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Festivals define Omaha’s diversity


Elizabeth Hey
Published November 06, 2013

Courtesy Vic Gutman and Assoc.

Aksarben River City Rodeo and Stock SHOW: September 25-28
Western heritage comes alive at the Aksarben River City Rodeo and Stock Show. The Justin Boots Championship Rodeo, the world’s second-largest rodeo, showcases 96 cowboys who compete over a seven-month period to earn their trip to Omaha. The event is a two-hour, fast paced production. Rock music, laser lights, pyro and lots of thrills and spills entertain the crowd. On Friday and Saturday evenings, a concert that features nationally known country artists is included in the ticket price.

“The rodeo gives groups a chance to see the nation’s top cowboys in the seven PRCA events, plus a popular kids’ mutton-busting event,” said executive director Matt Gunderson. “And the stock show brings in 2,800 head of the best livestock from a 10-state region.”

After the competition, visitors can join the cowboys and cowgirls in the Hilton Omaha Ballroom. The Buckle Bash Go-Round champions are presented their buckles, shown video highlights of their rides and asked amusing interview questions. Live music and dancing continue late into the night.

Friday evening’s Barbecue Challenge is open to teams from around the nation. A separate barbecued rib cook-off gives foodies the chance to sample and vote for their favorite ribs, which receive the People’s Choice Award. Proceeds from ticket sales support the youth participating in the 4-H Stock Show. Saturday’s Heritage Parade features balloons, drill teams, marching bands, horses and cowboys prancing through Omaha’s downtown.

Also in conjunction with the rodeo, the Douglas County Fair hosts 500 categories that run the gamut, with categories such as quilting, baking, gardening and home brewing. The “small county fair with a big city flair” also includes a Sugar Arts Show and an afternoon cake-decorating class.

Holiday Lights Festival: November 28-December 31
Thanksgiving night, with the flip of a switch, more than 1 million lights illuminate 40 blocks of downtown Omaha at the Holiday Lights Festival. Live music, old-fashioned carolers, ice skating in the Old Market, dancing Santas at the symphony and a performance of “A Christmas Carol” are sure to put groups in the holiday spirit.

The Making Spirits Bright Holiday Concert takes place at the Holland Performing Arts Center; it features holiday classics and sing-alongs. The Sounds of the Season series, scheduled for Saturday evenings, features youth and professional choral groups. The one-day Wells Fargo Family Festival also offers family activities and entertainment.

Christmas at Union Station transforms the Durham Museum into a magical Christmas town. Live music, reindeer and the Ethnic Holiday Festival round out events at the historic venue. All ages enjoy the lighting of the region’s largest indoor Christmas tree — a tradition since 1930.
Ringing in the New Year, a spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks finale lights the sky over Heartland of America Park.


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