Tag Archives: Matt Innis

Birthday Weekend and a Storm at Freedom Fest

I just finished up a long and fun birthday weekend, which included dinner and dancing and a Freedom Fest that was turned upside down by a thunderstorm. In short, it was unforgettable, and I’m still trying to recover from it all.

The kids and me in the pool.Kids at the table, ready to blow out the candles.

We had another brief, birthday to celebrate on Thursday evening. Our mutual friend Emmett was turning ten, so we joined him and a handful of our friends to cool off in a pool at an apartment complex and then have some pinwheel wraps and cake together afterward.

Our kids had the chance to play together for a while, and they also enjoyed pretending to “swim” in deep end of the pool with me.

Having dinner at Don Marlelo'sDancing at the Eagle's Lodge.

Then my birthday officially kicked off on Friday. After an intense day of cleaning house, we left the kids with grandma and headed down to Don Carmelo’s for some pizza with friends. I’d wanted to give them some more business since they hosted Jack Posobiec a few months earlier, so Vivian and I got a “New York’s Finest” to share and ate with our friends Phil, Dan Wondra, Nate and Lexi, and Jon Paper.

Then afterward, Vivian and I headed downtown to the Eagle’s Lodge for our first dance with the Omaha Jitterbugs since the Halloween dance of 2019. Covid shutdowns had kept us from any swing dancing (aside from the occasional speakeasy dance with Jared and Jordan) so it was very nice to be back. I saw a few familiar faces, such as Jessica Ritchie and a few of the Jitterbug organizers such as Billy and Merinda. The crowd was only younger kids I didn’t recognize, though — young enough to make my 44 years feel even older! I did stick around for a birthday jam, which was particularly fun before heading home.

Education panel.Alex Stein with guests as a storm approaches.

Then on Saturday came Freedom Fest down at the Sarpy County Fairgrounds, a kind of local CPAC for the “populist upstarts” here in Nebraska. Among their guests this year were Internet provocateur Alex Stein, Ali Alexander of “Stop the Steal.” #WalkAway founder Brandon Straka, and Dr. Ben Tapper, one of the “disinformation dozen.” I saw many familiar faces, including a former co-worker with Moms for Liberty, Outlaw Streamers, Turning Point USA, and Public Sq.

The day started off very low-key, with guests playing cornhole and kids jumping in the bounce houses. Others slowly arrived in the wake of a Husker Game that turned south in the last quarter. Matt Innis held an educational panel with candidates for the State Board of Education and local school boards, and VIPs mingled among the guests getting selfies. I was in my element, naturally, taking photos of nearly everyone in the meantime waiting for the show to get started. I also got photos for a few other guests, including the Boyle family, who drove nearly four hours to see Bryson Gray (again) this year.

Amanda and Malia run in the rain.Alex Stein performs with Nick Nittoli.

This year’s Freedom Fest was planned as an outdoor event, and to say things didn’t go quite as planned would be an understatement. The day started off dry and relatively cool, but a predicted line of storms started to roll through the Springfield shortly before six o’clock. Guests and organizers ran through the fairgrounds underneath umbrellas while others took shelter underneath one of the larger pavilions. The t-shirt tent was upended, soaking the merchandise underneath, and we held onto the poles of the larger tent as the wind kicked up.

But the show went on nevertheless. The Moms for Liberty had their raffle drawing as the rain came down in sheets. Then Alex Stein did some stand-up comedy for us in his half-soaked sportscoat (I commented that he should have worn a women’s bathing suit, as he famously did at a town hall Meeting.) He then performed with rapper Nick Nittoli, who did a few songs about Candace Owens and “Let’s Go Brandon” as the rain continued overhead. (I even got the chance to get something to eat from “The Laughing Boar” food truck during a lull in the storm.)

Dr. Ben Tapper speaks to the group.Alex Stein & Ben Tapper.

