Category Archives: Concerts

Hot, humid, and Hamlet

We’ve hit peak summer! The kids are done with summer school, and the temperature and humidity are cranked up to high, turning all of Omaha into the world’s biggest sauna.

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Of course, little things like heat stroke won’t keep us away from some of my favorite annual traditions, specifically the concert at Memorial Park, which almost didn’t happen at all this year. Tens of thousands of people took their usual spots on the green to welcome Chris Isaak and Steven Van Zandt (AKA Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul) to Omaha for a hot, steamy evening of music outdoors. We arrived just in time to see the conclusion of the opening local Band, The Firm, before having a couple hours to run around and sweat as the sun went down.

Our old friends the Mathis family returned from living several years abroad in Thailand and joined us on our blanket for the duration of the performance, as did Jon Paper and Kate and her girls. Jolene kept the kids busy with some fun patriotic head gear, games, and glow sticks, while I kept busy trying not to pass out while chasing Aaron around the park. The evening concluded with the traditional fireworks, which we got to see before trudging back to our cars.

I wasn’t even familiar with the bands that were playing, but I’m very glad the concert still happened — especially since Loessfest is now permanently cancelled for the year. Special thanks especially to a few “anonymous” donors including Susie Buffett, who was unexpectedly outed by Little Steven at the end of the concert.

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We spent a quiet Saturday celebrating the last day of Chick-Fil-A appreciation month. Then we welcomed Grammy back after her month away in California by having her babysit the kids as we went off to see Hamlet. It wasn’t much cooler the next day, but the “green” in Elmwood Park had shade and even a breeze that made for a far more comfortable performance.

An almost entirely different set of friends joined us on our blanket for our second “Shakesperience” of the year, including Randy and Jolene, Mark, Phil and Jen, and also Lisa (again). We shared food on the blanket briefly before the show began, and It was a very good performance, as usual. One actor played three roles as Hamlet’s father’s ghost, a grave digger, and an actor. Hamlet was also played inexplicably played by a woman, as were multiple other male parts of the play, but aside from brief confusion as to which character was which, I was able to follow the classic story without any trouble.

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On Sunday, we had a welcome back dinner with Grammy with some homemade ceviche, but for the most part we stayed inside and cool (though some of Hannah’s toys ventured out to the driveway for whatever reason). Then on Monday we spent the evening down at Seymour Smith park to swing and run around in their spray-ground. We invited Lexi and her kids along and made an evening of it before returning home for some pulled pork sandwiches for dinner.

Next stop: Independence Day!

Knee-deep in the hoopla

The Fourth of July is almost here! Yes, in the dead-heat of summer, we’ve got lots of fun things happening in Omaha to keep us busy, especially when we’re outside in the steaming hot weather (rather than inside playing with our electronic toys).

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First up is one of my favorite events of the year, the free concert at Memorial Park! This year it was a muggy 95 degrees in Omaha, but that didn’t stop us from trekking to our usual spot on the hill to enjoy some great music. Local favorite The Confidentials opened up the event as concert-goers found their seats and played catch out on the green. Dean and Sarah joined us on our blanket as the sun set, but most of our usual friends sat the concert out because of the heat. Our kids seemed unphased by the heat and enjoyed running around playing with a football and a bubble gun, which was fine by us.

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Survivor — who was supposed to open for the headliner at this year’s concert — bowed out at the last minute for unknown reasons. Fortunately, David Victor and his band “Bostyx” stepped in to play a variety of cover songs from both Boston and Styx. They proved to be a tremendous crowd-pleaser, and many concert-goers thought they were the highlight of the evening.

Of course, the highlight for me was Starship — a band I’d listened to growing up in the 80s and for many years since. Mickey Thomas was the only member still with the band since it had “Jefferson” in its name, but the songs were still just as good as I remembered. This year was particularly special, because I not only got to see the event from the VIP pen for the first time, but I even got to go backstage to meet-and-greet the band! (It definitely pays to have connections with Metro Credit Union, who are the new sponsors of this annual event.)

