Category Archives: Parades

Fish fry, St. Patty’s Parade, and Chili

It’s the season of “spent” once again, which naturally means indulging in a variety of lenten foods together with our friends.

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First item on the agenda is a fish fry at our traditional fish fry of choice, St. John Vianney in Millard. Our mutual friends Jenny and Kody, Jon, Phil and Jen, and their parents (who’d never been to a fish fry before) all joined us in the long, long line before getting our fill of fried fish, mac and cheese, french fries, and all the other greasy beige goodies available. My old co-worker Cliff dishes the fish, and Guitar Guy (whose name turns out to be Win) had us all “bah bah baaing” along to Sweet Caroline as we ate. We got a few raffle tickets as well, but nobody won anything. We did also see our friends the Mills — we’ll likely do a fish fry with them at a different venue in a couple weeks.

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On Saturday morning, we enjoyed some slight-above-freezing temperatures in downtown Omaha to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which was put on by the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Omaha. We got to see some Convertibles, monster trucks, and lots of people dressed in green. There was even a legion of Stormtroopers wearing kilts for whatever reason. And of course, there was plenty of candy, and we got a bigger share than usual being at the very tail end of the parade. We wound up missing the first half of the parade, but it was still nice to be able to see our first parade of the year in relatively nice weather (and stumbling upon an already-paid-for parking spot).

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Then that evening our friend Jessica was hosting her Second Annual Chili Cookoff at her apartment. Kate brought her girls, who played happily with Hannah most of the night as the rest of us samples each other’s chili. We saw a number of familiar faces form the night before, including Phil and Jen, who brought along some Mapo Tofu. There was also a rare appearance by Richard Burney, who brought along an Irish chocolate cream pie and a copy of RiffTrax, which kept us terribly amused toward the end of the evening.

Big winners of the night (if Chili gift cards, no less), was Phil for the mist unique chili, Kate for the spiciest, and Vivian for the best overall! We finished off the night with some delightfully weird RiffTrax shorts, courtesy of Richard, which included kids making horrifying monstrosities out of grass. of all things.

Independence Day 2011

Happy birthday, America! Vivian and I celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence with our friends in the traditional way: music, dancing, and lots of heavy artillery.

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Our three-day weekend started off with a hot night of music down at Memorial Park. Every year, Bank of the West hosts a giant outdoor concert, and Vivian and I weren’t even sure we would be going until the last minute. It was an absolute steam bath outside and the bands were 38 Special and Cheap Trick, neither of which I knew much about. The crowd, however, was decidedly smaller this time around — last year you could only find a spot with a view of the stage if you showed up at five in the morning. There was plenty of open seating down the hill toward the stage, so Vivian and I found a comfortable spot and ate Dippin’ Dots while listening to Gonna Raise Hell and the theme to That 70s Show.

We also stayed for the fireworks and then hitched a ride back to our car on the back of the KMTV Action 3 News van.

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On Saturday night, Jenny hosted a hot, buggy barbecue up in northwest Omaha. Some of us showed our appreciation by drawing a portrait of Jenny on her driveway with smoke bombs (and a pimp fish). We “wrapped” it with a bow and gave it to her as a present. Jon grilled burgers and dogs out back, and I mixed a few piña coladas for anyone who wanted one. Ben, Jon, and Keith made some creative use of paper airplanes by adding explosives to them and seeing what would happen. The result: lots of hilarious burning wreckage (some of which got into the neighbor’s yard). They also created a smoke-bomb Frisbee and set loose a glowing lantern, which drifted West and should be somewhere over Okinawa by now.

Naturally, we set off a bunch of fireworks out back (with plenty of artillery shells), and the girls tried using sparklers to write the words “wow” and “zoo” for Eric’s camera (with limited success). Once the explosives were all spent, we retreated indoors to play a couple rounds of Telestrations. I got the word President, which Keith was able to mangle inexplicably in just one turn, and someone else drew a pair of jellyfish — I mean a chair — which managed to put tears in Jenny’s eyes.

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On Sunday, we got to prove to the world what a cool church Twin Valley is by setting off even more fireworks in their parking lot once the sun went down. Elder Don put the event together and brought a large assortment of bright, shiny explosives for us to detonate. We let the little ones light a bunch of small, sparkling fountains first before shooting off our Black Cats and artillery shells.

