Fun with Festivals

by  Donna Joy Brakenhoff

All of nature’s seasons are colorful and have their own unique joys. And in Lincoln, spring, summer and fall include festival season fun!

Whether you are a visitor to Lincoln, or a resident, take a moment to explore and enjoy our festival celebrations.

The Zoo Bar, the host of ZooFest, is the place to go for wonderful jazz, blues, roots, and everything entertaining in both local and national bands year round. And ZooFest is a 2 day festival packed with talented performers and dancing-in-the-street good fun.

On July 11th, beginning at 5pm, we heard the Bel Airs, a favorite amongst Lincolnites. At 7pm, Brave Combo, Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers at 9pm, and Killigans at 11pm.

After a wonderful music filled evening, what is the best thing to follow? A whole day of music! Beginning at 1pm, Oketo played on
July 12th. Then Black Lilies, Lil Ed & the Blues Imperials, especially popular in Lincoln, followed by Delbert McClinton and then Josh Hoyer & the Shadowboxers.

As the evening deepens, the music heads outside to the street, and the big stage. The crowd is jovial and can dance where they stand, sing along if they choose, or simply listen to the fabulous performers.

In the past 41 years, the Zoo Bar has become a legendary blues bar, and with every ZooFest, the legend continues.

_MG_7781This year’s Ribfest, a tradition since 1996, was hosted near the Pinnacle Bank Arena, in the new Festival Space parking lot north of the arena. Sponsored by the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, this 18th annual event has always been a favorite among downtown workers, barbecue lovers, music lovers, and festival lovers.

And this year, with the new venue, it became a new experience with the feel of tradition, and was more popular and fun than ever.

The smells of roasted pork ribs, and fresh cornbread permeates the air, the music urges your feet to move in a country slide step, and you are in the shadow of one of our most spectacular buildings, the new Arena.

As part of giving back to the community, Ribfest goers were invited to bring a can or two of food, for our local food bank during the noon hour as their entrance fee. The food bank has benefited from this practice for each year of the Ribfest.

The vendors at Ribfest come from Nebraska, Texas, Tennessee and more points south, including Australia, to tempt our taste buds, and ease our barbecue craving.

You may have a favorite from last year, or you may find a new favorite, but there are no losers in this festival. You can see awards from all across the U.S. proudly displayed in front of each vendor.

Jazz in June has always been one of my favorite summer time activities. Sponsored by the Sheldon Art Association, it has grown in the past years to an entire evening event. Begin at 5pm with food, drinks and artisan crafts at 12th and R Streets.

At 6pm, guided walking tours are offered of campus gardens, with the groups assembling at the Sheldon’s east entrance.

At 7pm, relax on your blanket, lawn chair, or any spot to listen to the featured musical artists.

On June 3rd, a touch of Brazil came to Lincoln with a bossa nova and jazz group.

On June 10th, CALJE: Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble. This group has blended modern jazz with traditional rhythms including flamenco, reggae, and tango.

On June 17th, Donna Singer and the Doug Richards Trio shared their gifts of jazz, swing and rhythm and blues. This group is very popular in Europe and we are thankful that they brought their music to us here in Nebraska.

Susan Pereira and Sabor Brasil entertained us on June 24th with a fusion of traditional Brazilian and contemporary jazz.

The lovely Nebraska June weather, great jazz, and good food and company make for a great start to the summer.

The Lincoln Arts Festival is in its 14th year, and is one of the most eagerly anticipated festivals. On Saturday, September 27th from 10am to 6pm, and on Sunday from 10am to 5pm, SouthPointe Pavilions, located on 27th and Pine Lake Road, is where you can find fabulous works of art, live music, children’s activities, food and even raffle prizes.

There are always a few emerging artists being showcased, such as drawings on sheepskin from a Sudanese artist and a legally blind artist who continues to create beautiful sculptures and paintings.

You can also find stage settings, printmaking, and other varied and wonderful types of art to enjoy and learn from.

On May 4th, the Pla Mor Ballroom was the site of Lincoln’s Czech Festival. At 6600 West O Street, from 9am to 5am, there is dancing, authentic Czech food, raffles and ceremonies, including the Chapter Queens.

Admission is free, with ‘Vita’me Va’s posted at the door, which means all are welcome. Come and enjoy the great food and friendly folks of the Czech Festival. And don’t forget to bring home some delicious kolaches!

Exploring and enjoying Lincoln’s festivals is a great way to put fun into the seasons. 


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