Kool Aid, balloons, trains, Cowboys and ice cream highlight summer festival plans


Summer brings out shorts, picnics, vacations…and festivals.

Communities large and small throughout the Midwest will celebrate something – from tulips, ice cream and pirates to bridges, food and super heroes.

Omaha's Taste of Omaha celebration.
Omaha’s Taste of Omaha celebration.

We try to visit as many local festivals as we can – the Taste of Omaha, Summer Arts Festival, Railroad Days, etc.

However, we also like to take in regional celebrations. A couple of years ago, we traveled to Orange City in northwest Iowa for the Tulip Festival. It was a neat experience. Dances, exhibits and a parade highlighted the two-day event.

Teens perform a Danish youth dance during Tulip Festival.
Teens perform a Danish youth dance during Tulip Festival.

A few years ago, our youngest daughter and we traveled to Albuquerque, NM, for the International Balloon Fiesta. Hundreds of balloons from as far away as New Zealand participated in the weeklong event.

International Balloon Fiesta
International Balloon Fiesta

This year, we plan to take advantage of some of the regional events.

One festival we are excited about is Ice Cream Days in LeMars, Iowa. The northwest Iowa city will celebrate its standing as the “Ice Cream Capital of the World” June 18-21.

Activities include ice cream treats, parades, disc golf tournaments, mud run and concerts.

For more information, check out the website at lemarsiowa.com.


Knights joust during the Renaissance festival in Bellevue, NE.
Knights joust during the Renaissance festival in Bellevue, NE.


Our first overnight trip for a festival will be Nebraskaland Days in North Platte.

The 14 day-long event includes a rodeo, concert series, parade, and other activities.

We will miss the rodeo and parade, because we’re planning a midweek trip.

However, we will arrive in time for the Great American Wild West Show. The tribute to the old Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show is special this year to mark Nebraskaland Day’s 50th anniversary.

Sarpy County Fair
Sarpy County Fair

We’re toying with the thought about seeing Lady Antebellum in concert June 27. We’ve seen them before, but we both enjoy their music.

We will check out the Heritage Festival June 28.

We plan to check out some western Nebraska sites, as well – Chimney Rock, Scotts Bluff, Carhenge, and maybe Toadstool National Monument.

For more information on Nebraskaland Days, please visit http://nebraskalanddays.com/.

Railroad Days in Omaha and Council Bluffs recognizes the area’s role in the development of the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s.

The two-day event July 12-13,2014 features $15 per family (limit two adults) for admission and transportation to popular attractions, such as the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluff, Durham Museum and Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha.


We usually take Lisa’s uncle with us, because he is a huge train fan.

For more information on Railroad days, please check out the website at http://www.omaharailroaddays.com/.

Indianola, Iowa, is home to the National Balloon Classic July 25 – Aug. 2.

Albuquerque's balloon fiesta launch.
Albuquerque’s balloon fiesta launch.

The second largest balloon festival in the United States features hot air balloons from around the country.

The Classic will have balloon launches, nite glows, fireworks, vendors and other entertainment.

For more information on the nine-day event, please visit its website at http://www.nationalballoonclassic.com/

Sand in the City event in Omaha.
Sand in the City event in Omaha.

A fourth event we’re excited to attend is Kool Aid Days in Hastings, NE, Aug. 8-10.

The weekend celebration honors the invention of Kool Aid in Hastings. Yep. The sugary drink we all loved as kids (and some people still do) was invented in this central Nebraska community.

Activities include a Kool Aid exhibit at the Hastings Museum.

Other weekend events include a parade, vendors, concession stands and live music.

Covered bridge we visited during Bridges of Madison County event.
Covered bridge we visited during Bridges of Madison County event.

While researching our summer plans, we came upon a few unique festivals in the Midwest.

Metropolis, IL, hosts the Superman Celebration June 12-15.

Dean Cain, star of the TV series “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” will be the guest of honor during the event. He will participate in a paid autograph session June 14th.

For more information on events, please check the festival website at http://www.supermancelebration.net/.

Offutt Air Force Base open house event from 2012
Offutt Air Force Base open house event from 2012

Des Moines Art Festival takes place June 27-29.

The festival is described by the festival organizers as “This award winning festival features the best visual artists in the country, along with interactive arts-related activities, live music, film, performing arts, art demonstrations and hands-on art activities provided by area not-for-profit organizations.”

For more information on the art festival, please visit http://desmoinesartsfestival.org/.

July 4th weekend, Hannibal, MO, is home to 58th annual National Tom Sawyer Days.

Events over the 4-day holiday (July 3-6) include a parade, craft fair, fireworks along the Mississippi River, a Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher contest, and – of course – a frog jumping contest.

For more information on Sawyer Days, check out the event’s website at http://www.visitmo.com/national-tom-sawyer-days-2014.aspx.

Winnebago tribal pow wow in northeast Nebraska
Winnebago tribal pow wow in northeast Nebraska

The Sisseton Wahpeton Native American tribe will host its annual Wacipi (powwow) July 4-6.

The oldest powwow in South Dakota (started in 1867), the tribe will host the event at the ceremonial grounds in Agency Village, SD. It is a few miles west of Interstate 29 in northeast South Dakota.

For more information, please visit http://oyatetourism.com/.

Atchison, KS, hosts the Amelia Earhart Festival on July 18. The downside to this celebration is it takes place on a weekday.

Plans include aerial demonstrations, children activities, craft shows and live entertainment.

Check out more information at http://www.atchisonkansas.net/index.php/chamber-events/amelia-earhart-festival/.

Fort Atkinson early 1800s military re-enactment
Fort Atkinson early 1800s military re-enactment

For more information on summer festivals that are worth a day trip, please check out http://familyfuninomaha.com/2014/06/09/family-festivals-nebraska-iowa-missouri-south-dakota-2014/. Together we collaborated to put together a great list of regional festivals and celebrations that are within a 2-4 hours’ drive from Omaha. Check it out for other possibilities.

For more information on Midwestern events, please consult any of the state’s travel and tourism websites.

Take advantage of the warm summer temps and enjoy some fun times. Maybe, we’ll see you at one or two.