The Omaha metro seemed to be a veritable war zone all weekend long, with fireworks in nearly every neighborhood and crackling going every night for weeks in advance, so we certainly got our fill of pyromaniac glee. (Of course, a few members of our group seemed more interested in setting up a Facebook account, but that’s OK — we don’t judge.)

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On Monday the Fourth, Vivian and I joined a bunch of our fellow Jitterbugs to dance in the annual Independence Day Parade up in Ralston. We had a huge turnout for the parade and almost couldn’t find a parking spot as every available lot nearby seemed to be filled to capacity. We danced down main street enduring the heat with bottled water and an assortment of ice cubes pilfered from the cooler on the back of our black Jitterbug Truck. We crashed at the Dairy Queen on 72nd Street (along with the rest of Ralston) where Jitterbug president Nate treated us all to ice cream and lunch before calling it a day.

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We wrapped up our holiday weekend that evening at Fazoli’s with Ben, Jenny, and Tamra, and then Vivian and I went down to the waterfront to see some fireworks. It didn’t seem right to end the weekend without seeing fireworks from the pedestrian bridge, but they’d been moved from Harrah’s Casino to the Horseshoe further island due to the Missouri River flooding. There were plenty of people outside to gawk at the water level, which was drowning the poor statues over on Lewis and Clark landing. We still got a fairly good view of the fireworks from the bridge before heading home and calling it a night.


Video evidence from Jenny’s party

United in Rock

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Happy Independence Day, America! Vivian and I had a great weekend with our friends all over Omaha. We kicked off the weekend with a bang (literally) at Memorial Park, rocking out to the sounds of Kansas, Styx, and Foreigner with over 80,000 of our fellow Omahans. There were people claiming spots before five in the morning for the 6 p.m. concert, but I was able to squeeze in a spot for a couple of us after leaving work early. We had a terrific view of the stage, and I managed to squeeze my way to the front of the crowd to snap a few closer shots of Styx as they performed. Joining us on our blanket were Jenny, Ben, Randy and Jolene. Many other friends of ours also shared spaces at the park, from Becki near the front of the stage, to Hugh and Sarah who managed to squeeze in somewhere behind the port-a-potties.

The concert itself was terrific — the bands all played a selection of their signature songs, and they topped off their performance with a spectacular fireworks show. Naturally, it was a bit of a hassle to squeeze our way through the crowd back to our cars, but we were able to get downtown to JNO to stagger through half an hour of dancing before calling it a night.

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In other news, Vivian’s brother Oliver was in town for the week, so we took him out to eat at El Dorado’s, one of our favorite South Omaha restaurants, and we stuffed ourselves with a platter of surf and turf. On Saturday, at Oliver’s suggestion, I spent some time cleaning our deck with a pressure washer. I had been wanting to clean and seal it since we’d bought the house last winter, and the wood had several years’ worth of dirt and grime covering its surface. The pressure washer blasted it off so cleanly that it was actually fun! Next we’ll just have to wait for it to dry out long enough to stain and seal it. Then it’ll be as good as (nearly) new.

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On Saturday night, Keith and Jenny hosted a beer-tasting up in northwest Omaha. Keith brought a selection of mostly sweet beers, ranging from Leinenkugel’s summer shandy to a syrupy organic strawberry beer. I don’t think we had any consensus on what we liked best, though I had a preference for the Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat. Oscar grilled up burgers and brats for the bunch of us, and Eric make some root beer floats. After the sun went down we shot of plenty of fireworks (of course), though half the crowd seemed to enjoy watching the array of explosives our neighbors brought out across the street.

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We had a rainy morning on the Fourth of July, but a bunch of us in the Omaha Jitterbugs still made it down to Ralston to dance in their annual parade. It was actually nice to have a cool sprinkle during our parade than the muggy sauna that we’ve experienced in years past. We crashed at Dairy Queen afterward for burgers, ice cream and quite a few amusing photos with each other before going home to dry off.

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That evening, Vivian and I joined a few random friends to watch the fireworks form the pedestrian bridge downtown. The rivers was flooding some of the banks and providing quite a happy place for mosquitoes to breed and eat us alive. The muggy weather also made things rather interesting for fireworks — the smoke trails tended to hang in the air for minutes on end, and the low-flying clouds made the sky look like the multicolored rumblings of Mordor. We still enjoyed the light show, though, and we rounded off the evening watching Red Skelton DVDs at Lisa’s before calling it a night.

