On our last day of interviews in Omaha, the Omaha Public Library threw us a wonderful fiesta, complete with rocking rock music, fancy finger food, and great company.
Library folks Jodie Durand and Rivkah Sass (national librarian of the year and number 1 librarian of our hearts), facilitators Jenna Weiss-Berman and Lena Richardson, and KIOS membership director Molly Nicklin (L to R).
The band Rochester pumped out some tunes.
For a field recording, Jenna and Lena took their interview equipment to a Native American reservation. They went for a beautiful ride through Iowa and then back into Nebraska in order to get to Macy, a town on the reservation of the U-Mo’n-Ho’n Nation (also known as Omaha Indians). Even though they arrived on the day that the tribe celebrates Memorial Day, they still managed to facilitate some excellent interviews.
Jenna looks out over this idyllic landscape, one half of which is Iowa and one half Nebraska. Can you guess which side of the river is Iowa and which side is Nebraska? (Hint: Jenna is standing in Nebraska)
Facilitator Lena Richardson said goodbye to Jenna Weiss-Berman and went off to visit her friend’s family in Tekamah, NE, a farming community which is north of Omaha. She found that contrary to some people’s ideas about Nebraska that northeast Nebraska is green and lush.
Bev Lydick and her husband Wally and their son Chance hosted Lena in their home. Here Bev is pictured with Chance. Successive generations of the Lydick family have been farming in Nebraska for 150 years.
In addition, Bev is also a newspaper reporter and story-collector herself and she arranged some StoryCorps interviews with town residents, which Lena conducted with the field recording equipment. One interview was between Bev and her best friend Mona. They met in a guitar class when Bev was seven months pregnant with her first child and over the last 34 years, have formed wacky clubs, done community theater, and adventured on the road together to name just a few of their escapades.
On their days off in, facilitators Jenna Weiss-Berman and Lena Richardson parted ways because Lena went to visit a friend’s family in rural Nebraska. Although they missed each other terribly at first, they soon got used to being apart and were able to have separate but equally wonderful times. Jenna went to the Henry Doorly Zoo, and is absolutely not exaggerating when she tells you she is positive that this is the most fantastic zoo in the entire world.
After howling like crazy, this howler monkey took a short break to show off for the camera.
After repeated calls of "Hakuna Matata," Jenna still couldn’t wake up this sleepy warthog.
Jenna’s zoo companion Sarah offers some of her soft serve swirl to the bronze octopus who keeps watch over the zoo’s aquarium.
This large and in charge pygmy hippo in the video above is a crazy animal with a crazy tail! Click the play button on the lower left corner of the video to view.
Upon leaving the aquarium, we went over to watch an orangutan mom and her Curious George of a baby play in the trees. Jenna shot this short video of mama and spikey-haired baby. Click the play button on the lower left corner of the video to view.
After spending some time with the orangutans, Jenna moved on to her very favorite primates, gorillas. Even though the sign said that this baby gorilla (pictured above) only liked to play with children, he and Jenna managed to establish quite a bond.
Right across from the booth, in downtown Omaha, is a stretch of parkway called Gene Leahy Mall. It is not a shopping mall, but rather an urban green space. Lots of people go there to eat lunch, walk their dogs and play. Above, facilitator Lena Richardson sits by the water on the edge of the park, as she sometimes does before heading home from the booth.
We also love the fact that in Omaha, you can see popular bands at half the cost you could in a larger city and in a venue a quarter of the size. We’ve seen some great bands like Animal Collective (below) at an old gymnastics center called the Sokol Auditorium, and we plan to see more.
The Bemis Center (below) is an amazing arts center where artists from around the world live and work through a residency program. It has basically become Omaha’s center for contemporary art, and boasts four gallery spaces of its residents’ work.
Facilitator Jenna Weiss-Berman likes to have her eyelashes extended at the salon across the street from our hotel (pictured above). Just kidding, but she could if she wanted to. It’s an "Omaha first."
Library Director Rivkah Sass and Assistant Director Stacey Aldrich made a special sign to show us how much they care! They have helped make our stay wonderful so far.
Facilities specialist Mike Trifillis has been on hand for our facilities needs as well as offering helpful weather predictions and a big umbrella (just in time for the hail storm he predicted). Here he is helping us with our awning.
At Puerto Nuevo restaurant in South Omaha, the beautiful Mexican neighborhood here…
Jenna takes a big ol’ bite.
Lena chews with all her might!
And…carne asada with some horchata!
Mary Bamesburger interviewed her good friend Charles Scudder Jr. about folksinging. He told stories ranging from church singing to how folk legend and friend Pete Seeger helped him tune his first guitar. He also sang bits of songs, such as "Ragtime Cowboy Joe." Charles invited facilitator Lena Richardson to a meeting of the Omaha Folk Song Society, where she had fun listening and singing along to more songs, including "The Omaha Song." At the meeting, Lena also got to see a StoryCorps participant from the day before there–Marion Fey–who sang a duet with Charles.
Ky-Antre Compton, 11, and Stuart Chittenden, both residents of Omaha, came in to interview each other. They met through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Midlands program. Ky-Antre thought that spending time with Stuart would be boring at first, but now he describes "Mr. Stuart" as the "best role model" he’s ever had. (You can hear an excerpt from Ky-Antre and Stuart’s interview here.)
Christine Besen, Mary Pat Champion, and Diane Watson (left to right), all from Omaha, came in to remember their fourth sister, Laura Ann Watson Dalton, who was murdered eight years ago in Iowa City. "Every time I see a butterfly," said Diane, "I feel like it’s Laura checking in on me."
After fitting the booth into the Omaha skyline (can you see it amidst the tall buildings?), we prepared for opening day.
First, Jenna attempted to put up the booth’s awning while onlookers snickered at her ineptitude. Eventually, some friendly volunteers, along with StoryCorps Senior Coordinator Terry Scott, figured out how to assemble this confusing piece of equipment, and the booth finally had shade on this steamy Omaha day!
And, as usual, the kids loved the StoryCorps listening station.
Speaking of the wonderful public library, we would like to thank Facilities Specialist Mike Trifillis, who, when not assisting us in the improvement of our facilities, had the time and skill to take the top 3 photos in this very blog post.