-or-treating, and jack-o’-lanterns. 515-278-5286.
lhf.org

Steve Martin and Martin Short Oct. 27, Civic Center, 221 Walnut St., Des Moines. An evening of stand-up, film clips, musical numbers, and conversations of their lives in show business. The comedians will be joined by the Grammy-winning Steep Canyon Rangers, a bluegrass band with whom Martin performs. 515-246-2300.
desmoinesperformingarts.org

American Alpaca Showcase Oct. 28-29, Iowa State Fairgrounds, 3000 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines. This livestock competition will feature animals from both the American Alpaca Showcase and the Illinois Alpaca Show. The event is free and will feature alpacas from farms from all over the county. 603-610-6010.
americanalpacashowcase.com

Kansas

Spooktacular Weekend Oct. 20-22 throughout Atchison. Visit the most haunted town in Kansas during the spookiest time of the year. Events include tours by the Haunted Trolley, and of the Sallie House, which has been featured on paranormal shows such as The Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and BuzzFeed Unsolved. 800-234-1854.
visitatchison.com/explore-experience/haunted-atchison

Edgar Allen Poe History Mystery Walking Tour Oct. 29 at Atchison Theatre, 401 Santa Fe St., Atchison. Beginning with a tour of the old railroad town, the eerie evening returns to Theatre Atchison to enjoy an evening of mystery as the theater’s Encore Players recreate the drama of Edgar Allen Poe from the golden age of radio. 1-800-234-1854.
visitatchison.com

Missouri

Joestock Music Festival Sept. 1-3, Felix Street Square, 2601 Frederick Ave., St. Joseph. This free music festival is for all ages. Produced in conjunction with the Missouri Music Hall of Fame, the festival is a celebration of local art and music. 816-676-1112.
stjosephmusicfoundation.org

Independence Uncorked Wine Festival Sept. 9, 313 W. Pacific Ave., Independence. Featuring 25 local wineries, the largest Missouri wine festival includes art, music, and food booths. Proceeds from the event go towards national and local charities, and the event is held on the grounds of the historic Bingham-Waggoner Estate and 1852 mansion. 816-820-2112.
independenceuncorked.com

Midwest Tea Festival in Kansas City Sept. 9-10.

Midwest Tea Festival Sept. 9-10, Ararat Shrine Temple, 5100 Ararat Drive, Kansas City. An event completely dedicated to tea, the Midwest Tea Festival focuses on tea preparation, tea culture, history and tons of tea tastings. A tea market featuring vendors from across the Midwest and country will run the entire length of the festival. 816-923-1995.
midwestteafest.com

Gorillaz Sept. 22, The Sprint Center, 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City. Fresh off of the release of the band’s latest album, Humanz, Gorillaz is better known as their virtual selves. The group is known as the most successful virtual band of all time, after selling over 7 million copies of their 2001 self-titled debut album Gorillaz. 816-949-7100.
sprintcenter.com

The xx—”I See You Tour” Oct. 3, Star Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City. The British indie-pop band expanded their 2017 North American tour following the release of their third studio album, I See You. 816-363-7827.
kcstarlight.com

Pony Express Pumpkinfest Oct. 13-15, Pony Express Museum, 914 Penn St., St. Joseph. The lighting of the Great Pumpkin Mountain—where hundreds of carved, electrically lit pumpkins come to life at the flip of the switch—opens the Pony Express Pumpkinfest. Following the lighting ceremony, a festival featuring a children’s costume parade, festival rides, food, and crafts takes place. 816-279-5059.
ponyexpress.org/pumpkinfest-201

A Fresh Homemade Kitchen

August 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Out of all the genius quotes from world-renowned architects and designers, Kylie Von Seggern’s favorite comes from a celebrity chef.

Her profile on Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture’s website lists the words of Anthony Bourdain as her favorite quote: “Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them—wherever you go.”

The mantra manifests itself throughout the architect and interior designer’s professional work and private life.

Von Seggern prefers adaptive reuse to high-profile mega projects, and she embraces community engagement and activism. Her responsive ideology is likewise evident in the renovation of her home in the Hanscom Park neighborhood.

Kylie Von Seggern

While house shopping in 2015, she wanted to find an older home with built-in character. That’s exactly what she found in her current residence, built in 1908.

The previous owner had lived there for 50 years. The warm gray interior featured dense wood trim, exquisite detailing, and the creek of wood floors. It was the perfect combination of good bones and room for updates.

For the interior remodel, she proposed “more of a modern upgrade” than a total overhaul. The kitchen, however, lacked the rest of the house’s inherent character.