The concert concluded with a lovely fireworks show, which we got to watch with the kids before making our way back to the car. It was a long, fun night, but it was quite nice to get back home to enjoy air conditioning once it was done.

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Of course, we got right back up the next day to take Aaron for his last tee-ball practice at Baldwin Field. He’s gotten much better at hitting the ball, and just being able to participate in a team and take direction from a coach has been a good, growing-up experience for our four-year-old.

Afterward, we dropped by grandma and grandpa’s house to let the kids play as I did some laundry. Apparently our washer’s broken again, but I’m hoping a new lid switch will get it working again. In the meantime, Uncle Jonny introduced Hannah to Super Mario World and a British comedian named Peter Serafinowicz.

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We had planned for an evening with Shakespeare on the Green Saturday night, but it was pretty clear that thunderstorms were in the forecast, so we bailed on the event long before it was officially cancelled. I was up bright and early the next day to claim our favorite spot for Sunday night’s show. We dropped by Thanksgiving Lutheran for their Sunday Service and got to see highlights from Hannah’s week at their VBS program.

Then that evening, Grammy watched the kids as Vivian and I joined our mutual friends Phil and Jen, Lisa, Jessica, Jenny and Kody on our blanket to see King John. Phil and Jen brought some Papa Reno goodness with them, and Vivian had her usual assortment of cheese and salami. We saw some kids from Camp Shakespeare perform an abbreviated version of The Tempest before the show got underway. This year, King John was dine with a bit of a “punk” theme in the music and some of the costumes, but it was mostly played straight with only a little deviation from the script before the end of the show.

ostly, however, we enjoyed a rain-free performance with temperatures in the 70s. Now THAT was worth a standing ovation. Next stop: Independence Day!

Starship featuring Mickey Thomas… and me!Knee-deep in the hoopa!

Oh what a night

We’ve had over a week of non-stop activities without much of a break in-between. How much fun can we fit into a three-day weekend? Way too much, apparently.

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The kids started their swimming lessons at the Kroc Center on Tuesday, and I managed to squeeze in a repair job on Thursday for our washing machine (which needed a new lid switch). I was rather proud to get it up and running again.

Then on Wednesday night, Hannah and Aaron had a graduation ceremony from Daisies and Rainbows at BCC for MPact, along with all their little friends. Hannah got a special pin, and all the little ones got to recite verses and songs they’d learned through the year — before getting sugared up afterward, of course.

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On Friday night, we took the kids on down to the SumTur Amphieater to see Pixar’s Coco after the sun went down. There was also a festival for Omaha area youth bands going on that provided music before the show. Kate and her girls came along to toss around a football before the show, and Jessica and Jon came along as well. The weather stayed steamy and hot most of the weekend, but we had a lovely sunset before the show started. The movie itself was very sweet and big on the value of family, though I wasn’t sure how to explain the theological implications of Día de Muertos to our kids afterward.

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On Saturday, I got up early to mow the lawn and turn on the sprinklers for the first time this year, which Hannah enjoyed running in to beat the heat. Then that evening we went across the river for Loessfest. It was a balmy 98+ degrees, so we cooled off at the new “spray-ground” at the top of the hill, which had some mist, sprinklers, and a wading pool for everyone to splash in (including daddy).

Meanwhile, the Folkens were managing the shaved ice stands down in the park, so we got some multicolored slush to eat while the sun went down. Then thousands of people gathered on the green with us to see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons perform a many of the band’s catalog of hits. Opening for them was the Heather Newman Band, which Lisa described as a “local girl done good.” The concert itself was terrific, and we took turns squeezing our way to the front of the stage to take in the music up close. Our kids, however, seemed to enjoy playing with each other and making a makeshift tent and playing in their wagon.

The only bad part of the night was spending two hours trying to get out of the park. We’d parked nice and close under the overpass, but that put us at the back of the line as thousands of people (along with everyone at Stir Cove for another concert) all had to squeeze out of the one-lane exit before we could. It took us over two hours to finally make it to the Interstate and head home.

