Tag Archives: Omaha Fire Department

Chill, Thrills, and Fulfillment

October 25, 2018 by

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Pick of the Week—Friday, Oct. 26: Costumes and Karaoke? That’s what’s in store for you at HallowQUEENS Karaoke at The B. Bar. Dress as your favorite queen, diva, or (memeber of) Queen, and spend your Friday night belting out your favorite power-princess songs (or power ballad). There is a costume contest, so flaunt your best look and you might win something. Wear something you can move in, because at midnight the bar will magically turn into one big dance floor. Show up and show out. Learn more here.

Thursday, Oct. 25: Yes, it’s that time again—Time Warp time. By now you’ve probably had a taste of this ‘70s classic and it’s left you wanting more. The Max is here to fulfill that need with the 15th Annual Rocky Horror Picture Show—an Interactive Movie Experience. Are you shivering with antici…pation yet? You should be. Five dollars gets you in, plus a prop bag, and popcorn. Don’t be afraid to come on up to the “lab” in your best drag. You don’t need a satanic mechanic in order to attend, but you can be one if you dream it. As you should, since there is a costume contest after the show. Just click here dammit, Janet.

Friday, Oct. 26 to Saturday, Oct. 27: Friday, Oct. 26 to Saturday, Oct. 27: Tired of all the marching? Mix it up by adding a little writing. Attend Writing Dangerously: The Art of Activism at the Fort Omaha Campus of Metropolitan Community College to learn how, or to improve on what you know. This two-day event promotes original and inspired writing, as well as aspiring and professional authors. Friday night’s opening session features a poetry slam (with prizes, for registrants only). The final session on Saturday is an interview and Q&A with keynote speaker, renowned poet and editor Morgan Parker. Register here now.

Saturday, Oct 27: What’s spookier than a little goblin looking for food in the forest? The answer is…a whole pack of the little monsters! Experience the horror for yourself when you attend Trick or Treat in the Forest at Fontenelle Forest. Be sure to bring your own little goblins along to join in the fun…I mean, frightfulness! Take to the woods and find some candy, but stay away from that gingerbread-looking house. S’mores, cocoa, crafts, and more will be available to help ward off the goosebumps. Face your fears by clicking here.

Sunday, Oct. 28: This one has it all, so don’t miss the Fall Market Festival in the Old Market. This fun, free, family, fall excursion includes activity booths, free books (while they last), a pet costume contest, and some spooky science. Besides all that and the normal costumed, trick-or-treating for candy, there will be interactive displays from the Omaha Police and Fire departments. This includes a police helicopter to check out! If all the excitement is getting to you, grab a chair massage or a carriage ride. Forgot your costume? Don’t fret. Stop by Victor/Victoria to get your face painted. Get the full lowdown here.

SPECIAL EVENTThursday, Nov. 8: There are only two weeks left to get tickets to the Best of Omaha Soirée: A Night of the Best. This celebration of our Best of Omaha contest winners will be one for the books, so get it in your book now. VIP tickets are almost gone, but GA tix still get you in to see the circus-style entertainment. You’ll also get to sip on (two free!) cocktails, munch on tasty treats from some of our winners, and listen to sweet tunes spun by DJ Shor-T. Twist on over here for tickets.
Check out our sponsors below for a preview of what to expect. And if you don’t already follow us on Instagram, be sure to do so by Monday afternoon! (There may be a contest afoot.)

Skydiving With Family

April 29, 2018 by
Photography by Keith Binder

I could die.

Endless possibilities swirl along with the growling engine of the Cessna 182 wide-body airplane.

At 6,000 feet and climbing, Kenneth “Sonny” Bader, 65, yawns. Plunging to the ground at a high velocity doesn’t enter his mind. Instead, he contemplates a long nap. After all, Sonny has 6,500 jumps under his feet. He is no rookie. His son, Travis, 29, moves gracefully in the small space, unhooking his seatbelt and slapping a black helmet over his head. The aircraft’s interior is tight, allowing enough room for only four people and the pilot.

Just a week before, I sat across from both men sipping a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Skydiving had never been on my bucket list. Why would I want to jump out of a perfectly good plane?

“It’s a fascination. It’s beautiful. It’s an incredible experience,” Travis explains. “It’s just you and the air, fast-paced, and then you have the serene, quiet canopy ride.”

Sonny insists the only way to really know what it’s like is to come out and try it. Newcomers could either jump alone or tandem (with a certified skydiver).

Yeah, right. And yet…a desire to leap into the unknown appealed to me. A week later, fear paralyzes my mind as I fill out forms, basically signing my life away. I watch a brief video where an old bearded skydiving legend warns about all the ways I could get injured, maimed, or die.

The Lincoln Sport Parachute Club members calm me down. “No one has died from it in the club,” Sonny says. He suspects the last skydiving death in Omaha occurred almost 40 years ago, and modern technology has decreased the odds.

Sonny, a Federal Aviation Administration Master Rigger, checks, repairs, and modifies each pack. I trust his skill as the airplane climbs in elevation to the drop zone. Tandem master Greg Hladik is sitting behind me in the plane, so close his chest vibrates against my back as he talks.