She recently renovated the kitchen to achieve a crisp, airy gathering space. She replaced the limited cabinetry and floors. But she kept the kitchen’s existing plaster walls.

For Von Seggern, the kitchen is important because everyone is always there—regardless if there’s a party or not. Part of the reason stems from her roommate being a chef.

Throughout and beyond her home, Von Seggern’s approach to design and architecture resonates with creative culinary instincts: Like a great homemade meal, “It tastes so good because you made it,” she says. 

Growing up in Lincoln, design-oriented interests eventually led her to the architecture program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

While at UNL, she participated in a 2010 study abroad program to Guatemala where she learned vernacular cinder-block building techniques.

In Guatemala, she began hypothesizing the duplicitous meanings of a home. Von Seggern ultimately realized, “Not everyone wants a McMansion,” and more importantly, “functionality over aesthetics” takes precedence.

She also studied abroad in Germany before completing her degree in Nebraska. With such international experience, her attraction to the Bourdain quotation becomes obvious. The preceding sentence of the full direct quote is: “If you’re [young], physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel—as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to.”

She began working at Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture after completing her Master of Architecture in 2013, and she began lending her voice to local architectural advocacy efforts as a volunteer at Restoration Exchange Omaha.

Von Seggern’s volunteer work allows her to have a direct impact in Omaha while developing skills in navigating city bureaucracy and finding ways to remain responsive to older architecture instead of reactively always looking for the new.

Back in her home on the edge of Hanscom Park, her kitchen is a perfect example of her finding this balance on her own terms.

Visit alleypoyner.com/kylie-von-seggern for more information.

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

Food for the Heart

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.

With A Beard and a Smile

August 23, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Walking into Lookout Lounge is a different experience than entering other music venues around Omaha. Admittedly, it feels a little strange driving into a business plaza just south of 72nd and Dodge streets for a punk show. But what distinguishes Lookout (formerly The Hideout) is more than just location. It is the bearded man sitting at the entryway, checking IDs and working on his laptop, that sets this venue apart.

Raised in Copperas Cove, Texas, Kyle Fertwagner knew from a young age that his destiny lay in music. At 6 years old, he was mesmerized by blues concerts in nearby Austin. “Those experiences are ingrained in my memory. There were thousands of people out there enjoying music, sharing that common bond of whatever that music meant to them.”

By the time he moved to Omaha at age 15, he and his younger brother, Keith, were playing together in punk bands. They got their start at The Cog Factory. Like many area music fans, Kyle is eager to share fond memories of that nonprofit venue, which closed in 2002. “That was our stomping grounds,” he says. “That’s where I basically grew up as a musician, as a punk rocker, as a person.” Before their first show at The Cog Factory, Fertwagner recalls that the owners greeted the band and “it just immediately felt like home.”

Recreating that welcoming DIY vibe is what drove him to quit his job as general manager of a local restaurant and take over The Hideout in 2015. Keith had already learned how to work sound systems, and Kyle had learned how to run a business from years in the restaurant industry.

With “a little TLC” and a lot of elbow grease, the brothers made the place their own. Kyle proudly showcases a sign from the original Cog Factory over the pool table. Next to it is the hand-painted mural featuring the venue’s name and the radio tower logo that has become an Omaha icon. Endless layers of screen-printed posters paper Lookout’s walls, and concert-goers have enthusiastically decorated the bathrooms with a vibrant collection of friendly graffiti.

Kyle describes himself as “owner/operator,” but upon attending a show at his venue it is immediately apparent that he does much more than the typical owner. Besides personally welcoming patrons into shows and tending bar, he works the lights and often shadows his brother on sound. But before any of that can happen, “it starts with the band.”

When asked about his work with local promoters and artists, Kyle can’t quite hold back a grin. Lookout is known around Omaha as a starting point for bands that have never played in public before. Its owner is the main reason for this reputation. His voice softens when asked about his role in helping young local artists get their music off the ground: “I think it’s important when you’re first starting out to have a venue you can call home.” This determination to give back to the music community makes Lookout special.

Kyle’s unique philosophy on booking shows is “to not try to take everything on ourselves.” This means more cooperation between venue staff, bands, and promoters. “It’s a team effort.” The additional networking and communication is more work, but well worth it.

From his days in small punk bands growing up, he knows the obstacles and struggles of getting a band onstage. This knowledge helps him guide others through the process.“We try to use our experience to help younger bands grow,” Kyle says. “That’s good for everybody.” He is always happy to reach out to local promoters and say “we’d love to work with you.”

