The Omaha Jitterbugs held their eighth annual Cowtown Jamborama swing dancing event over the last weekend, no naturally, Vivian and I took part in the festivities. We and other members of the JIVE volunteers group moved tables and got things set up before a swinging opening night in the Elmwood Park pavilion. Playing for us were Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys, a rockabilly band Los Angeles that seemed to have a mix of country music in their repertoire. Every Cowtown feels a bit like a family reunion, with old friends who’ve moved away coming back to dance with us, as well as the usual cast of “out-of-towners” who only make it to Omaha for this one event every year.
The one other highlight of the night was dining at “Five Guys” for the first time down on 72nd and Dodge. They recently opened three locations in Omaha, and I had heard about them recently as having been voted one the best burger chains in America. I found them quite similar to Inn-in-Out, with a deliberately limited menu selection and a focus on fresh products — specifically french fries cut on the spot from actual potatoes before getting fried in peanut oil. The other highlight was the extensive list of burger toppings, which included items like fried onions, mushrooms, and jalapeños. Needless to say, we will definitely be back, but if you’d like to drop by, be prepared to wait — every dish is made to order.
On Friday night, we celebrated our friend Venche’s birthday in style down at Brix, the new “wine lounge” in West Omaha at the Village Pointe mall. It was an interesting place, with a variety of unique “small dish” appetizers and dozens of wines to sample from self-serve kiosks. I enjoyed a bubbly, sweet Australian white called Friend of Dreams and enjoyed goofing around with a bunch of our friends (one of whom decided to “borrow” someone’s camera and snap some amusing pictures).
We gathered at Venche’s house afterward to stuff ourselves further with Vivian’s delicious chocolate cheesecake while playing a couple lively rounds of The Game of Things.
Vivian and I arrived late to the Friday night dance, and I’m awfully sorry we did. We had only twenty minutes to enjoy the amazing Little Harper Big Band, who played a set of fast-paced swing music that reminded me why I first fell in love with swing music back in the late 1990s. I also enjoyed dancing with several of the far more experienced “out-of-towners” and was quite amazed at how everything seemed to “click” into place during every eight-count swing-out. It was pure joy.
The party continued downstairs during after hours, where other hungry Lindy Hoppers got to chow down on everybody’s favorite menu option: breakfast after midnight.
On Saturday, Vivian and I traveled down to Nebraska City to enjoy an afternoon at the Applejack festival. We’d attended twice before with friends, but this time we traveled by ourselves and took in a few sites we’d missed before. We ventured inside the Arbor Day Lodge for the first time, a 100+ year old manor which was home to Secretary of Agriculture and founder of Arbor Day J.S. Morton and his son Joy Morton, founder of the Morton Salt Company. Among other memorabilia, it had fascinating old blocks of lead type from the 19th century in the attic, and a hundred-year-old wooden bowling alley in the basement.
After the tour, we dropped by the Arbor Day Farm across the street for a wine-tasting, sampling apple wine and cherry wine and then grabbing some pumpkin butter and apple butter to take home with us. We ate lunch downtown at the Dinty Moore’s, a quaint lunch counter that appears to be unchanged since 1930. We both had a couple shredded beef sandwiches that gave us enough energy to visit the library’s book sale and go shopping for some apple pie before heading home.
Vivian and I returned to the Eagle’s Lodge Saturday Night for some brief dancing, which included a jam circle to showcase the talents of some of our instructors. Peter & Mia, Kim & David, Karen & Andy, and Dan & Gabi all joined in. Then we dropped by the 906 Lounge in north downtown for the after-hours dancing. We had to circle the block three times to make sure we’d found the right location. The 906 Lounge in actually a bizarre kind of art gallery disguised as an auto junkyard, completely with barbed wire on top of the chain link fence surrounding the entrance. Inside, we had the usual jitterbug fare of sleepy-eyed dancing and breakfast after midnight (with egg casserole supplied by Vivian). Some of the ladies also enjoyed posing with a bust of Grover Cleveland, which was hilarious.
On Sunday night came the main event: the corn-eating contest! I’d kept myself deliberately famished most of the day in order to build up the appetite necessary to devour 16 eats of corn. The contest started at seven o’clock JST (Jitterbug Standard Time), which turned out to be around 8:30. We got to see the “baby” corn-eating contest first, with the adorable children of Jitterbug veterans taking their few teeth to a couple ears of their own.
As for the grown-up corn-eating contest, Vivian got third place (again), and I took a close second behind this guy (who managed to down 17 ears of corn). Eric somehow beat me to finishing the first ear of corn, which he was more than happy to announce to everyone after the contest, so I’ll have to be faster on the mark next year. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the first corn-eating contest where we actually ran out of corn. I found myself with a minute to spare at the end with nothing more to eat and had to settle for cleaning the ears I’d already racked up. Nobody had to be taken to hospital to have a stomach pumped, so I guess you could say we were all winners.
Thus ends another crazy, busy weekend around the Cowtown Jamborama. Maybe next year Vivian and I will take a class or two, but until then it’ll be nice to settle back into the more or less “normal” routine of saving dancing until midnight and breakfast afterward to just one day a week.