Family visits, Outdoor Dances, and Father’s Day

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One of the best parts about owning a house is having the room for family and friends to stop by and visit, such as my Aunt Carol, Uncle Ben, Cousin Laura, and her five kids. They were passing through Omaha last week to see my other cousin (once removed) André wed Rebecca, his fiance of a couple years. We dropped by a nearby IHOP to take advantage of their “kids eat free” night, and then reconvened at the Johnson House to play some noisy foosball afterward.

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On Friday, Vivian and I spent the evening at the Eagle’s Lodge with the usual cast of Jitterbug characters. We had resident swing dancers Dan and Gaby teaching some Lindy Hop this week, so we got to watch one of their classes and then danced with them both in a jam circle later on. We also had a birthday jam for our friend Lee and then went to an impromptu birthday party with her at Village Inn afterward. Nothing’s quite as nice after four hours of dancing than pie and breakfast food (except maybe Jambalaya).

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On Saturday, the swing dancing continued at the Papillion Days parade down 84th Street. We met up at Target for some chicken wings and a slushie before heading down to our spot in the parade route. It was a not-too-warm-yet 85 degrees outside, and we had a fairly decent crowd out to watch as we Lindy Hopped down the pavement. This parade moved much, much more quickly that others we’ve participated in, and we had to run half the time just to catch up with the rest of the floats. We collapsed down by Halleck Park once we were done and then faced the daunting task of getting back to our cars up at Target. We decided to try piling ten swing dancers into the back of a pickup truck and hitching a ride over to 72nd street, which would have worked fine if we hadn’t gotten pulled over by the fuzz.

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On Sunday we had a somewhat rainy Lindy in the Park down at the Gene Leahy Mall. Fortunately, the precipitation was down to an occasional sprinkle, which left things nice and cool as we danced, and the wet pavement even proved to be a better dancing surface than usual for a Lindy Hop. Unfortunately, the crowd was a bit thin due to be being both rainy and Father’s Day, but we still had a good time dancing with everyone who braved the weather and did show up.

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Vivian and I celebrated Father’s Day back home with Jack and Donna, who we had over for burgers in the afternoon. The rain went from trickling to pouring off and on, and Donna had to hold an umbrella over me as I did some grilling out on the patio. We assembled some tasty burgers with all sorts of toppings for lunch, and we enjoyed them with some potato salad courtesy of Donna. Afterward, we gave Jack a copy of Nadia, a made-for-TV film about the life of Nadia Comăneci. We watched it downstairs and then had some of Vivian’s delicious blueberry pie before calling it a night.

Jitterbrats on Parade

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Over the weekend, Vivian and I unexpectedly became members of the “Jitterbrats” down in Louisville, Nebraska. A few weeks ago, Dan Wondra had asked if we and a few of our jitterbug friends would like to demonstrate some swing dancing in a small town parade. It sounded like fun, especially since Lindy in the Park was down to once a month now, and the cool May weather was too nice to waste indoors. Four other couples joined us, and we had some fun doing the Lindy Hop down Main Street together before coming back to do a street demo. Takashi performed some karaoke for us, and a bunch of us headed down to Gambino’s to fill up on pizza before heading our seperate ways.

I’m still surprised how a picturesque little town like Louisville had hide so successfully just a few miles south of the burgeoning urban sprawl of West Omaha. Visiting a small town in Nebraska is like traveling back in time, where Main Street looks much like it did a hundred years ago, and there’s still a working soda fountain at the corner drugstore (as there had been since 1938).

That evening, Vivian and I drove down to Lincoln to see Star Trek with Nathan and his girlfriend Ranae. It seemed like a decent movie, but I think the plot was mostly lost on all four of us. I was also hoping to see a film that fit just a bit better into the continuity of the rest of the Star Trek story, but I suppose they’ll have time to clean that up a bit in a sequel or two.