When Kyle works to foster those relationships to put a show together, that’s when the energy of the DIY venue is created. “It’s ‘Alright, cool, we did it, we sold the place out!’ Instead of ‘I sold the place out.’ It’s more of an ‘us’ thing.” Shows that are assembled with teamwork are more rewarding for the band, everyone behind the scenes, and the audience. Those packed concerts are a staple of Lookout’s imprint on the musical community.

After taking care of the band, Kyle’s next focus is his role as head of security. At any show, he can be seen roaming around the audience, keeping out a watchful eye for any sign of trouble. He accepts personal responsibility in creating a positive energy at Lookout, and takes the security of the audience very seriously: “People shouldn’t feel unwelcome here for any reason.”

In order to ensure that everyone feels welcome, anyone exhibiting abusive behavior of any kind will be personally warned and, if need be, escorted out by Kyle himself. He is quick to explain, “Anything that happens here I take to be a personal reflection on me.”

Visit lookoutomaha.com for more information.

This article was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Encounter Magazine.

Kyle Fertwagner

Witnessing the Great Eclipse

The 2017 Great American Eclipse will take place on August 21, turning day into night. The cosmic coincidence occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun, creating a perfect alignment of Earth, moon, and star. Although the sun is about 400 times larger than the moon, the moon is about 400 times closer to the Earth than the sun. Thus, the two appear about the same size in the sky, with the moon covering the entire sun (except its atmosphere, the corona).

The path of totality—when the moon completely covers the sun—will pass over parts of Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. It is on this path that viewers can enjoy a total eclipse, with a maximum duration lasting around two minutes. Areas in western Nebraska can expect the eclipse to take place around 11:49 a.m. MST, and areas in eastern Nebraska, northern Missouri, and Kansas will experience the eclipse around 1 p.m. CST.

Hotel rooms in cities that lie along the path of totality are selling out, and have been for the last two months, if not longer.

“I have had people calling for the last two months stating that all the motels were full [and asking if there are] any other options for places to stay,” says Kim Pederson, volunteer and program coordinator for the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce (speaking with Omaha Magazine four months before the eclipse).

Here are some important tips to keep in mind when planning your eclipse trip.

  • Make a weekend of it
    The eclipse will take place on a Monday, but many activities in locations along the path of totality will take place the weekend leading up to the eclipse. Attend an event, plan a barbecue, or gather family and friends to watch it with you.
  • Stay flexible on eclipse day
    Unless you are 100 percent certain that the weather on eclipse day will be clear, don’t plan anything that would be hard to undo in case of clouds. Be sure that you are able to drive to a location with little cloud coverage; use the restroom before totality; and be respectful to those around you who are trying to watch the eclipse—no playing of music or talking.
  • Get a filter in advance
    Cardboard glasses with lenses of optical Mylar are inexpensive and allow you to look directly at the sun. Except during totality, it is not safe to watch the eclipse because of the sun’s intensity. The cardboard glasses filter out most of the light, and all of the dangerous infrared and ultraviolet radiation.
  • Don’t photograph the eclipse
    Why consider looking down at your camera for the short two minutes that the eclipse will last, when you can take in the eclipse with your own two eyes? You will lose valuable time fiddling with the camera, and no photo will capture what you see. Especially since this event will not happen again until 2024, you don’t want to miss a second of it.

When the rare phenomenon is all done, what’s to eat?
Here are a few eateries suggested by the tourism departments of NebraskaKansas, and Missouri

Nebraska

Beatrice

The Black Crow, 405 Court St. This fine-dining restaurant offers guests pizzas, Nebraska steaks, pastas, and an extensive wine list. 402-228-7200.
—blackcrowrestaurant.com/index.html

4 ONE 8, 418 Court St. It may be hard to decide what to eat at this bar and grill, as the menu features salads, entrees, and sandwiches, including an extensive list of burger options. Mac-and-cheese burger, anyone? 402-230-3400.
facebook.com/418barandgrill

Grand Island

The Chocolate Bar, 116 W. Third St. This eatery in the heart of downtown Grand Island has cocktails, a bakery with many chocolate desserts, lunches, and dinners. Vegan and gluten free options are available for an extra charge. 308-675-0664.
—thechocolatebargi.com

Sin City Grill, 410 W. Third St. Beginning with two boys, a burger, and a bet, the Sin City Grill specializes in fresh burgers, hand-cut fries, and décor straight out of Las Vegas. 308-398-2237.
—sincitygrillgi.wordpress.com

Hastings

Back Alley Bakery, 609 W. Second St. Back Alley Bakery offers a daily lunch menu, a case full of pastries, freshly baked bread each morning, and an artisan pizza night on Thursdays. 402-460-5056.
—backalleybakery.com

