Category Archives: Memorial Day

Lee Greenwood and Memorial Day Weekend

We had a beautiful Memorial Day weekend here in Omaha, with perfect weather for food, family, and some patriotic outdoor activities.

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I kicked things off Friday night in downtown Omaha for the Memorial Day parade and concert. I’d never attended as something so fun and festive on such a solemn holiday, but it seemed quite appropriate, with veterans and gold star families taking prominent roles.

There were a few giant balloons of an American flag and a Purple Heart, as well as several trollies and buses full of veterans riding along. There were a handful of politicians, such as Gov. Ricketts and Congressmen Bacon and Fortenberry who lead the parade (with a few Grand Marshalls). A few other participants wore historic costumes, and there was a troop of nurses handed out candy. The Budweiser Clydesdales came toward the end of the parade, followed shortly by the Omaha Jitterbugs, who I nearly missed seeing.

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Afterward, in the Durham Museum parking lot, there was a gallery of fallen heroes and also free hot dogs and apple pie served by Hy-Vee. Hal Daub played emcee before the concert, introducing opening act Camille Metoyer Moten and recognizing a few politicians in the audience. Then Lee Greenwood took to the stage, bringing with him a few people to lead the crowd in singing happy birthday to a little boy and his grandmother. Then he sang his signature song, “God Bless the USA,” inviting the crowd to stand and sing the chorus with him, which gave me legitimate goosebumps.

After Greenwood’s performance, we got to hear some more patriotic music from the Omaha Symphony Chorus, who sang the anthems of each branch of the military. The evening concluded with the Grateful Hearts gospel quartet, who sang a medley of patriotic and gospel songs to finish off the night. It was an uplifting event that didn’t seem a bit tainted by political partisanship — something I wished I could see a bit more often these days.

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I had a nice long walk with Hannah bright and early the following morning, going all the way down to Chick-Fil-A for breakfast together. We stopped by the Sandy Park on the way back and then swung by my parents’ house to say hello before returning home. I kept busy the rest of the day cleaning gutters, mowing the lawn, and getting some groceries for our Memorial Day Dinner.

Then on Sunday, we got T-shirts at church for their new sermon series, “Not Today, Satan,” (which I wore over my patriotic shirt and tie afterward). I went by my dad’s house to help set up his smoker for our Memorial Day brisket, and the kids came along to climb a few trees and play with some branches. Then we returned home to have fresh-ground burgers for dinner with frozen bananas for dessert.

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On Memorial Day, I took a nice long walk up to Bellevue Boulevard and back, just to burn a few calories in anticipation of a big brisket dinner. Vivian made two delicious kinds of potato salad at home as Hannah celebrated Jane’s birthday and made a doll out of string.

Then at four, I walked over to grandma and grandpa’s house with the kids, where they played with some trains and blocks as grandpa finished up the brisket. Grammy and Pop-Pop came with bakes beans and a patriotic dessert, and Nathan dropped in with a bunch of tomato plants, which he helped plant after dinner. We had a lovely, beautiful evening sitting outside and eating way too much together, and Pop-Pop finally got to use the steps my dad installed back in 2019 for him to use, which was nice to see.

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We had some gorgeous weather on Tuesday, which was Aaron’s last day before heading off to summer school, so Vivian and I took them to Elmwood Park around noon for one last park visit. We had some burgers for lunch and then let the kids swing for a bit. Then we took a nice walk along the trail, finding a fairy house on our way to the grotto, where the spring water was flowing once again. We hiked further into the trees and encountered some painted trees and fallen logs, as well as a bog. We also found the brick remains of an old sewer pipe, which was quite picturesque somehow.

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Then that evening, my Uncle Tom and Aunt Barb came by to visit — the first time we’d seen them since Ben and Carol’s anniversary back in 2014. We had some ice cream and cookies together and caught up with them about family, jobs, and life in general. Then before we left we got a few group photos. Barb took one of my whole family, and I realized afterward it was the first time the whole Johnson clan — grandma, grandpa, uncles, wife, grandkids, and me — had all been photographed together. Ever. That was something.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Lee Greenwood sings, “God Bless the USA”

Memorial Saturday

It feels like the pandemic is winding down in a major way, partly because toilet paper now seems to be plentiful in places like Costco (though yeast is still hard to find). As such, we finally decided to break from quarantine this weekend to celebrate Memorial Day.

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We took the kids off to a good, long romp around Memorial Park once again, which seemed appropriate. There were a few new statues in place at the World War 2 memorial, one of which seemed seemed to be watching Hannah. The kids had the chance to walk (and roll) down the hill while smelling a few of the nearly-blooming flowers on display. The sun was beating down hard enough for us to seek shelter in the shade of a few ancient trees before making our way back to up climb one (and get re-hydrated).