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Of course, that didn’t stop me and Hannah from coming right back the next night to hear the Omaha Symphony Orchestra. They played a medley of patriotic tunes with a little Star Wars and Indiana Jones thrown in for no apparent reason. Then local singer Camille Metoyer Moten sang God Bless America before the orchestra finished with Stars and Striped Forever.

After the concert, there was a spectacular fireworks show set to such music as Let it go from Frozen (rather than Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, for whatever reason). We joined Kate and girls on their blanket along with Aunt Jessica, and we also chatted with the Folkens, who were came to enjoy the show this tine rather than serve flavored ice. I parked across the river this time around, which made for a much quicker drive home afterward.

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Then came Memorial Day. I spent some time cleaning up the backyard and getting the kids wet with the sprinkler in the morning, and then Vivian and I prepared some shish kabobs and loaded potato salad to take to my parent’s house for dinner. The kids got more sprinkler time in my parents’ backyard as my dad brought out the smoked brisket he’d cooked up earlier in the day. Uncle Jonny kept the kids occupied as Jack and Donna joined us with some beans and dip, among other things. Then we dished up and ate together on the back patio, which was much cooler than the 95 degree forecast suggested it would be (thanks in part to a passing shower).

Nathan and his new friend Rachel dropped by almost in time for dessert afterward, and we got to have some berry pie along with Vivian’s decadent chocolate cheesecake. Nathan and Rachel also had some gifts for Hannah and Aaron from a recent trip to New York City, which they naturally loved playing with before we called it a night.

It was a long, crazy, busy week for all of us, and we’ll probably need an extra three-day weekend to recover from all the fun (and do laundry with our now-fixed washing machine).

Raining on our parade…and concert…and play

We just wrapped up a long, fun, and very busy Independence Day weekend, which featured several outdoor activities that were bombarded with rain at one level or another.

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First came the Bank of the West Celebrates America concert at Memorial Park. Kool & the Gang, who we had seen last year at Loessfest, were the headliners of the evening. We grabbed our spot on the green along with the West Family and around 60,000 other people (and Takashi) as emcee Nikki Boulay kicked off the evening. A line of ominous clouds gathered on the horizon as opening act, the Emmett Bower Band, sang country songs about beer. Then the Confidentials took the stage just as a thundershower broke, quickly drenching everyone on the green for half an hour and driving away a fair chunk of concert goers.

Those of us who weather the storm, however, were treated to a double rainbow at the end, followed by Kool and the Gang. It was the first time I’d seen the same band twice at one of our free outdoor concerts, and it was fun to hear a different mix of the songs than the ones they played last year (though they finished off with Celebration, of course). The kids were more interested in the fireworks and playing with their new bubble gun, but everyone had a good time, despite getting drenched.

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The next day, we returned to Elmwood Park for another night of Shakespeare on the Green, this time featuring the Merry Wives of Windsor. There was a much bigger crowd this week, but I was still lucky enough to snag a spot near the front. Tamra, Lydia, Anne and Brandon joined us on our blanket to share in A lovely spread., and pesto bread before the show. There was also a brief Q&A with a few of the actors, and then Editorial Cartoonist / Swing Band Leader Jeff Koterba took the stage to kick things off.

The play itself was very good, and a little more risqué than I would have expected for a Shakespearean comedy. The forecast called for clear skies for the evening, but halfway through the first act, it started to rain once again. The actor paid no mind, of course, but several members of the audience took off before the rain cleared up around intermission. A few stagehands mopped the stage, and the cast finished off the play without a hitch (that we could tell).

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Then came Independence Day, which fell on a Tuesday, happily interrupting our 40-hour work week. I kicked off the day claiming a spot on the parade route for the Ralston Parade, and then I dropped by the pavilion at Elmwood Park for pancakes with the Douglas County Republican Party. Mayor Jean Stothert, Governor Pete Ricketts, and Congressman Don Bacon were all on hand to meet and greet, take photos, and serve up food. Ian Swanson from AM 1420 was also there rubbing elbows with County Chair Jon Tucker among others, and I even bumped into Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders, who was out for a bike ride with her husband Mike.