Odyssey, 521 W. Second St. Offering innovative cuisine that includes udon bowls, bruschetta boards, and garden salads, the Odyssey is open for lunch and dinner. 402-834-3811.
—odysseydowntown.com

Kearney

Cunningham’s Journal, 15 W. 23rd St. This pub and grill offers sandwiches and other pub fare with live entertainment in the evenings. It also is home to a large outdoor area. 308-236-9737.
cunninghamsjournal.net

The Flippin Sweet Pizzeria, 203 E. 25th St. This restaurant boasts pizzas named after movies or movie quotes. The owners’ other restaurant, The Flippin Sweet Burger Joint, is at 3905 Second Ave. The Flippin Sweet Pizzeria was named one of the best pizzerias in the Midwest in 2015 by Zagat’s. 308-455-3083.
—theflippinsweet.squarespace.com

North Platte

Canteen Bar & Grille, 2102 S. Jeffers St. Nothing at Canteen is frozen, and everything is made to order. Lunch items range from chicken-fried chicken to a Mediterranean tuna salad wrap. Guests can also enjoy steaks and chops at dinner, and wine-lovers can select from their large wine list. 308-535-6168.
canteengrille.com

Another Round, 1008 W. 18th St. This sports bar and grill, located on a golf course, offers a selection of sandwiches, burgers, steaks. 308-534-2080.
anotherroundbarandgrill.com

Paxton (technically just outside the eclipse’s path)

Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge, 123 N. Oak St. Rocky Mountain Oysters and Buffalo Burgers are two of the unique items on the menu of this restaurant, which features more than 200 big game trophies on the walls. With a history as interesting as the taxidermied animals, this spot is perfect to grab a burger and talk to the locals. 308-239-4500.
—olesbiggame.com

Alliance

Mi Ranchito Restaurant, 930 Flack Ave. Classic dishes like enchiladas share the menu with signature items like the Navajo Taco. The recipes have been handed down from generation to generation. 308-629-1500.
—facebook.com/miranchitoalliance

Ken & Dale’s Restaurant, 123 E. 3rd St. This restaurant has served steak, chicken, seafood, and sandwiches for 30 years. 308-762-7252.
—kendalesrestaurant.com

Scottsbluff/Gering

The Steel Grill, 2800 10th St., Gering. This family-friendly steakhouse features steak nachos piled onto 12-inch pizza pans. The establishment also offers lunch, dinner, and a selection of beers. 308-622-1020.
—facebook.com/pages/the-steel-grill/149237835129540

Emporium Coffeehouse and Cafe, 401 S. Beltline Highway West, Scottsbluff. This restaurant emphasizes Mediterranean food, including (favorites) real pomme frites or veal and gnocci alla Romano. Chefs prepare fresh, delicious, meals ranging from Greek gyros to Mediterranean salads to tender steaks and fish. 308-633-2882.
—emporiumrestaurant.com

Kansas

Hiawatha

The Country Cabin, 2534 Kestrel Road. Each day features a different chef special, such as garlic peppercorn-crusted beef tenderloin medallions or seafood-stuffed catfish. The rotating menu can be found on their website. 785-742-4320.
—thecountrycabins.com

Gus’ Restaurant, 606 Oregon St. Guests to Gus’ Restaurant can expect smoked brisket, steak dinners, and fresh fish feeds. Be sure to check the daily special on the restaurant’s Facebook page. 785-742-4533.
—facebook.com/gus-restaurant-515304345193616

Atchison

Chuck & Hank’s River Shack, 102 E. Atchison St.This restaurant offers a view of the Missouri River, and serves ribs, sandwiches, and wings in the heart of Atchison. 913-367-4837.
—facebook.com/chuckandhanks

Willie’s Sports Pub, 701 Commercial St. Local beers are available in addition to burgers, sandwiches, wings, and entrees. 913-367-2900.
—facebook.com/willies.atchison

Kansas City, Kansas

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, 3002 W. 47th Ave. Featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and named by Anthony Bourdain on his “list of restaurants to eat at before you die,” this restaurant was born in a gas station, but has expanded to multiple locations across the Kansas City metro. The original, established in 1996 still serves amazing barbecue. 913-722-3366.
joeskc.com

Missouri

Kansas City, Missouri

Boulevard Brewing Co., 2534 Madison Ave. Offering fine beers that can now be found throughout the nation, this brewery was established in 1989. In addition to brews, guests can nosh on a chicken andouille pretzel dog or cheese board while choosing from one of their 24 beers on tap in the 10,000 square foot beer hall. 816-701-7247.
boulevard.com/visit-us