“We are in this together,” Hladik reminds me. Screaming, throwing up, or clinging are all a part of the tandem game. With 300 tandems and 1,260 jumps to his credit, Hladik reminds people to slow down their minds, take it all in, and enjoy the ride.

“I love it. It’s a thrill every time,” he says.

Hladik, a paramedic with the Omaha Fire Department for the past 11 years, is known for his state and national record-setting wingsuit formations. He begins the process of hooking us together as I make the mistake of glancing out the window to watch the increasingly distant plains below.

The pilot, Rick Buesing, turns around with a confident smile as we ascend to 10,000 feet.

“Are you ready?” Sonny asks.

“No, but I’m okay,” I reply. The thought of plummeting into the deep blue sky has my stomach dropping before even approaching the exit door.

Sonny’s first taste of free-falling came right after high school in 1970 when he joined the Army. An airborne recruiter roped him into a parachuting opportunity. Stand up. Hook up. Go. As Sonny exited the door, he couldn’t believe the rush. It was a shot of adrenaline he had never experienced before. Sonny became hooked, a junkie.

“I jumped many times after that. I got high off the opportunity to get high,” Sonny says laughing.

For three years, Sonny was active duty with the 82nd Airborne Division. He later trained in long-range surveillance with the Nebraska National Guard for 25 years until he retired as an E8 master sergeant. After the Army, he attended college to become a car mechanic. At an Omaha Royals game, Sonny saw a group of skydivers jump and realized he missed the excitement. Soon after, he became involved with the Omaha Skydivers for two years. When the group disbanded, Sonny joined the Lincoln Sport Parachute Club in 1979. He earned experience in tandem, demonstration, and static line jumping. Plus, Sonny gained an entire new family that loved leaping from planes as much as he did.

On the side, Sonny still taught skydiving ground classes at home every Friday and Saturday night. He used his then-3-year-old son, Travis, to show students the perfect arch. Sonny would hold Travis in the palms of his hands, throw him up, and have him assume the position. Travis and his sister, Toni, would jump off the coffee table to demonstrate a tuck-and-roll.

Toni made about 20 jumps before she discovered boys, but Travis was born to rock the airwaves.

“I was more nervous handing him a set of car keys than handing him a parachute,” Sonny recalls.

Travis, then 16, had the wildest nightmares before his big tandem.

“There is nothing natural about launching yourself from an airplane. Don’t do skydiving if it doesn’t make you nervous,” Travis says. “It has to have that fear factor. You are not shying away from fears, but embracing it.”

Travis dived his first tandem when he was just 16, following with a solo when he turned 21. Travis, a U.S. postal worker, became a static line instructor on the side.

“That’s what I do for money, but skydiving is what I do for a living,” he says.

Travis watched his father, a professional exhibition-rated skydiver, when he participated in numerous ground crews. His dream was to do a demonstration jump with his father. Travis had his chance two years ago, after receiving his own PRO rating from the U.S. Parachute Association. Both would jump into TD Ameritrade for a military tribute event.

“Are you ready?” Sonny asked his son.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life,” Travis remembers replying. He now has 750 jumps to his credit, plus a PRO exhibition rating and a D license like his father.

In addition, Travis and his father compete in skydiving events such as sports or zone accuracy. Sports accuracy is almost like a human dartboard. The person who lands closest to the bulls-eye wins.

“It’s like hitting the top of this coffee cup with your foot,” Sonny says.

Sonny, a 10-year accuracy champion, has had a two-year dry spell. The gold medal at the Cornhusker Games this year went to his son, but at least the tradition continued in the family. Travis now aspires to compete on the national level and is training to get his tandem license. Sonny is working on an instructor rating for scuba diving.

But it is obvious that both love their monthly meetings and weekend jumps with the club. The Lincoln Sport Parachute Club skydivers, 60 strong and welcoming of new members, love seeing other people safely enjoy skydiving and the friendships that come with it. Sonny bursts out laughing remembering one woman’s enthusiasm. She waved and even kissed the cameraman. After 30 seconds of freefall, the chute opened up, and she said, “I think I just had an airgasm.”

It can be expensive. For example, a tandem will run someone $250. Add a video, and it can run an additional $125. But join the club, and a dive will only run about $20. (Annual dues cost $125. Members are also required to belong to the U.S. Parachute Association and have made at least five jumps.)

Travis slides the door of the plane open with a grin as he, along with his father, crawls out on the ledge. A blast of frigid 100-plus mph wind rushes into the compact area. Hladik throws me on his lap and pushes me toward the edge.

With my legs hanging over the side, I have second thoughts. Hladik rocks twice…and just like that, we dive.

I could explain the absolute cool and chaotic insanity of the free fall, the hushed beautiful stillness of the canopy, or the relief of softly hitting the ground. But, like Sonny says, come out and experience it for yourself.


Visit skydivelspc.com for more information about the Lincoln Sport Parachute Club.