There was also a car show going on in the parking lot, so I walked past a few classic cars, and I also took a minute to check out the grotto, which was created when Elmwood Park was first built, which had a natural spring neatly hidden away from street traffic.

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I headed home to cool off with the kids for a bit before we returned to our spot for the Ralston Parade. Jenny and Kody joined us on our blanket as we got to watch the usual batch of clowns, roller-skaters, Shriners, bands, stormtroopers, and jitterbugs make their way down Main Street. A real-life troll from some left-wing group (who also trolled Sen. Fischer’s town hall) actually followed Don Bacon’s entourage to harass him, but the congressman took it in stride.

Halfway through the parade, it started raining once again. We huddled underneath a tree and stayed relatively dry through most of it, and even though the rest of the parade wound up getting drenched, they kept on marching through it all. We dropped by Dairy Queen afterward for some ice cream (along with the Jitterbugs) before heading back home.

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Then that evening, my parents had us and Vivian’s folks over for some dinner and fireworks. Vivian and I brought along burgers and hot dogs, and Donna brought some lemon lasagna for dessert. We ate outside, which was lovely and cool after the rain on our parade.

Then after dinner, we took to the driveway to set off some fireworks along with the rest of the neighborhood. We had a modest number of fountains, sparklers, and artillery shells in our arsenal, but our fireworks were dwarfed by our neighbors’ who had a whole series that rivaled what we’d seen on Friday night at Memorial Park.

All things considered, it was a super fun weekend. Next year, however, we’ll have to remember to bring our umbrellas, no matter what it says in the forecast.

Planting Gardens, Shaking Booty

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Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of summer, when we can break out the swimsuits for our lawn sprinklers and local “spraygrounds.” It’s also the start of Loessfest, one of my two favorite (free) outdoor concerts of the year! This year, we got to walk across the river and see KC and the Sunshine Band, a band I had technically seen (from a distance) a decade ago at my very first Memorial Park concert.

I arrived early enough to nag the perfect spot right behind the VIP fence, and Kate brought her girls to keep our kids company as the blazing sun went down (in our eyes). A few more of our mutual friends showed up as a Jimmy Buffett tribute band (“Bluffett”) took the stage, and then Harry Wayne Casey (“KC”) and his Sunshine Band got us shaking our booties into the night. At 66, KC is still putting on quite a show, dancing up and down the stage (and going through four or five outfits in the process).

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On Saturday, Vivian took Hannah to a Magic Show at the Bellevue Public Library starring Rutiger the Magician. Then on Sunday, I got to do a little more yard work prepping our garden for some new plants. I borrowed a tiller from Dad, which helped tear the dirt up nicely. Then Vivian got some tomatoes, basil, rosemary, and mint to plant on Memorial Day.

Then that evening, my folks had all of us and Vivian’s parents over for chicken and ribs (pulled fresh from the smoker) for dinner. We brought along some potato salad and some fresh-cut flowers from our yard.

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Our official entry into summer continued over the week, as our kids had popsicles while hanging around the park by my workplace. The City of Omaha also turned on the fountains at the local “spraygrounds” around town.

I biked to work a couple times and stopped by one of these with the kids on my ride home to cool off. It was a balmy 78 degrees, but the water was still maddeningly ice cold. That didn’t stop me from getting a face full of it from Hannah and Aaron, though.

Paper Lanterns and Kenny Loggins

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Summer is officially here, and we’ve had a long, fun week celebrating Independence Day, among other things. On Wednesday last week, I got to meet Lt. Gov. Mike Foley at a luncheon as he gave a talk about current issues in the courts and the legislature. I’d bumped into him briefly at work and at a fish fry, and I even saw him once when Obama was in town), but I never got to hear him actually speak before, and I was impressed with how thoroughly knowledgeable he was on the issues.

Then that evening, we had dinner with our friends Jenny and Kody and made use of their apartment’s swimming pool. It was Aaron’s first pool experience, and he seemed quite ready to take off on his own. If only we had a pair of water wings handy.