St. Joseph

Boudreaux’s Louisiana Seafood & Steak, 224 N. 4th St. The restaurant serves authentic New Orleans cuisine. Although Boudreaux dishes out more than seafood, its specialties include oysters, shrimp, and fried crawfish. 816-387-9911.
—boudreauxstjoe.com

Il Lazzarone, 1628 Frederick Ave. Upholding the traditional methods of pizza-making, this family-owned pizzeria specializes in Neapolitan pizza. The restaurant also has a Kansas City location. 816-273-0582.
illazzarone.org

Columbia

Murry’s, 3107 Green Meadows Way. Since 1985, Murry’s has brought good food and jazz to Columbia. The restaurant offers oft-unseen items like oyster grinders and chicken poblano to be enjoyed alongside live music. The expansive menu includes appetizers, sandwiches, entrees, and a wide selection of sweets. 573-442-4969.
murrysrestaurant.net

Shakespeare’s Pizza, 3911 Peachtree Dr. This bard of pizzerias includes an extensive list of pies, and a dedication to the craft that is so thorough they slice their own pepperoni to achieve the perfect level of thickness. 573-447-7435.
—shakespeares.com

Jefferson City

Prison Brews, 305 Ash St. Located two blocks from the former Missouri State Penitentiary, this microbrewery and restaurant offers quirky dishes like the Prison Reuben and vegetarian-friendly options like a grilled portabella sandwich. Guest can try their hand at bocce on one of the playing courts or relax on the large outdoor patio. 573-635-0678.
prisonbrews.com

Arriś Bistro, 409 W. Miller St. Spanakopita and souvlaki are two of the many southern-European items on this bistro’s extensive lunch and dinner menu. They also feature a “liquid lounge” that offers a wide variety of beers and wine. 573-634-8400.
facebook.com/arrisbistro

Whether dining fine or casual on this day, the solar eclipse will be a true once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be celebrated.

Find more information about the eclipse at: greatamericaneclipse.com

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

Old School Social Media

August 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Today, social media is brimming with food photos. But a pre-digital form of social media has been sharing favorite dishes since the 19th century. It’s probably the only “published” book containing your grandmother’s beloved gingerbread recipe. It’s the church cookbook—a repository of traditional American wisdom, which often comes complete with six variations of the same recipe (for example: lime gelatin salad with pineapple, walnuts, cottage cheese, and maraschino cherries or mandarin oranges).

Long before the invention of the computer, religious and social groups created cookbooks, often as a fundraising tool to pay for upgrades and maintenance on buildings. The first charity cookbook is believed to have been printed in 1864 as a way to subsidize medical costs for Union soldiers. The idea took the country by storm, especially with religious groups. When a church needed to replace the steeple or build an addition, the minister came to the ladies’ auxiliaries, which created cookbooks. Morris Press Cookbooks in Kearney is one of many companies that was created solely for the printing of cookbooks. They have not only printed hundreds of thousands of cookbooks for churches and social groups, but also specialty cookbooks for singer Donny Osmond, Chiquita bananas, Heinz, and others.

Brian Moffatt of Omaha has collected these cookbooks for several years, mostly church cookbooks. He finds them at estate sales and some thrift stores, and his collection includes books from local churches of nearly every denomination.

“Estate sales are huge,” Moffatt says. “I just like to look at all these and see the way people used to cook.”

Estate sales are huge because many of the people who collected—and contributed to—these community cookbooks are dying. Today’s generation shares recipes and photos of dishes on modern social media, often Pinterest.

Moffatt’s collection at one time extended to hundreds of books, which he recently whittled down to the ones he enjoys the most, such as a cookbook produced by the ladies of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. The charm of this book, for him, is that it features several recipes from an old neighbor, Caren Guillaume.

“The older ones have some odd information in them,” Moffatt says. “A lot of them use lard, and sometimes you run across an ingredient that you just can’t find anymore.”

Other ingredients are vastly different from today’s definition. Gelatin, for example, is today often thought of as a fruit-flavored ingredient packed in school lunches and used in molded salads. Originally, however, gelatin (which was also spelled gelatine) was a jelly obtained by boiling meat on the bone until the collagen coagulated.

There are still church cookbooks being sold, but not nearly as many. While researching for this article, Omaha Magazine reached out to several area churches; none had produced a cookbook in the last five years.

Read on for several classic church cookbook recipes culled from Moffatt’s collection.”

Excerpted from Brian Moffatt’s Collection

Local Church Cookbook Recipes

Delmonico Potatoes

Submitted by Mrs. Carl Swanson for 50th Anniversary Cookbook, printed by Trinity Lutheran Church in 1965.

