Category Archives: Memorial Park

Wyclef Jean, Elvis Costello, and Turning 43

So, I turned 43 the other day, celebrating my passage into another year with dinner and dancing with friends, a return of the Memorial Park Concert, and some quality time with the family.

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We kicked things off on Friday with a trip out to Rockbrook for some outdoor music courtesy of the Steve Raybine Band. There was a passing thunderstorm that got things nice and wet to start off, and it left me worried about the prospects of dancing outdoors, but it cleared up in time for me and a handful of my friends to hit the floor once the band started up. They played jazz instead of the swing music I was used to, but the beat was in eight-count and I was able to keep time with Vivian and a few other follows for a dance or two.

Afterward, we headed down the street to Village Inn at 108th and L — a tradition from my old days of jitterbugging when the dance would run until midnight and Village Inn was the only place open. This one closed at ten, but that was more than enough time for us to have some pancakes and pie together with some goofy conversion to cap off the evening (and a card from Dan).


Aaron had an early baseball game the next morning at 9:30 AM, so we headed down there to watch him play for a bit (as well as pet a baby bulldog, which happened to be for sale). The Pancake Man was there as well, tossing pancakes for folks to catch, so I nabbed a couple and we had a nice little breakfast together.

It was still hot and muggy outside, so the kids spent some time cooling off in the spray-ground, which will likely be turned off in the next week or so as summer officially comes to an end.


On Saturday night, Vivian and I headed down to Memorial Park for the return of their annual free concert in Omaha, which I’d been looking forward to for months. I’d been a fan since 2010, when Kansas, Styx, and Foreigner all played the same night — and I got a T-shirt to mark the occasion. This year, they had local band The Firm kicking things off, followed by Wyclef Jean and then Elvis Costello to headline. I wasn’t familiar with any of the music, but I was quite happy to nab a spot on the green and enjoy it with Vivian as the sun went down. I was expecting it to be hot and sweltering again, but we found a spot in the shade, and a steady breeze made things just perfect.

Vivian and I both enjoyed Wyclef the best, who had the audience waving their arms, dancing, and spinning things in the air as he played guitar with his mouth and actually climbed up the steel supports on the stage just for kicks. He played a variety of music and did some freestyling in Spanish and French. I enjoyed Elvis Costello as well (who glowed red and green) during the show, though the only song they played that I was familiar with was Pump it Up, which came at the end. The night was capped off with a fireworks show, and we just happened to plant our chairs within a few feet of where they were going off, so we got a monumental eyeful as every corner of the sky was ignited with rockets’ red glare.


Sunday was my actual birthday, and I spent most of it with the family. Vivian made me a tasty breakfast burrito to start things off, and later on I got a few cards from Hannah and Aaron, along with some presents — a new set of saddlebags for my bike from Vivian and a game and other fun things from the kids. I also went by Walmart to get a new, goofy T-shirt to wear for the day.

At dinner time, the kids and I walked down to my parents’ house for dinner. Vivian and her folks joined my brothers and my parents as we had some hamburgers that my dad smoked for us. We ate outside and then had some cake, which Hannah happened to make (and bake) all by herself. She even decorated it with a drawing of our family riding bikes together, which was very sweet.

After dinner, I opened a few more gifts inside, which included a cordless drill from my folks and some snacks from Nathan and my in-laws. Then we watched some photos Nathan took from a recent trip to Michigan, where he happened to drop by our neighborhood in Kentwood. I popped open a bottle or two of Cheerwine and we finished off the evening playing some goofy games on Uncle Jonny’s Switch before calling it a night.

I was very happy to be able to grow older once again with our family all around! I hope to do this all over again next year and for many more years to come.

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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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!

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.


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.


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 actors 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).


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.


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.


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.

Paper Lanterns and Kenny Loggins


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

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!


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).


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.

All that glitters is gold

As you can probably imagine, Vivian and I have been busy tending to our new little bundle of joy here at home. It’s been a bit of an adjustment having two little ones needing attention and getting used to the midnight feedings once again, but having two happy and healthy kids is a blessing and all we could ever want. Of course, we also have two sets of grandparents on hand to help out, which is wonderful if we ever need to get out of the house (or drop by for hamburgers and Mystery Science Theater).