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On Friday, we met up with Lexi and her kids for a little quality time at the All-Play Splash Park. The weather was a fairly cool 72 degrees, and the water was even colder, but that didn’t keep us all from running through the sprinklers like little kids for a couple hours before lunchtime. Our kids had so much fun that they both actually took a long nap in the afternoon.

That evening, we took the whole family down to Memorial Park to see Kenny Loggins cut footloose for around 70,000 people. A couple local bands kicked things off, along with KFAB’s Scott Voorhees, before Kenny Loggins rode into the Danger Zone. There must have been technical issues during the performance, because Loggins continually called to people off stage and had someone change his battery pack in-between songs. He also saved his most popular songs (from the 80s movies he’s best known for) for the very end, playing through Danger Zone and Footloose while Vivian was in the bathroom with Hannah.

Of course, Hannah and Aaron were probably unaware that a concert was even going on as they played happily with their bears, chased bubbles with little Delana, and abused our friend Brandon. There were also fireworks at the end, prompting plenty of “Oohs” and “Aahs” from our kids before calling it a night.

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Saturday was a relaxing day, as our Lantern Fest got postponed due to a day full of rain. I took the kids to my folks’ house for brunch and watched a truly terrible movie called Roller Gator with both of my brothers. Then that evening, we embarked on a pizza challenge dreamed up by Uncle Jonny — we visited two pizza shops gave them each a $20 bill, and told them both “Surprise me.” I think Marco’s did the best, with a half-and-half combo and a fancy crust, while Domino’s gave us a meat pizza with a somewhat soggy Brooklyn crust. It was a fun (and tasty) contest nonetheless, and both kids got quality time with the grandparents before and afterward.

Later on, we got a bit of a scare as Aaron woke up at eleven gasping for air and starting to turn blue. Vivian took him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with croup, coughing up some phlegm, and got some medication that made him crazy hyper for a couple days.

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On Sunday, we took Hannah down to the Raceway of the Midlands for a belated Lantern Fest. I’d bought the tickets well in advance as paper lanterns had been made illegal in Nebraska and I didn’t know if we’d have the chance to experience such a thing again anytime soon. We had a great deal of fun even before it got dark getting some balloons made up (by our friend Jen), having our faces painted, and trying out the fireman’s obstacle course. We shared our fire pit with a new friends and made some s’mores over a few logs as the sun went down.

Local Guitar Guy (who also appeared at Kody’s birthday party) played a few songs as we decorated our lanterns and got them ready set aloft. It was harder than I expected — the dampness made the lanterns hard to ignite, and the occasional breeze made it easy for the lantern to blow around and catch fire before taking off. Vivian and I did get both our lanterns airborne, though, and they joined hundreds of others as they congregated in the sky together. Then we celebrated with a new more fireworks at the end of the night before heading on home.

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On Independence Day, we dropped by Ralston for their annual Fourth of July parade. We nabbed a patch of green on a hill that gave us a front-seat for most of the parade, which was nice since we hadn’t arrived nearly as early as we should have. There were the usual assortment of politicians on hand: Omaha’s Mayor, Nebraska’s Governor, and a very lively band of young folks marching with Don Bacon. There were also clowns, tiny cars, rollergirls, and Star Wars cos-players.

The Omaha Jitterbugs were also there to provide a dance for Vivian near the end of the parade. One of the nice folks next to us bought tiny slingshot monkeys for all the kids on hand, which was nice (and kept Hannah and Aaron occupied all the way back to the car). We also sat next to some other nice folks who I hope find our blog and the picture I took for them.

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That evening, we celebrated the rest of the fourth with family, food, and fireworks at home. Jack and Donna brought ribs and a lovely American Torte, and I made some of my cowboy caviar and potato salad for a patriotic dinner together. Then we had some fun setting off a handful of fireworks from the end of our driveway when it got dark. Vivian had bought the usual array of fountains, artillery shells, and Roman candles particularly playing with sparklers and swords. Aaron seemed more interested in playing with Grammy, but Hannah got a real kick out of the sparklers. Donna and Vivian also got to have a sword fight before we called it a night.