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

From left: pilot Rick Buesing, Greg Hladik, Kenneth “Sonny” Bader, and Lisa Lukecart

The Secret of the Shimmy

January 5, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Inhale. exhale.

The slow Middle Eastern music increases in tempo.

The ladies’ hips sway side to side in rapid repeat. All three wear black spandex pants and V-neck T-shirts. Scarves, loosely wrapped around their waists, accentuate their movements. Bells jingle in time with the rhythm of the beat.

“Don’t give away the secret,” Carol Wright warns as her hips pop. “If they want to know the secret to the shimmy, tell them to come and see Della.”

The other two women laugh as their torsos undulate. Wright closes her eyes in a losing-herself-to-the-music moment, hands on her rolling and rippling hips.

“Is this too fast?” instructor Della Bynum asks from the side of the room. She has been watching this improvisation for a while, a half-smile on her face, relishing the freedom and artistry of the belly dance.

“We will have to find out,” Wright says.

“This is where you just have fun exploring,” Bynum explains.

Anna Lewis, 22, struggles for a moment, “Which way should I go?” 

Lewis has been shaking her hips for about a year now. At 6 years old, she watched her mother and Della’s group perform for her Girl Scout troop. 

“My mom is re-inspired whenever she comes to visit and will always make sure she comes back to Della’s class,” Lewis says.

Bynum steps in to help Lewis and demonstrates a front and back roll to add to the dance. The women continue as a solid unit.

It isn’t the shimmy that is the secret, but it is this connection of women coming together to celebrate themselves and each other. Feeling that connection is one of the main reasons why Bynum stays in dance. Bynum, 67, believes belly dancing creates a bond regardless of age, ethnicity, or size.

bellydancingShe should know. She’s been dancing since she was 8 years old and aging hasn’t stopped her. It is a vivacious, beautiful, and uplifting experience.

“It makes you aware of your senses—how you see, hear,” Bynum believes.

Bynum began with traditional ballet, then shifted to modern dance. She moved from Baltimore at 19 to begin school at Creighton University. A business degree wasn’t important to Bynum. 

“Dance classes were my love,” she says. “But unless you are teaching dance, you are not assured a position to support yourself.”

She continued taking dance classes and studied ethnic forms of popular dances of the 1970s, including African, Polynesian, and belly dancing. In addition, she performed modern dance with the UNO Moving Company. In 1980, Bynum started teaching her first classes at the YWCA and continued to do so for the next 25 years. 

When Bynum retired seven years ago from her day job as a timekeeper for the Omaha Fire Department, she needed…well…something more.

“You need to move more as you age, not less. If you don’t move, you aren’t able to move as well,” Bynum believes.

“You should open up a studio,” a long-time friend and fellow dance instructor told her.

“Hmm…that’s what people do when they are young,” Bynum replied.

With some help from her friend, Bynum did the unthinkable by opening her first studio. After three years, Bynum realized the ceiling was too low for the wavy and slinky arm movements of belly dance. After searching, she discovered a spot in the Center Mall on 42nd Street. After that, it was just a matter of finding economical ways to create a studio.

Bynum teaches four days a week and her crew puts on performances for The Durham Museum, Omaha Performing Arts, Renaissance fairs, and other organizations. The women sew their own costumes for a variety of different styles including tribal, folkloric, and Oriental belly dancing. 

A six-year attendee, Michelle Widhalm, 50, says Bynum is holistic in her approach. It is emotional and spiritualistic.

Bynum’s mantra: breathe. 

“When I tell people I belly dance, it is interesting to see their reaction. Eyebrows raise,” Widhalm says. “Western culture sexualized the dance. For me, it is about the female connection.”

Widhalm was surprised the older generation seemed more open to the idea, commenting only on how it must be a good form of exercise. In fact, a 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported social dancing lowered the risk of dementia in the elderly by 76 percent—more than reading. It also reduces stress, releases serotonin, and improves overall physical health.

Bynum’s parents passed away in their 50s, which has motivated her to keep exercising. If someone likes it, he/she will keep active. Belly dancing is multi-generational. 

“It’s more of an ageless environment,” Bynum says.

Her oldest client started when she was 80 and quit at 90 due to arthritis.

When Shakira entered the scene in the 2000s, shaking those hips that don’t lie, the belly dancing industry boomed.

So what about those ripped abs?

“I had those when I was young,” Bynum says tapping her black-stockinged feet on the floor to the beat of the music. “But it isn’t about that for me anymore.”

Bynum steps in the front of the class in black leggings with a bright orange scarf tied to her waist, a dark blue shirt, and a whole lot of confidence.

Bynum works with the three women on choreographed moves based on an old saying she modified. 

Walk forward, beauty before us.

Walk backward, beauty behind us.

It continues with the side, upward, and downward until the climax.

Beauty within us.

Wright squeals at the end in time with the music, arms raised, and all of them laugh together. 

Oh, and the secret to that shimmy?

Bending the knees, breathing, and relaxing.

Visit delladancing.com for more information.