Dice two potatoes, boiled until just tender. Make 2 cups rich cream sauce seasoned with salt, pepper, and celery salt. Arrange a layer of potatoes in a buttered casserole, pour on half the sauce and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Add another layer of potatoes, the rest of the sauce, and about 1/4 cup more Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with paprika and top generously with buttered bread crumbs. Bake at 400 degrees until sauce bubbles and crumbs are brown.

Party Snack Weenies

Submitted by Mrs. Carl Swanson for 50th Anniversary Cookbook, printed by Trinity Lutheran Church in 1965.

6-ounce jar of yellow mustard

10 ounces currant (or grape) jelly

1/2 package whole weenies, cut up, or 1 package of small (cocktail) weenies.

Heat and serve in chafing dish.

Cherry Fluff Salad

Submitted by Karen Hauranek for My Favorite Recipes, printed by St. Mark Baptist Church in 1984.

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1 large carton (8 ounces) whipped topping

1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling

1 large can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Beat sweetened condensed milk and whipped topping with mixer. Fold in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate. Salad is ready to serve in 30 minutes.

Dill Dip*

Submitted by Joyce Stranglen for From Thy Bounty, printed by St. Bernadette Catholic Church. No publication date noted.

1 1/3 cups sour cream

1 1/3 cups mayonnaise

2 tablespoons parsley

2 tablespoons minced onion

2 teaspoons dill weed

2 teaspoons Beau Monde seasoning

Mix all ingredients together several hours before serving.

*Editor’s note: Three variations of this recipe (from three different women) appear in From Thy Bounty. Mary Olson’s dip omits the parsley; Connie Gauthier’s recipe omits the onion and parsley.

Kahlua Cake

Submitted by Shirley Mackie for A Potpourri of Culinary Masterpieces, printed by Presbyterian Church of the Master in 1983.

4 eggs

1 package (15 ounces) devil’s food cake mix

1 small package (3 ounces) instant chocolate pudding mix

1 pint sour cream

3/4 cup oil*

3/4 cup Kahlua liqueur

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup chopped nutmeats

Glaze:

2 tablespoons cocoa

3 tablespoons Kahlua liqueur

1 teaspoon water

1 tablespoon oil*

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1 cup powdered sugar

Beat eggs. Beat in cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, oil*, and liqueur. Stir in chocolate chips and nutmeats. Mix well. Bake in greased bundt pan at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until cake tests done.

For the glaze: In a small saucepan, combine cocoa, Kahlua, water, oil*, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat; immediately beat in powdered sugar. Drizzle over cake.

*Editor’s note: the recipe does not specify what is meant by oil; vegetable oil or canola oil is the likely ingredient.

Joan’s Nutritious Cookies

Submitted by Peg Russell for A Potpourri of Culinary Masterpieces, printed by Presbyterian Church of the Master in 1983.

1 cup shortening—“vegetable shortening and margarine makes it good.”

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 1/4 cup quick oatmeal

dash each of cinnamon and nutmeg

3/4 cup raisins, plumped

nuts, if you want them

Mix shortening and sugars. Add sifted flour, salt, soda, and vanilla. Blend in oatmeal and other spices (blending in raisins and nuts last). Make into balls, then flatten a little. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Makes about three dozen.

Coconut Fruit Salad

Submitted by Caren Guillaume for Heartwarmers, printed by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. James Churches in 1994.

1 No. 2 can (2 1/2 cups) pineapple tidbits

1 11-ounce can (1 1/3 cups) mandarin oranges, drained

1 cup mini marshmallows

1 cup Thompson seedless grapes

1 can (3 1/2 ounces) flaked coconut

2 cups sour cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the first five ingredients. Stir in sour cream and salt. Chill overnight. Serves eight.

Broccoli-Rice Casserole

Submitted by Barbara Kelley for Through These Red Doors, printed by All Saints Episcopal Church in 2003.

1 package (10 ounces) frozen, chopped broccoli, thawed

1 cup cooked rice

4 ounces American cheese sauce

1 onion, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

butter*

1 can cream of chicken soup

Sauté onion and celery in butter. Add cream of chicken soup. Mix remaining ingredients together and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

*Editor’s note: The recipe does not specify an amount of butter. Two tablespoons should work.

Scripture Cake

Submitted by Martha Dus for Kountze Kitchens, printed by Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in 1983. The name of the cake refers to noted Bible verses featuring ingredients.