Happy 240th birthday, America!

Prairie Cats and Kool & The Gang

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Summer’s almost here, so last week when the kids decided to climb into Aaron’s water table to use it as a swimming pool, I broke down and hauled up their pink wading pool for some quality splash time on the deck. With temperatures in the mid-to-upper-80s, even I found myself climbing in with them to get cooled off a bit. The fountains are also on again down at Stinson Park, which naturally makes for a nice way to go down and cool off with the kids during a lunch break at work (between swing times). Just remember to bring a towel!

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On Friday night, Vivian and I had a special evening at Jitterbugs Night Out, which featured the return of the Prairie Cats, who last performed at the Ozone four-and-a-half years ago. The band is apparently back together and will be performing regularly again, which is great new for swing dancers all across the metro area. We had a large number of attendees, including Jessica, who got to have a birthday jam and a tattoo courtesy of Dan Wondra. Lisa was also on hand with her pink cowboy hat, which Jeff Koterba got to wear once again.

The most conspicuous of the guests, however, was KPTM’s Tom Becka, who’s a friend of Jeff and wanted to hear him perform again. It’s the first time I’d bumped into him since the Iowa Primary ended, so I told him I’d try getting him a new Facebook profile picture. (I did get one for myself with both Tom and Big Daddy K.)

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On Saturday, we dropped by Jessica’s parents’ house for a barbecue birthday lunch with her and a bunch of our friends. It was going to be held at Elmwood Park, but it got moved in anticipation of a storm that never materialized. Jessica showed us her parents’ gigantic garden as her dad grilled burgers and hot dogs, and then she even shared with us a bottle of 16-year Aberdour that Mark was nice enough to give her. Jessica’s roommate Kate was celebrating her birthday as well, and a bunch of our mutual children got to have fun playing with one another as the grown-ups snapped goofy selfies of one another.

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On Sunday evening, we took the kids down to Rivers’ Edge Park for the fourth annual opening concert at Loessfest. We got a couple beach balls to keep the kids occupied (replacing the one Hannah lost three years ago) as the brutally hot sun beat down on us, and we also stayed fed and hydrated under an umbrella as the crowd slowly gathered for the show. A few friends of ours joined us on the blanket, and I bumped into a few more around the park. I took Hannah and Aaron up to the bridge before Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh and his special friend kicked things off. This year’s opening act was the Atlanta Rhythm Section, a southern rock band that seemed to be 90% guitar riffs, which didn’t impress me all that much.

The main event was Kool & the Gang, and they managed to put on a remarkable show with their catalog of R&B, soul, funk and disco hits (finished off, of course, with Celebration). Front men Shawn McQuiller and Lavell Evans engaged the crowd from the very beginning, but the whole group had a terrific amount of energy. Dennis Thomas actually did a cartwheel on stage before picking up his trombone. I was surprised that the Bell Brothers stayed toward the back and out of the spotlight until near the end, when Kool himself got to have a guitar solo.

I was particularly impressed with our own kids, however, who stayed for the whole concert playing ball with their new friends even after I asked if they wanted to go home early. It was a great night, and I’m looking forward to doing it again in a month when we see Kenny Loggins at Memorial Park.

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We finished off the fun, busy weekend at my parents’ house on Memorial Day, where I mowed the lawn and then dad grilled up burgers and hot dogs for the family. Both my brothers were in attendance, as were all four grandparents. We all got to eat together and spend some time outside with the kids before a chain of light showers rolled through the metro area.

Then on Tuesday, Aaron got his first haircut, He’s looking more like a little man every day.

I Love Rock and Roll

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It was another fun-filled weekend here in Omaha, once that require me taking a whole day off in order to enjoy it properly. The fun started on Friday, when Vivian and I put on sunscreen took the kids on down to Memorial Park for the annual Bank of the West Celebrated America concert. This year, they brought in Eddie Money and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts to fill the jam-packed park with rocking music I remembered from the 80s. We invited the Dougans and Jon Paper to share a blanket with us as we most kept wrangling the kids in-between photo sessions with the band. Our friend Jessica — on duty with KPTM — also stopped by to do an actual TV interview with me.