Freedom Fest organizers managed to find a backup venue in a local gym up the street owned by one of the events’ sponsors, so we headed up there in a caravan a little after seven. I wound up giving Ali Alexander a ride in my car after his ride, Brandon Straka, “walked away” and had dinner with his parents instead. Rapper Bryson Gray was already there when I arrived, greeting guests and getting selfies as staff members started setting up audio equipment for a few of our guest speakers. Dr. Ben Tapper took the mike first, talking about vaccine mandates and medical freedom.

Then gubernatorial candidate Breland Ridenour spoke, talking about grassroots activism and his experiences on the campaign trail. Three other gubernatorial candidates had been slated to speak but bailed — Brett Lindstrom appeared briefly but left before the rain came, while Theresa Thibodeau (and her sister Aimee Melton) left in the wake of the storm. Charles W. Herbster allegedly pulled out when he asked to speak for a full hour and was told he couldn’t.

The last speaker was Ali Alexander, who talked a bit about his “stop the steal” experience and transition from “moderate” to “radicalized.”

Security staffer Ben White sings with Austin MichaelBryson Gray

After the speakers came the musical acts. First up was country singer Austin Michael, known best for an appearance on American Idol. He hand a handful of country songs and even invited security staff member Ben White on stage with him to sing along. Then Nick Nittoli did an encore performance with a few more rap songs as Alex Stein performed at his side.

Then came Bryson Gray, who did an opening song with Alex Stein before performing a series of others, including “FBI RAID,” “Gun Totin’ Patriot,” and “Let’s Go Brandon,” which hit #1 on iTunes in 2021. Gray and Nittoli finished they performances by singing “Happy Birthday” to their significant others, whose birthdays were on Saturday and Sunday.

Things wrapped up sometime after ten o’clock, and I was impressed with how the special guests stuck it out through the entire chaotic event. By some coincidence, the owners of Don Carmelo’s pizza dropped by with a couple pies for them throughout the evening, and I got to tell them both I’d been to their restaurant the previous day.

Eating Beef Chow Fun at the Asian Market.Family at the Pizza Ranch.

Then on Monday came my actual birthday. I got up early and had some Beard Vet coffee (which I got from him at the Freedom Fest, of course) and opened a few handmade cards from Hannah and Aaron. I didn’t take the day off work, since I got to see Pinkie Pie greeting me at my desk when I arrived (an annual tradition courtesy of Dr. Keefe). I did, however, have lunch with Vivian down at the Asian Market, having some Beef Chow Fun and sushi before browsing some of the unusual flavors of potato chips to take home with us.

Then that evening, my parents took us down to Pizza Ranch to get stuffed with chicken, salad, and (of course) pizza. I’d hoped that the kids would enjoy some buffet-style dining, but they seemed to like the little game room even better (where I tried my hand at Ms. Pac-Man). Then we returned home to open a few presents before calling it a night and heading off to bed.

Now hopefully I’ll have a little time to recover before gearing up for another birthday (or two) at the end of the month.

Hannah, Aaron, and me.
Happy birthday to me!

An endorsement, an egg hunt, and Jack Posobiec

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It’s been a week heavy with politics for some reason, particularly following Brett Lindstrom and the race for Nebraska’s next governor. On Monday, his campaign got a boost when Jean Stothert came by to make an official endorsement for governor. I got an invite to the press conference along with a handful of people from media, so I got to enjoy snapping a bunch of photos and even sending a few along to a guy from Nebraska Sunrise News to use in a story.

Then on Wednesday, I got to attend a debate forum with three gubernatorial candidates — Brett Lindstrom, Charles W. Herbster, and Theresa Thibodeau. Jim Pillen was a no-show, as usual, and that pretty much writes him off as a choice on my ballot. An anchor from KETV served as moderator and asked questions about taxes, education, and critical race theory. You can watch the full debate here (and get an eyeful of my bald spot in the corner during the first several minutes).

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We had some absolutely gorgeous weather on Saturday, after a week of cold, gray cloudiness (with even a bit of snow). Vivian and Hannah went on an overnight camping trip with the American Heritage Girls, so I got to have some quality time with Aaron. I was able to install a “Mario Maker” game on his little Mini PC, which kept him busy as I tidied up a bit.

