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Festivals define Omaha’s diversity

 mid-america-expositions1Courtesy Mid-America Expositions

Omaha, Nebraska, goes all out when it comes to festivals. Throughout the year, groups will find activities and events to suit every interest and taste. The Summer Arts Festival showcases creative talent from around the nation. Nebraska’s wines, wineries and cuisine take center stage at the Nebraska Balloon and Wine Festival. Nonstop action at Aksarben River City Rodeo and Stock Show features the state’s Western heritage. And the Holiday Lights Festival wraps up the year with joy-filled happenings and myriad ways to celebrate the season.

Omaha Summer Arts Festival: June 6-8

The 40th annual Omaha Summer Arts Festival fills the streets of downtown Omaha along the Gene Leahy Mall with art and artist demonstrations, music, food and more. The Artists’ Market features 135 artists who are jury selected from more than 400 applicants nationwide. Jewelry, sculpture, photography, painting, glasswork, wood and more appeal to every taste and budget. The celebrated Young Artist Exhibition displays more than 300 works created by Omaha schoolchildren, grades six through 12.

Three days of musical entertainment showcases dozens of local, regional and national performers in the CenturyLink World Music Pavilion. Groups will find multicultural talent and diversity, with musical styles including blues, reggae, disco, big band and more. The festival’s TasteFest booths offer items from local vendors and Omaha restaurants, from grilled chicken, gyros and barbecue to kettle corn and German roasted almonds. No two vendors serve exactly the same menus.

“We’re excited to celebrate the festival’s 40th anniversary because it’s become such an Omaha tradition,” said festival manager Elizabeth Balazs. “We’ll have a new look in 2014, as well as some special performances and giveaways.”

Nebraska Balloon and Wine Festival: August 8-9
The 2014 Nebraska Balloon and Wine Festival showcases Nebraska’s award-winning wines and local cuisine. Admission includes five wine tastings and a souvenir wine glass, or a choice of beers. The Nebraska Wine Showcase features wine experts and labels from 17 Nebraska and Iowa wineries. New craft beers, representing Nebraska’s burgeoning beer industry, are also available for tastings. In addition, the event always features one nationally known label.

Back by popular demand, the Food and Wine Experience gives groups the opportunity to taste four to five wines paired with hors d’oeuvres and dishes from Carrabba’s and Fleming’s Steakhouse. On Saturday, a vintners’ lunch pairs locally grown foods with Nebraska wines.

Groups will want to shop for arts and crafts in the Marketplace Village. Food vendors create culturally diverse dishes such as Greek salad, Italian pastas and barbecued ribs. The event also features an evening hot-air-balloon glow.

“Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, wine lover or simply interested in trying something new, the Nebraska Balloon and Wine Festival offers the opportunity to taste award-winning wines and experience a magical evening created by the glowing balloons,” said Mike Mancuso, festival director.

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.