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Then that evening we went and visited my parents for the first time in several months. My dad smoked up some ribs for a Memorial Day dinner (on Saturday), which we ate with my brothers and some potato salad I’d brought (and grilled mushrooms). We didn’t stay long, but the kids did get the chance to play a bit in the yard flinging rockets and swinging a few toy golf clubs before we headed home.

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Memorial Day itself was fairly low-key as everyone expected rain and cancelled such things as our drive-in church service only to have clouds and gray drizzle wander through. Vivian made some banana bread for breakfast, and we had a bit of a scare watching a plume of acrid smoke over our neighbor’s house only to discover it was from a barbecue.

In other news, Harold the Guinea Pig’s mommy is staying with us for a few days while the Mills are at camp. He seemed genuinely happy to see her — chittering excitedly as she nipped angrily at him when we re-introduced the two. Zoey, on the other hand, doesn’t seem sure what to think — another delicious little rodent in the house that she’s not allowed to eat. Sorry, Zoey.

Memorial Day Weekend

We’re having a lovely spring, with baby bunnies running through our yard and the lilac, peonies, and hostas all in bloom. We had a couple thunderstorms as well, one of which blew out the side panels in our deck and knocked a tree down across the street. Fortunately, they haven’t done much worse — or interrupted any of our fun, outdoor activities.

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First up was the first outdoor movie of the year at the SumTur Amphitheater (AKA the “Movie Park”). Some middle-school age kids were giving some kind of performance with the “House of Music” through much of the evening, playing some cover songs as the kids got to run around on the grass for a couple of hours.

Then, (well) after the sun went down, we got to watch Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, an animated film that featured various incarnations of Marvel’s web-slinger. It was a fairly interesting movie, though it was played several decibels too loud for my liking and was far more violent than I expected from the Dove review I’d checked out.

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I got a good deal of exercise over the weekend cleaning gutters and mowing my parents’ lawn. We also had dinner with our friends the Lenarts on Saturday and spent Sunday afternoon swimming at the Kroc Center to cool off.

Then on Memorial Day, we broke out the American flag and walked the kids to my parents’ house to have beef ribs (and cobbler). Jack and Donna joined us, as did as my two brothers. After we ate, Grandma brought out some old photos to show Hannah her grandpa in his army uniform. We’d told the kids the meaning of Memorial Day, which Hannah managed to illustrate in her sketchbook later on.

We enjoyed the outdoors a bit more in the afternoon, playing some ball with the kids and uncles in the backyard and then playing a few other games indoors before calling it a day.

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In other news, the kids will both be attending all-day summer school through the month of June. This was an elective decision on our part to give them both time for intense socialization in a public school environment without making a full-year commitment. As such, we had one last lunchtime rendezvous at “daddy’s park,” giving the kids the chance to swing and splash about in the recently-activated fountains by the spire. I even brought along a chance of clothes so I could join in with them. We won’t be able to do this again until July or so.

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Then on Thursday night, I dropped by St. Luke’s in South Omaha for a town hall with Congressman Don Bacon. He holds these types of events regularly (unlike his predecessor), so I try to take advantage of the opportunity whenever I can. The room was about half Republican and half Democrat, if my gauge of the applause and boos are correct. Everyone had the chance to submit a question, which were pulled at random from a box. My question was what he though he’d be ale to do with the other party controlling the house. “We need to do better at that … It’s a frustrating thing,” he responded.

There weren’t too many fireworks, but I was surrounded by constituents who were grumbling, sighing, and even yelling out their own opinions out of turn throughout the event, so it was a bit difficult for me to bite my tongue and stay silent. Still, it was a good exercise in self-control, and it felt good to know we live in a country where you’re allowed to yell at your congressman without getting thrown in prison.

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 “spray grounds.” It’s also the start of Loess Fest, 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.

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.

Fun, fun, fun

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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!

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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).

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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.

Bikes, Ben’s Birthday, and Bocce Ball

Biking through the Drive-Thru Chicago Dawg

Vivian and I had a lovely Memorial Day weekend enjoying some of the great outdoors and putting some finishing touches on the bathroom before our Comic Genesis cookout this week. We were able to spend some quality time last week as well — we took another bike ride together, and then we biked through the drive-thru at Culver’s to get some ice cream afterward. On Friday, we went out for drinks after work and then stopped by the Chicago Dawg House up on 108th and Maple for some loaded hot dogs before starting our weekend.

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On Saturday, I spent the afternoon putting a few finishing touched on the Epic Bathroom Project, and managed to learn just how sticky and impossible to remove white silicone caulk can be. That evening, Vivian and I dropped by Jon Paper’s house to attend Ben Anderson’s birthday barbecue with some of our mutual friends. Ben blew out a birthday propane torch, and we enjoyed some strawberry cake together. Later on we got to browse some of the scooters Ben’s selling out of his basement, and then we played a game called Wits & Wagers together in the living room until midnight.