1/2 cup butter (Judges 5:25)

2 cups flour (I Kings 4:22)

1/2 teaspoon salt (Leviticus 2:13)

1 cup figs (I Samuel 30:12)

1 1/2 cups sugar (Jeremiah 6:20)

2 teaspoons baking powder (Luke 13:21)

1/2 cup water (Genesis 24:11)

1 cup raisins (1 Samuel 30:12)

3 eggs (Isaiah 10:14)

1/2 teaspoon of each: cinnamon, mace, cloves (I Kings 10:10)

1 tablespoon honey (Proverbs 24:13)

1/2 cup almonds (Genesis 43:11)

Blend butter, sugar, spices, and salt. Beat egg yolks and add to mixture. Sift in baking powder and flour, then add water and honey. Put fruit and nuts through food chopper and flour well. Add and beat. (Follow Solomon’s advice in the first clause of Proverbs 23:14—“Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”) Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Bake for one hour at 375 degrees.

Refrigerator Shake Pickles

Submitted by Ruth Hickman for Kountze Kitchens, printed by Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in 1983.

2 quarts sliced cucumbers

2 cups sugar

2 cups vinegar

1/4 cup pickling salt

3/4 teaspoon celery seed

3/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seed

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

Combine sugar, vinegar, and spices. Pour over thinly sliced cucumbers. Refrigerate and shake every day for five days. These keep “indefinitely” in the refrigerator.

Rockbrook’s Hot Chicken Salad

Submitted by Iris Clark for Recipes and Remembrances, printed by Rockbrook United Methodist Church in 1999.

4 cups cooked, cubed chicken

2 cups thinly sliced celery

2 cups bread cubes

1 cup toasted chopped or slivered almonds

1 teaspoon salt plus 1 teaspoon MSG

1 tablespoon minced or chopped onion

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup mayonnaise (“NOT salad dressing”)

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 cup grated sharp cheese

2 cups crushed potato chips

Combine chicken, celery, bread cubes, almonds, salt, MSG, onion, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and soup. Pile lightly into “Pam’d” 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Top with cheese, onion, and chips. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Green Vegetable Salad (Pictured above)

Submitted by Kathy Jones for My Favorite Recipes, printed by St. Mark Baptist Church in 1984.

1 head cauliflower

2 heads broccoli

1 container cherry tomatoes, cut in halves

1 jar sliced mushrooms, drained

1 jar green olives, stuffed with pimentos.

Mix the vegetables together in a large bowl. For dressing, combine red wine vinegar, 2 packets Italian dressing seasoning, and 1 bottle of oil/vinegar Italian dressing. Pour over the vegetables.

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

A Glamorous, Functional Basement Remodel

August 14, 2017 by
Photography by Tom Grady

Seeking a grand basement remodel, a client came to me with hopes of creating a unified space with smaller intimate areas instead of an open floor plan. The original space felt very disconnected with no visual interest.

My solution focused on two separate spaces of the floor plan. Both sections of the basement would feature multiple functions: one area revolved around a sunken kitchenette/bar, and the other was an empty space transformed into a theater/display area.

The first part of the challenge was to create a properly lit display while providing storage within the bar area. We needed to add a dynamic visual element without altering the integrity of the existing brick veneer.

Our solution was to add horizontal reclaimed wood panels that pull the whole space together while providing a pub-like entertaining area. The resulting contemporary space makes use of layers of depth and dimension to provide a central focal point for social gatherings.

The asymmetrical design of the sunken bar area is enhanced with LED lighting, which further enhances the sophisticated environment. Bespoke finishes infuse rustic charm into the modern basement, forming the perfect union of domestic utility and alluring elegance. Displayed sentimental objects stand in harmonious contrast with time-worn salvaged materials and the interplay of light and shadow.

A large circle on the bar wall offers a crucial design element unifying the space. The scale of the circle balances the weightiness of the massive bar. Radiant light offsets and enhances the circle, giving the illusion that it is floating in air. The circle’s LED under-lit shelves provides plenty of space for the liquor bottles, and the offset shelving allows for additional personal items to be displayed.

By adding the walnut shell and lights to the existing metallic wood console table, it became repurposed and connected to the bar area.

Two guitars on an adjacent wall, mounted on a wooden circle, became a piece of art grounding the empty space leading to the guest bathroom.

To satisfy the clients, who are avid sports fans, the most challenging part of the basement’s theater space was to showcase their collection of jerseys while allowing the ability to watch multiple televisions at once. At the center of this design, I strived to cultivate a sensory experience that transcends the utilitarian functionality of the theater setting. Contemporary aesthetics find a careful balance of personal whims and fancies in the second of the basement’s main spaces. Relaxing here, the homeowners feel like they are in a high-end Las Vegas casino private suite while watching their favorite teams play.

The design conceptualization for the theater and display area stems from a faithful adherence to well-defined boundaries. JaDecor wall covering offers remarkable appearance with excellent acoustical properties. The round custom fiber optics and the dark-oak Melinga panels in the ceiling add spectacular visual interest to the space that once was a rectangle tray.