On Friday night, Vivian’s parents watched Baby Aaron so the rest of us could attend Bank of the West’s annual concert at Memorial Park. This year’s lineup had four different bands that sounded like a “best of” mix-tape from the late 1990s: Blues Traveler, Sugar Ray, Uncle Kracker, and Smash Mouth. Vivian didn’t recognize any of the bands by name, but she remembered the songs as soon as they started playing. Even Hannah seemed to enjoy the show, cheering along with the crowd and clapping her bears’ paws along with everyone else to the music. Around 70,000k people braved the weather to join us at the park, and aside from a five-minute sprinkle, none of the thundershowers everyone had been predicting came to pass. A cluster of our friends came to join us at the spot we’d staked out and stuck around for the firework show at the end of the concert.


On Saturday, we partook in another one of my favorite summer traditions: Shakespeare on the Green. This year’s comedy was “The Compeat Works of Shakespeare (abridged), which played out like a long bit of sketch comedy using an amalgam of Shakespearean plays as a springboard. Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Hamlet, and light-saber duel here and there — nothing was left out. The cast even found their way into the audience and onto the scaffolding, which made for a stranger, more interactive show than usual.

This evening was also predicted to be a rainy affair, but the weather turned out to be unexpectedly gorgeous instead, which made for perfect picnicking and Shakespearean dress-up. The flutists and wandering singers were on hand as usual, and even Scott Voorhees from KFAB (but sadly no juggler). We had our gang of friends sharing a blanket with us as usual, but the sword-fighting was left to kiddos this year. Someday Hannah and Aaron will be old enough to come join us for a little dress-up. Someday.

Bloody good shows!

Things have been busy and fun in Omaha, with so many events happening that Vivian and I haven’t even been able to attend them all. One specifically was a very important Centennial anniversary that occurred over the weekend — the 100-year celebration of the Lincoln Highway! Apparently, a bunch of classic cars took a tour down the old brick road in West Omaha, and even the Omaha Jitterbugs made an appearance to dance for the occasion out by Saddle Creek. Wish I could have been there.


On Friday night, Vivian and I took Hannah up to Memorial Park for Bank of the West’s annual concert and fireworks show. I’d dropped by around lunchtime to put down a blanket in advance while Hannah visited some friends at Friendship Program for “take your kid to work day” with Mommy. That evening, we got to enjoy a couple hours of rocking 80s music with Loverboy and Pat Benatar. Memorial Park was host to tens of thousands of people crowded around for the free show, so we naturally bumped into a few friends on the way up. Our blanket was pretty close to the stage, so I had to find a way to plug Hannah’s 19-month old ears, which wasn’t easy. I think next time we might place ourselves a little farther back in the park, where Hannah seemed to enjoy picking clover. A couple of Vivian’s friends dropped in to share our space as the sun went down on the park, and then some fireworks hit the sky the dazzle the crowd after the show was over. This was the first time Hannah had seen real, live fireworks, so she was happily mesmerized before we began the trudge back home amidst the thousands of people clogging Dodge Street.


On Saturday, we partook in another fun put-your-blanket-down-in-a-park-and-enjoy-a-free-show type of event: Shakespeare on the Green! I usually enjoy setting up our spot hours before the show starts and then enjoying a long afternoon of reading in gorgeous weather before people start to arrive. We had a smaller crowd this time around, since Titus Andronicus is decidedly for mature audiences only (so no families with kiddos). Joining our blanket were Phil and Jen, Jessica, and Jon Paper, all with various things to nibble. Juggler Jek Kelly and singers Madrigali et al wandered the crowd before the show, per tradition, and then Two-Minute Shakespeare hit the stage with some very lively (and abbreviated) performances of Macbeth, Titus, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Julius Caesar. The show itself was bloody magnificent. I knew nothing about the play before it started other than the level of violence, but I was able to follow the twisted tale of revenge without any trouble at all. The dress was traditional for first century Rome, and all the players were very convincing in their roles. I should congratulate director Vincent Carlson-Brown for making the blocking on stage so picture-worthy. I’m only glad I had my telephoto lens.

We had such a great time that we might just come back to see the comedy Twelfth Night next week. We’ll see.

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.