This was Hannah’s third concert at Memorial Park, and the third (and final) time she’s got to wear her cute “peace” outfit. It was also the first time Aaron got to see real fireworks, and it was cute to see his staring in awe and trying to touch them by reaching out his hand. The emcee claimed it was twice as long as usual, but it sure didn’t seem like it. I’m not complaining though — it was the only way to end the evening with a bang!

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On Saturday night, we made a second trip down to Elmwood Park to enjoy another evening of Shakespeare on the Green, this time to see the tragedy Othello. We forewent the Shakespearean cos-play this time, but we did sit in on a panel discussion with the director and some of the cast for a brief chat about the swordplay on stage. It was also bring-your-pet night, so the emcee handed out a few prizes for some animals who dressed up for the evening.

We enjoyed some vittles with Phil and Jen and Jon on our blanket and opened a bottle of wine (or two) before the show got started. The show itself was terrific, of course, and it had many of the same cast members of As You Like It playing different roles (and fighting with swords).

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We had some more theatrical fun the next day with Hannah down at The Rose theater. Our mutual friend Lisa won a set of four tickets and invited us to see Mary Poppins. It was a delightful production that seemed to captivate Hannah, and she managed to sit (mostly) still for the two or some hour performance. A few of the actors came out for some Q&A after the show, and we even got to have autographs upstairs with a few of the cast members.

I was impressed with the lovely old theater, which still carried much of the original 1920s charm it had when it was built as the Spanish-style “Riveria.” They also were very kid-friendly, with a “wiggle room” with its own simulcast of the play, so parents could continue to watch the show even if their kids needed to get up and run around.

Wedding in Iowa Falls

Vivian and I just got finished with a long, enjoyable weekend celebrating the long-expected wedding of our two friends Jenny and Kody up in Iowa Falls. (And it was a weekend spent mostly without the kids — hooray for grown-up time!)

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The long weekend started on Thursday evening, where we took Hannah and Aaron out to a “Throwback Thursday” concert at Loess Fest. Jessica and her housemate Amanda joined us on a blanket as the opening act, Red Delicious, played some 80s cover songs before Journey Recaptured took the stage. I’d heard some rave reviews of this band after they performed at Stinson Park last year, and they were very good. Hannah and Aaron were more interested in playing around on the great lawn, but it was good just to get outside with them before our long trip.

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On Friday morning, Grammy came to watch the kids for the weekend, and Vivian and I headed off to Iowa. We stopped in Des Moines at Zombie Burger, where I ate a mess of fried insanity called Better Off Ched, which included slabs of fried mac and cheese for a bun.

We continued on to Iowa Falls up north, a quaint little town where Kody grew up. We met up with our cluster of friends at Immanuel Lutheran Church for a wedding rehearsal, and we also got to meet the Pastor of the church and Kody’s cluster of groomsmen and family members — including his mom who made everyone lasagna for dinner. Kody and Jenny passed around gifts for the wedding party, which included make-up bags for the ladies and such novelties as driftwood keg tap handles for the guys (OK, one guy).

We finished off the evening grabbing some last-minute items at Walmart as a blazing sunset happened, and then we made use of the AmericInn hot tub as Jenny and Kody told embarrassing stories over beer in the party room.

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The next morning was a blur of getting ready, starting at the Trends hair salon down the street, where the girls all got their hair done. A killed some time snapping pictures of the scenic little town and some geese passing by. The girls continued prepping for the wedding at the church with make-up and curling irons, while the guys basically threw on their suits and called it good. Jenny got to “reveal” her dress to Kody in a painstakingly posed shoot by the photographer before we headed inside for a few hours worth of formal portraits of the bride, groom, and wedding party.

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Eventually, of course, we had the actual wedding ceremony itself. Friends and family members started pouring into the church around three as the bride and groom went into hiding (for selfies). The church was eventually filled up before the wedding procession came down the aisle, ending with the bride and groom. One pastor read some scripture, another delivered a short sermon, and then came the vows, an exchange of rings, lighting of a candle, a pre-recorded song by Kody, and at least three prayers/blessings before there was a sudden and unprompted kiss that concluded the service.