Then we went by Swanson Park to have some lunch and then have some time together outdoors. We went walking through a wooded area, climbing on logs and going into a makeshift shelter somebody left behind. He also got some time on the playground and rolled down a hill a couple times.

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Saturday night was exciting for me, as I got to spend the evening with Jack Posobiec, one of my favorite Twitter follows and podcast hosts, and a bunch of folks with the Nebraska Freedom Coalition. They’d had an event earlier that day that was crashed by some local antifa thugs, and oen of them got the bum’s rush off stage by Matt Innis (who primaried Ben Sasse in 2020) and was taken away in handcuffs. The “cocktail reception” was held at Don Carmelo’s in Elkhorn and outside of a few angry phone calls had absolutely no problem whatsoever.

Posobiec himself was terrific, giving an hour talk and Q&A. He talked about China locking down Shanghai, the Whitmer kidnapping case going up in smoke, and how Trump enjoys watching angry reactions to his tweets on Twitter. He’d also come with his wife and kids and had spent some time in the Old Market at the Hollywood Candy store and Imaginarium, which was nice to hear. There were several familiar faces in the crowd (which was packed wall-to-wall, standing room only), including gubernatorial candidates Breland Ridenour and Theresa Thibodeau, Chris Baker, and a handful of other people running for office. Naturally, I got a photo with Posobiec afterward and also took a goofy selfie of me literally “following” him inside (which got retweeted by Beard Vet).

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Vivian and Hannah returned from camping the next day, a little tired and sunburned. Then we went down to Renewed Hope church in midtown Omaha to go on an Easter Egg Hunt. They had some hot dogs and chips for everyone for lunch, and then kids in various age groups go to collect eggs in three squared off sections of the lawn. Hannah and Aaron each got a group of their own to compete in. The eggs were filled with candy, small toys, and “coins” they could redeem for bigger prizes. Lexi and her kids joined us on the lawn, which was nice, and the weather couldn’t have been better for an egg hunt and picnic outside.

Matt Innis and Herbster & Conway

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I’ve had another couple of days busy “politicking” as a new campaign season gears up mere moments after the last one stopped. On Monday, I dropped by the Garden Café for a luncheon with Matt Innis, who had a presentation on the new “Health Education” standards, which have garnered quite a bit of contr0oversy over the past few months. Since his unsuccessful attempt to unseat Ben Sasse, he’s been giving presentations (and posting memes) to get the word out the new standards, which essentially amount to LGBT propaganda aimed at children as young as Kindergarten.

There was a fairly friendly crowd of around 50 people in attendance, with many familiar faces (such as former State Senator Merv Riepe and two school board members). I sat with a couple who were actually suing Westside Community Schools over a teacher who told other students — falsely — that their daughter was a racist and tried to use the “N-word.” It was certainly an engaging hour of discussion in the room, and I left wishing I’d have the chance to vote for Matt Innis again sometime (though he said he has no plans to run for office in the future).

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Then on Tuesday, I dropped by the Cross Training Center for a meet-and-greet with gubernatorial candidate Charles W. Herbster and Kellyanne Conway, Senior Counselor to President Trump. I saw many familiar faces in the crowd of around 60-70 people who attended, including Craig, Bob the sign guy, and my own city council member in Bellevue. Herbster and Conway arrived unannounced before the event and worked the crowd before things got started. Conway talked about her work in the Trump administration and dealing with political attacks. “People used to say you needed to have a fire in your belly,” she said, “but today you need to have the bile in your throat.”

Herbster talked for close to an hour about his campaign platform, cracking a few jokes while standing just a few feet away, making for a much more up-close and personal stump speech. They had time for Q&A and photos afterward (and of course I got one). It was an ideal campaign event, with lots of people both before and after the speeches to shake hands and ask questions. Herbster is also clearly the most Trump-like candidate in the running, right down tot he pre-rally playlist. The primary is still ten months away, so we’ll see if he can pull off an upset in 2022 as Trump did in 2016.