I really wanted the sports theater walls to properly light their jersey collection—which changes annually—while not interfering with the theater environment. Back-lighting the twelve individual panels with LED strip lights cleverly works into the overall aesthetic. The picture lights illuminate the symmetry of the jerseys and provide a side drop for the TV wall.

The purposeful ornamentation of the jerseys provides a dramatic display satisfying even the most discerning homeowner.

The experience of the finished project is such an amazing space to entertain and enjoy life with family and friends.

From the bar to the theater, and across the entire basement, the overall design embodies simplicity and modern functionality, leaving a lasting impression that makes you want to enjoy the space in good company.

The end result achieves the client’s goal of balancing personal expression and functional glamour with youthful exuberance. It is a welcoming space for any time of the day—and any season—for many years to come.

Visit artisticodesign.net to see more of the designer’s work.

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

Lunch With Buffett

August 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

With food-inspired songs such as “Charleston’s,” “Medium Rare,” and the album’s title track, the duo displays a penchant for sweet-sounding beats and aspirations to dine with Omaha’s most affluent resident, Warren Buffett.

They speculate that arranging lunch with the local billionaire would be easier than getting airplay on local radio stations.

“We want to be heard,” Big Tate says. “The radio DJ abides by guidelines that [forbid] touching the streets. They are afraid to challenge the norm.”

“Radio is stagnant,” Absolut-P adds. “It isn’t as influential as it once was. If we want to make an impact, we’d be better off putting together a lunch with Warren Buffett and creating a buzz from that.”

Or maybe just make up a song about having lunch with Buffett.

Big Tate

That sort of creative thinking would be the driving force behind Absolut-P (aka Stevin Taylor) and Big Tate (aka James Buckley) collaborating on the album.

The idea came from another friend’s fateful encounter with Buffett at a now-closed Omaha steakhouse known to be one of Buffett’s favorite local restaurants.

“A friend of mine happened to be eating at Piccolo Pete’s when she called to tell me that Warren Buffett and Bill Gates were sitting across from her,” Big Tate recalls. “I told her that I needed her to get a picture of them by any means. I’m always thinking of ways to promote our music with imagery and catchy choruses. I was sure that I could come up with a song for that image.”

Big Tate was familiar with Buffett’s history of auctioning off a “power lunch” for charity. In 2016, an anonymous bidder paid $3,456,789 for the experience, with the money going to benefit the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless and underprivileged residents.

For months, Big Tate continued to stew over his idea. Later in 2016, he partnered with local producer Absolut-P (the P stands for “Perfection”), and they were able to create an infectious melody.

The song’s music video even featured a faux cameo by Buffett (thanks to a cut-out photograph of the billionaire’s face pasted over one of their friends).

They consider it an homage to the wealthy hometown hero.

“We’re from the north side of Omaha, and you don’t see those types of people on the north side,” Big Tate explains. “Other than Bud Crawford, it’s hard to relate to anyone on such a big stage. It’s good to look up to self-made men.”

Absolut-P

“As independent artists, Warren Buffett’s entrepreneurial spirit gives us a sense of self-pride,” Absolut-P says. “He shows us that by investing in ourselves we can reap big rewards.” 

One such investment involved professional mastering for the album by Rick Carson at Make Believe Studios. Absolut-P and Big Tate hope the song resonates with fans of hip-hop, Omaha, and Buffett alike. They released the album Dec. 31, 2016 (with a parental advisory warning for explicit content).

“The album-making process was so organic,” says Big Tate, explaining that hip-hop works best when pursued in a natural, fun way. “We just made songs about what we like; everyone likes to eat at a nice restaurant and order a good prime rib. That made us think of Charleston’s; they have some of the best steaks in Omaha. I like my steak well-done, but I’ve heard that they are very good medium-rare.”

When asked where they would like to take Buffett for lunch, both agree that Time Out Foods or The Taste’s of Soul Cafe would be a good place to accommodate them.

“I’m sure Warren Buffett is used to eating at the finest establishments,” Absolut-P says. “I’d want to give him a taste of our roots with some good food for the soul.”

Find Big Tate on Twitter at @BigTate402 and Absolut-P at @IAmAbsolutP. Both musicians frequently release new songs on social media. Their respective Soundcloud accounts are soundcloud.com/big-tate and soundcloud.com/absolut-p. Lunch with Buffett is available on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, Spinrilla, Google Play, and YouTube. Copies are sold at Homer’s in downtown Omaha.

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

*Editor’s note: The printed edition misspelled Taylor’s first name as Steven.

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.