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On Memorial Day, Vivian and I started cleaning house for our forthcoming Comic Genesis Cookout Weekend. At the end of the day, we dropped by Lee and Chelsea’s house to have a barbecue together and play Bocce Ball for the first time. It was a very simple game, though bumps in the lawn made it nearly impossible to make any ball roll straight. It would be interested to see how that game would play out on our own back lawn, which is more or less one big slope.

Coming up next: The Comic Genesis Cookout: 2010!

Memorial Day Weekend

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There no pick-me-up quite like a three-day weekend, and this Memorial Day was no exception. Vivian and I started the weekend off with nothing on our calendar, but it got filled up pretty quickly. On Friday, we had our usual visit to the Eagle’s Lodge for dancing followed by a long overdue run to Village Inn for an after midnight breakfast afterward. Saturday was Jessica Ritchie’s birthday, so we’d had a birthday jam for her on Friday night.

On Saturday, Vivian and I were invited over to Jessica’s house to have dinner with her folks and a couple of her friends. She’s apparently a big fan of chili, so we all got to stuff ourselves and play some Fluxx before heading out again. (Don’t let the picture on the left above fool you — the wine glass was only filled with water).

For the last month, Crossroads Mall has been hosting live bands and ballroom dancing in its food court on Saturday evening, so Vivian and I decided to drop by and check it out. The crowd seemed to be made up mostly of seniors, but our friends Dan and Margaret were there to walk Vivian and me through a few basic steps of a waltz and fox trot. We were still pretty stuffed from Chili, but that didn’t keep us from doing a triple-time shim sham toward the end of the night.

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On Sunday night, we headed up to Blair to have a cookout with our friend Dennis and Kara. We got to meet Kara’s parents, and then we all got to have a healthy sampling of wine while teasing Brandy and Millie as they ambled about among all the guests.

On a personal note, my family’s experience a serious tragedy over the last couple of weeks, and I’ve considered posting something about it here, but the details are still under investigation. Please just keep the Gibbs family in Colorado in your prayers in the meantime.

Memorial Day Weekend and the B-52s

It was a beautiful Memorial Day weekend here in Nebraska, the perfect time for picnics or enjoying the great outdoors. I spent most of my time in Omaha, predictably, enjoying the nice weather with Vivian and some of our mutual friends.

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On Saturday, after a hearty breakfast of bacon and egg burritos, we spent the afternoon with a couple of Vivian’s co-workers and their families at a cabin in a beautiful little recreation area near the Platte river. We got to walk through some lush green forests and check out some of the monster catfish living in the river and in a nearby lake. We also set up a bonfire with deadwood, grass, and boxes of Natty Ice, and we roasted some milk jugs to hear the strange chirping sounds they made as they boiled down to a stub. I got plenty of pictures and video to share, of course.

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After an enormous dinner of smoked turkey and beef brisket, Viv and I went up to Papillion for a free B-52s concert to celebrate the opening of the Shadow Lake mall! I’ve been a fan of the B-52s for years, and there’s nothing quite like doing the Lindy Hop to Love Shack. Our friends Dan and Sara even got to be on TV as the camera crew from channel 3 spotted them dancing and decided to grab a few minutes of it for the ten o’clock news.

Playing Outburst Corey and Ben shrinkwrap John's car

After the concert, we drove back up to west Omaha to visit our friend Hugh for his housewarming party. We got to stuff ourselves even further with chips, veggies, and Jenny’s watermelon cake. Some of the guys decided to arm wrestle downstairs while the girls played Outburst. Then Corey and Ben decided to shrinkwrap Jon’s car.

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On Sunday, I got to go to church with Vivian at the Bellevue Christian Center. Afterwards, we grabbed lunch from the Baker’s deli to eat down by the Gene Leahy mall for yet another afternoon of Lindy in the Park. Viv and Dean got to take turns leading each other, which was very cute to see. We got ice cream again from Ted and Wally’s (the green tea ice cream had real tea leaves in it!) to cool off after the dance, and then Viv and joined Terra Nova for a picnic in Elmwood park that evening to say goodbye to the group for one last time.

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On Monday, I got to make Vivian a breakfast burrito before she and Jenny headed out for a long day of bike riding. Soon I hope to acquire my own bike so I can join them next time. I spent the rest of the day with my brother Nathan as we munched on Subway sandwiches and watched GalaxyQuest. We got a bit of rain during the day and toward evening there was a beautiful rainbow overhead afterwards. It was a touching little end to a very lovely weekend!

Of course, no weekend this big would be complete without a couple home movies, courtesy of my little Canon Powershot: