Category Archives: Loess Fest

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).

Planting Gardens, Shaking Booty


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).


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.


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.

Prairie Cats and Kool & The Gang


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!


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.)


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.


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.


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.

Saturday in the Park


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).


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

Frozen, Mud Pies, and Loessfest

We’re entering that fun time of year, when school is out, the weather turns nice, and everybody gets to enjoy a three-day weekend with family and friends.


The Fontenelle Forest Nature Center concluded their Mud Pies program by letting the little ones make actual mud pies on Wednesday. Hannah got to get her feet muddy in a wading pool and make little Hannah Footprints on the patio. She also got to take a paintbrush to make a mud painting and put together an actual mud pie in a pie pan. She even got to have a “mud” ice cream bar as a snack afterward. Hannah loves playing in the dirt, and mud seems to make it even more fun.


Then on Friday, the Sumtur Amphitheater kicked off another season of free outdoor movies with Frozen. The lovely weather combined with a film with songs everyone seemed to know by heart (whether they liked it or not) made for a record-breaking crowd of a couple thousand people. A couple youth rock bands had been playing on stage since three, leaving the gates wide open for the entire Omaha metro to claim spots on the great lawn before we happened to arrive. It was no problem, though — we squeezed in with our cluster of friends, and there was room left over for Hannah and the little ones to run around and stretch out on the grass. Princess Elsa was on hand for pictures and scared the wits out of Hannah, who was probably afraid of another freak snow from the Queen of Arendelle.


We also welcomed Donna back to Omaha after spending a couple weeks in California to handle a series of estate/garage sales to handle the belongings of Nonie after her passing. She had been gone over Mother’s Day, so we had a belated celebration at their house in the afternoon. Vivian and Donna went shopping for tomato plants together and let Hannah pick out a couple flowers of her own to take home and water. We had a lovely little lunch outdoors of when they got back (with Jack manning the grill as usual), and then had some of Vivian’s tasty lemon cheesecake for dessert.


Sunday evening marked the beginning of Loessfest (pronounced “Luss” fest) at River’s Edge Park in Council Bluffs, and that meant a night of free live concerts featuring Loverboy, The Guess Who, and Three Dog Night! There was a fairly decent crowd, and Hannah got to share her adorableness as she danced to all the music from the 70s and 80s throughout the night. We’d seen Loverboy perform at Memorial Park a year ago, and I’d listened to their music for years, but The Guess Who and Three Dog Night were a little before my time (though I did know many of their songs). I was also impressed to see original band members Danny Hutton, Cory Wells, Michael Allsup, and Jimmy Greenspoon still playing together with Three Dog Night after all these years. The show was unfortunately cut short thanks to a thunderstorm that managed to hold off until the end of the night, but we did at least get to hear Shambala before the end.

I also got a slew of pictures, as you can imagine, and I contributed a handful to pages on Wikipedia where they were needed.


Then on Memorial Day, I hung up our American flag out front and spent the day cleaning house with Vivian in preparation for some bike-riders at the end of the day. Jenny and her crew went riding to Silver City on the Wabash Trail, per tradition, and then crashed at our house for burgers, brats, and shish kabobs. The Kam family also came with their two boys, but Hannah was a bit too clingy to play with them very much. We had a good time catching up with our handful of friends and playing some ladder golf outside before calling it a night — the perfect way to wrap up a long, busy weekend.

Fun, fun, fun


The Johnson Family has been having fun, fun, fun here in Omaha, and we didn’t even need to get a Thunderbird. On Tuesdays for the last month or two, Hannah (now 18 months) has been having fun participating in “Mud Pies” at the Fontenelle Nature Center. It’s a program for small children where they can explore the outdoors, paint pictures, and yes, even make mud pies. It’s been a fun weekly activity for her and a chance to spend quality time with Grammy.

On Thursday last week, Friendship Program had its Senior Prom. Vivian was able to recruit me to come and take pictures of staff and participants in front of an archway of balloons she’d made up with her co-workers. They also had a singing, dancing DJ to help get everyone up on their feet. Everyone dressed up and had a great time, including Vivian and me. I have to admit it’s great to be involved with such a fun organization!


On Saturday, Vivian and I were bored, and she happened to discover that the Beach Boys were going to be in town performing a free concert to a crowd of 17,000 at the new River Edge Park in Council Bluffs, an area that had literally been underwater not more than two years ago. They also had a special guest performing — John Stamos! Yes, Uncle Jesse from Full House made an appearance to a crowd of squealing women of the eighties. There were people of all ages in the crowd, but the baby boomers seemed to be the liveliest, kicking up their heels and starting conga lines at random during different songs.

Mulberry Lane, a local girl group, was also on hand for the opening and closing acts. Then the Beach Boys managed to play every song from the their extensive catalog —Kokomo, Barbara Ann, I Get Around, Surfer Girl, California Girls, Be True to Your School, and of course Fun, Fun, Fun. John Stamos even sang Forever, the song his character sang to Becky during their wedding on Full House. He also made a point of thanking veterans in the crowd in recognition of Memorial Day, bringing one soldier up on stage to have a brief jam session in front of the crowd. It was a very thorough performance to say the least. All it needed were a few original beach boys other than Mike Love (but that’s another story).


Oh yes, it was also Memorial Day weekend, so we had a few picnics to attend as well. Jenny and a few of her friends went on their annual bike ride to Silver City and back, and then they crashed at Jon Paper’s house afterward for a makeshift barbecue. Vivian and I dropped by with Hannah and got another picture of her sitting on the stump we propped her on a year ago, making for a cute comparison. There was plenty of football tossing and food to go around, and after we were done, Richard had to get weighed in to see how big that watermelon was that we never even touched.

The next day, Vivian had a big reunion picnic with the gang from her old bible study at BCC. One stray member, Jenn, had moved to North Carolina, but was visiting long enough for a reunion of sorts. It was the first time the “gang” had gotten together in quite a while. Some members such as Kevin and Bob had gone off to have enormous families of their own, so we had plenty of kiddos on hand for Hannah to play with (she mostly just wanted to play on the slide). Others such as Tim and Amy had moved away briefly but had somehow moved back, and others such as Matthew, Venche, and Vivian had never really left —they just needed a catalyst such as Jenn to bring everyone back together. It was a fun evening of playing games and catching up before the sun went down.