Lincoln Festivals

Fun, Food, Art and Music

by Donna Joy Brakenhoff


Summer is the time for long days with hot breezes followed by short nights, for enjoying fresh produce, and the best season for fun and exciting festivals in Lincoln, Nebraska.

No matter the month or weekend, both travelers and Lincoln residents alike can find music, food, craft, or culture to immerse themselves into here in the Star City.

Kolaches are a favorite Danish here in Nebraska, and Lincoln has its own Czech Festival offering not only these delightful pastry and fruit treats, but also all the accordion and polka music a Czech at heart could want. The festival was held in May last year in 2013, at the Pla Mor Ballroom. Those who visited were entertained by a talent show, the coronation of Czech Slovak royalty and vendors selling foods, crystal and so much more. The Czech Festival is free and open to the public.

If you enjoy fresh from the vine wines, a picturesque setting of gazebos, rolling green hills, bridges and grassy lawns, you will love this festival. Knights and maidens from a day gone by entertain us at Lincoln’s own Renaissance Festival located at James Arthur Vineyards. For 16 years, James Arthur has delighted us with singing mistrals, friendly “combats” amongst knights, and dancers who may invite you to join in the medieval fun. It is the best of both worlds for this author, who enjoy modern comforts and a great glass of wine. There is a small fee for entrance to this festival.

The Capitol City Ribfest is a favorite of many, with repeat visitors each year since its inception nearly 20 years ago.

This year will be the first time the Pinnacle Bank Arena will be hosting the Ribfest on August 14-17, 2014 in their north parking lot. The same lip smacking tastes and smells with live music accompaniment will be in this new venue.

Every year it seems you can find a new favorite BBQ vendor. Whether it is the Texas Style, the Southwestern, or the Australian BBQ, you will be sure to enjoy the rich flavors of each and all. Cornbread, baked beans, slaw and corn complete your experience. Delicious is the best word to describe this festival.

The Lincoln Arts Festival is another Lincoln favorite. A hundred artists from all over the country come to Lincoln’s own SouthPointe Pavilions to share their art, renew old friendships and gain new friends, too. 

Admission is a dollar per person, with children 12 and under free, and there are many children’s activities to participate in. There is also food, live music and raffles.

Jazz in June is a long standing Lincoln tradition. Over the years, this free outdoor concert series has grown from a few people enjoying some cool jazz on a warm summer evening, to a full outdoor market atmosphere with vendors, strolling entertainers, and food.

Once you have wandered through the booths at 12 and R Streets, bring your blanket or lawn chair, and find your favorite spot to listen to local musicians who love to play and share jazz. Every Tuesday in June, at 7 p.m. is when Jazz is the spotlight for Lincolnites.

The Meadowlark Festival was founded in 2000 and is Lincoln’s chamber music event. In 2012, they took a hiatus, but in 2013 they came back stronger than ever.

Last year they combined with Oak Lake Park on July 3rd for a free outdoor concert and fireworks night. It was awesome to watch the fireworks accompanied by Trinkle Brass Works playing the 1812 Overture.

On July 5th, Saint Paul United Methodist Church hosted an evening with Francois Rabbath plays Bach and his own compositions on Double Bass, and on July 6th, Anthony Molinaro performed at Kimball Recital Hall on solo piano. 

This year promises to be just as inspiring and uplifting for Meadowlark. It will include four concerts, two outdoors, again combining the 4th of July celebration with music, and also an evening of wine and music at Deer Creek Winery. Two indoor concerts include one at Saint Paul Church and one at Kimball Music Hall.

The 40-year old Zoo Bar at 14th and O streets is Lincoln’s legendary blues club. Through it’s doors have walked big time blues acts like Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Luther Allison, Albert Collins and Otis Rush. In July, the Zoo Bar hosts Zoofest. Local and regional bands play along side nationals acts for an extended week of celebration. The music starts inside the club for the first five days and moves to the street for the last three nights of the event.

Lincoln Festivals are events to cherish, remember, and attend year after year. There is always something new and exciting to explore, along with rich traditions from the previous festivals.


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