The bride and groom dismissed everyone row-by-row before signing their wedding certificate and making their grand exit of the church to their heavily-decorated (with condoms) getaway car. They also had two bikes strapped to the roof, one of which was a wedding present for Jenny that Kody had presented to her earlier — giving them multiple means of making their getaway.

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Of course, we couldn’t go to the reception without one more photo shoot down at Assembly Park. With the wedding party still dressed and hair all done, we got some photos on the playground, by a bridge, walking down a path, and of course jumping into the air. Kody was a bit preoccupied with getting back to the food, but the rest of us reminded him that this was pretty much the only time ever we’d be getting these snapshots. The barbecued ham could wait a bit.

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Finally came the long and happy reception down at Ellsworth Community College, with cake, cupcakes, dinner, and toasts, all followed up with the standard lineup of Wedding Reception dances — the father-daughter dance, the mother-son dance, dollar dances, and the Cupid Shuffle. Bouquets and garters were also tossed.

As videographer-by-default, I stuck around until the very end so I could capture the bride and groom taking off when they finally made their exit at 11:30 — after much prompting by me that they could leave the clean-up to everyone else and get on with their wedding night.

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Vivian and I were so tired the next morning that we slept way past the continental breakfast at the Super 8, which ended at nine o’clock. As such, we made our way down to the Red Rooster Grill for some American-style diner food before heading out of town.

We decided to tour the giant Salisbury House in Des Moines with Lisa during the afternoon — the dream house of cosmetics magnate Carl Weeks designed after the King’s House in Salisbury, England. It was a gorgeous house built to suit a true anglophile (with splashes of French decor), and housed amazing pieces of artwork including one of only four Van Dyck paintings by in the United States. It was a lovely day, perfect for wandering the gardens afterward and then having an outdoor dinner at Zombie Burger (again). Lisa came with us to try a trailer trash burger and share a giant basket of blue cheese fries before heading home.

So thus ended a lovely weekend getaway for Vivian and me, full of quality adult time without having to wrangle our two kids. Of course, we did spend some time with them at the park the day after we arrived home. They seemed to miss us. Congratulations, Jenny and Kody, and thanks for giving us an excuse to a have a lovely weekend with you and all of our friends.

Saturday in the Park

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It’s the start of another summer, and there’s no better way to kick it off than with a free concert at Loess Fest! Vivian and I got to see the Beach Boys (with Uncle Jesse) and Three Dog Night (with Loverboy) for the past two years at Loess Fest, and this time around they were able to bring Chicago to River’s Edge Park. I invited a handful of friends to enjoy the show with me, dance, and take selfies.

And what a show it was — Robert, Lee, James, Walter, Jason, Tris, Keith, Lou. and Wally all played a great selection of songs from their forty-year catalog. It was a welcome reward for anyone who stayed through the brief rain and drizzle we got at the beginning, and even though the crowd was small to start (and several people streamed out when the rain began), plenty of people turned out to enjoy the show.

My only regret is that Vivian didn’t join me this time around, as she had a bachelorette party to attend instead (involving girly goofiness I’d rather not know about).

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Then on Memorial Day, we dropped by Frank’s place with the kids for a grill out. We spent most of our time watching the kids as they played bean bag toss, crawled through a tunnel, and plank-walked around the patio. There were a few other cute kiddos in attendance, one of whom brought a collection of Rubick’s Cubes that Aaron thought would be fun to eat. We stayed a couple hours chatting with old friends before a storm started moving through before heading home for the night.

So another Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, but this one was marked with sadness due to the sudden shooting death of Omaha police Officer Kerrie Orozco, who was one day away from maternity leave and bringing home a baby girl from the hospital. It was a story that shocked people in our little town and around the country. It was amazing to see everyone come together on the following Tuesday lining the streets with banners and flags of support. I hope Officer Kerrie knows that there are thousands of people back on earth who will be looking out for her little girl. #KerrieOn