The Joy of Festivals

Festivals are the joy and creative juice of a city. They are the venue where the brightest and best we have to offer are displayed. Lincoln organizes a variety of festivals offering food, music, art and ethnic culture.

Below you will find some of the many offerings of Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Zoo Bar hosts Lincoln’s Zoofest every year. This bar has a long standing tradition in Lincoln for blues and roots music. Zoofest brings the best of the best to Lincoln. Brave Combo has been perfecting their musical talent for the last 3 decades. They are based in Texas, and have a world mix of salsa, polka, classical, cha cha, and the blues to name but a few. Brave Combo kicks off the fest on Friday evening.

At 7 p.m., Dale Watson takes the stage with country music. He has been named a country music maverick, and a honky tonk hero. He certainly set my toes to tapping!

Next up is Lee Fields at 9 p.m. When R&B first began, Lee was there, and he is still making soul music today. Lee Fields & The Expressions sang to my heart and my soul!

Terrance Simien brings his world renowned Zydeco music to the Zoo stage at 11 p.m. He and his band have performed in over 43 countries. And they take center stage here at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln.

This music festival runs for two days. It is truly a magnificent way to enjoy all types of music, check in with old friends and meet new friends too.

On Saturday, The Mighty Jailbreakers open the day at 3 p.m. This band takes the horn section to a new level of beautiful sound. Mike Zito and the Wheel give us a rich taste of the Blues at 5 p.m.

At 7 p.m. The Derailers bring us sounds likening to Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, even the Beatles, while remaining on the edge of today’s country music.

A relative newcomer to the music scene is Nikki Hill. Once she starts singing, you find yourself asking why haven’t I heard of Nikki before? She is a fireball! You won’t forget her, once you have heard her.

To top off this Zoofest, native Lincoln band
A Ferocious Jungle Cat plays at 11 p.m.

The music seems to never stop at Zoofest.
Whether in the bar or outside on the street, you will find the perfect music to fit your mood, your desire, the evening.

We also have music in June. Jazz in June has long been one of my favorite ways to usher in the summer. What began as an outdoor concert each Tuesday in June has blossomed into a full festival each week. Now, along with the music, you can find a place to picnic, buy some delicious treats from vendors, and watch the performers mingle with the crowd before the performance.

A newer addition to this music event is a basic yoga class taught by instructors from the UNL Campus Recreation Group. Yoga begins at 5:30 and runs for an hour in the green space north of the Woods Art Building. What a great way to bring your body and soul in line and ready to listen to music that speaks to your heart.

This year’s festival includes Cuban born Arturo Sandoval, a protégé of the jazz master Dizzy Gillespie.

The Tizer Quartet featuring Grammy award-winning saxophonist Eric Marienthal returned to Jazz in June this year. They play on June 14th.

The Jackie Allen Group brings an extraordinary talent on June 21st. She has performed in international music festivals including Paris, Beijing and Hong Kong, and adds so much to our festival.

To close out the 2016 Jazz in June season, we take a tour of the Swing Era, the Cool Jazz period, and on to contemporary compositions. Tim Doherty’s 9plus1 was established in 2008 with top professional jazz musicians. Their music makes you want to dance, and in this festive crowd, many do.

Lincoln Arts Festival Weekend is hosted by Southpointe Mall, located at 2910 Pine Lake Road, on September 24 and 25. It becomes not only a place to shop, but a place to feast your eyes on the creative and innovative work of many amazing artists.

Many are from right here in Lincoln, such as Jane Chesnut who focuses on painting, and Geoffrey Balliet whose art comes alive through his jewelry.

You will also find artists from across the country, including Indiana, Montana, Iowa, and Missouri to name but a few.

Any type of art you are looking for, and some you didn’t know you wanted, but simply must have, will be found at this arts festival. Clay, photography, 2D and 3D, mixed media, leather, stained glass, wood, copper, drawing, sculpture, and fiber are but a few of the mediums represented here.

It was interesting to me to see how different types of fabric, threads, canvas and cotton can be arranged into beautiful pieces of art I would be proud to display in my home. I learned that sculpture may not be the traditional statue of a head carved out of stone. It could be a beautiful rock, sculpted into a non-traditional, yet totally captivating candle holder.

It is a good thing this festival is two days long, because there is so much to see and do!

On August 18-20, one of the most anticipated food festivals comes to Lincoln. Ribfest recently celebrated its 20th year. Located at the Pinnacle Bank Arena festival parking lot, you can hear the music, smell the enticing aroma of barbecue—simply follow the crowd to the gates.

Late morning on Thursday, Chris Sayre opens the festival. Twilight sees The Raw Nerve take the stage and at 8 p.m., The 402 Band.

Friday’s opener is John Walker at 11:30 a.m. with Levi William at 7 p.m., and Wade Bowen at 9:30 p.m. Saturday the music begins at 7 p.m. and the event is closed out by The Randy Rogers Band at 9:30 p.m.

The food however is the main focus here. Vendors from Ohio, Illinois, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Minnesota and even Australia bring their best aromas, flavors and smiles to Lincoln for our Ribfest. Many vendors come back year after year, and fans get to know the cooks at their favorite booths. And yet there is always the desire to try new recipes too. Three days is barely enough time.

All of these folks are award winners in their own states, and across the U.S. Many boast being a favorite in Lincoln.

Pork that will melt in your mouth. Sauce that will take your breath away with its heat, or bring a smile to your face from the sweetness are accompanied by the best corn bread, beans and roasted corn for miles around.

On the first Sunday in May, the Pla Mor Ballroom on West O Street welcomes the Lincoln Czech Festival and admission is free. In its 47th year, this annual festival includes an Accordion Jam—where the public can bring in their own accordions to join in the fun. Plus Czech singer Dennis Klimes, the introduction of Czech royalty, polka bands, and many vendors offering scrumptious baked goods including kolaches. There is a raffle and vendors display garnet jewelry, Czech music CD’s, and hot Czech food is available until it is gone. So come early and hungry!

On September 10th, the fourth annual Art in the Garden takes place in Lincoln’s Sunken Gardens, at 27th and Capitol Parkway. Sponsored by the Noyes Art Gallery, displays include paintings, pottery, photography, portraits, abstracts, greeting cards and much more.

Now when strolling through the gardens, enjoying the spectacular flowers, you can also see easels set up with artists painting, or drawing, and sharing their love of art and nature with you.  

When summer is over, it is time to reflect on the great festivals of the last year and start dreaming
of what Lincoln will offer us next year in the way
of festivals.


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