Licensed to Wed and Independence Daze

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It’s been another busy, busy holiday weekend here in Omaha, with fireworks, parties, and dancing outdoors. The excitement first started on Wednesday evening, when Vivian and I took a pretty big step toward matrimony: we went to the Sarpy County Court House and filed for our marriage license! We aren’t official yet, of course. We still have to go through the ceremony, and my Uncle Ben has to sign some of the paperwork, but we’re just a couple “I Do’s” away from tying the knot.

We had been hoping to go enjoy Shakespeare on the Green with some of our Jitterbug friends afterwards, but it was unfortunately canceled due to “inclement weather,” (AKA LIGHT SPRINKLES). We had a great time, despite our weenie thespians bailing on us, as we found an empty picnic table and enjoyed goofing off and having a picnic dinner together. Eric has all the important details of this lemons-into-lemonade event over on his blog.

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On Thursday night, we kicked off our three-day weekend by heading over to Jenny’s house to set off fireworks in the backyard. It was loads of fun, watching Hugh’s Roman candle tip over and send sparks flying over to the neighbor’s back yard, then running around waving sparklers like little kids. I got to experiment with the fireworks setting on my camera, too, capturing some of the pretty colors that celebrate our nation’s independence.

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On Friday the Fourth, Vivian and I were back in Ralston marching and dancing in a parade with a bunch of our Jitterbug friends. The weather was very nice for July, with a cool breeze most of the way. Vivian unfortunately twisted her ankle twice before the parade was finished, and wound up hobbling about for the rest of the day. We still made it down to tenth street to watch the fireworks over Rosenblatt Stadium that night, always a beautiful sight.

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On Saturday, Vivian and I spent most of the day unpacking and cleaning up our new apartment, making the living room fit for company at last. Then we went down to Shakespeare on the Green afterward to celebrate. It was a packed house, of course, since it was the last show of the season and a holiday weekend to boot. They were playing Much Ado About Nothing and put on a good how. Vivian unfortunately cut herself with a knife, and the two of us spent the first scene of two with the friendly first aid people patching her up. In between acts, we got to sample our wine, cheese, and fruit together, lounging about like Elizabethan royalty as the rest of the play went on. I’m so glad we didn’t miss it.

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Sunday was supposed to be a “catch-up” day for me, but I wound up getting distracted having fun with friends yet again. We were down dancing on the Gene Leahy Mall Sunday afternoon, enduring the steamy July humidity for a couple hours of dancing outdoors. It seems like ages since I’ve danced indoors on a real dance floor rather than on asphalt in my sneakers. Afterward, most of us wandered south to Bellevue for Eric and Ben’s house warming party. We got to gorge on hot dogs and hamburgers while playing Guitar Hero and Apples to Apples. Who would have guess that Hugh would connect “Hot and Heavy” with “My Mother.” (Apparently, Sarah did. Lucky guess.)

All in all, it was a fun-filled weekend. Now all we need is another one so we can actually prepare for this wedding thing coming up in less than two weeks.

St. Cecilia’s Parade

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Vivian and I had quite a workout Saturday marching with the Omaha Jitterbugs. We participated in a parade celebrating the 100th Anniversary of St. Cecilia’s Cathedral, its route retracing the parade held 1907 for the laying of the building’s cornerstone. It was an unseasonably warm October day as we marched and did the Lindy Hop through some of Omaha’s beautiful older residential neighborhoods surrounding the cathedral.

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Vivian and I held the Jitterbugs banner for a little while, and then I had a chance to chance with several of the follows who were able to attend. We had a little technical trouble halfway through the parade as the battery for our sound system burned out and Nate had to hook up the van’s own battery to the sound system so we could continue swinging our way up the parade.

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At the parade’s end, we had a huge crowd gathered outside the cathedral to watch our swinging moves. Along the way, we say plenty of cameras and video cameras recording us on our way down the street. We were able able to crash on the lawn beside the cathedral and guzzle bottled water to recover from the trip a little before walking on back to our cars through the picturesque neighborhoods.

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On Sunday, Vivian joined me and my small group from church for some time of fellowship and pigging out on pizza down at Cici’s. After lunch, we went to my brother’s place to play a couple hours of video games, including some serious quality time passing the Wii controller back and forth while playing Wario Ware: Smooth Moves.

All things considered, it was a great weekend. The Beige Bomber is starting to have some problems with my trips between Omaha and Lincoln, but by God’s grace and some helpful friends, I still seem to be getting to work on time!