Everyone loves a festival.

Whether you are a visitor to Lincoln, or a Husker born, take a moment to explore and enjoy Lincoln’s 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 10th, beginning at 5pm, an enthisiastic crowd was treated to the Arkansas blues sound of Earl & Them, a local favorite. The music continued at 7pm with Selwyn Birchwood, New Orleans’ Queen of Soul Irma Thomas at 9pm, and Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers at 11pm.

After a wonderful music-filled evening, what is the best thing to follow? A whole day of music! Beginning at 1pm, The Bottle Tops played on July 11th. Then the Tijuana Gigolos—also a Lincoln favorite, followed by Carolyn Wonderland, Mark Hummel and the Blues Survivors, and the Kris Lager Band.

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 42 years, the Zoo Bar has become a legendary blues venue, and with every ZooFest, the legend continues.

This year’s Ribfest, a tradition since 1996, is hosted near the Pinnacle Bank Arena, in the Festival Space parking lot north of the arena. Sponsored by the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, this 18th annual event is a favorite among downtown/Haymarket workers, and anyone who loves good barbecue and music.

This year, with a bigger stage, the music seemed to be as popular as the ribs. Nashville funk band, Here Come the Mummies, drew an audience of 5,000. This year’s line up also included Hairball, the Casey Donahew Band, and Earl and Them. A $5 gate fee makes this an amazing value.

So if the smell of roasted pork ribs and fresh cornbread permeates the air, the music urges your feet to move, and you are in the shadow of one of our most spectacular buildings, it’s Ribfest.

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 since Ribfest began.

The vendors at Ribfest come from Nebraska,
Texas, Tennessee and more points south—including Australia—to tempt our taste buds, and ease that 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 a favorite summer time activity in Lincoln. 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 grassy spot to listen to the featured musical artists.

On June 2nd, the Rad Trads performed their diverse style of American jazz. They were followed on June 9th, by Swing Fever, a Lincoln group playing traditional and modern New Orleans jazz.

On June 16th, the UNL Faculty Jazz Ensemble entertained the crowd and on June 23, Grand Marquis brought 1930s Kansas City swing and blues to Lincoln.

Then came the last and best on June 30—the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet performed for Lincoln.

The lovely Nebraska June weather, great (free) jazz, good food and good company make Jazz in June an excellent way to start the summer. See page 100 for even more summer music.

Hosted by the Clyde Malone Community Center, Juneteenth celebrated Lincoln’s African-American heritage on June 19th in Pentzer Park. This festival included three live bands, free food and plenty of kids’ activities as well as free health screenings. First celebrated in Galveston in 1865, Juneteenth is a celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery in the United States.

The Lincoln Arts Festival is in its 154th year, and is one of the most eagerly anticipated festivals. On Saturday, September 26th from 10am to 6pm, and on Sunday from 10am to 5pm, SouthPointe Pavilions, at 27th and Pine Lake Road, is where you’ll 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 3rd, 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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