You likely won’t find a more unusual Nebraskaland Days than this 2020 edition, now taking its opening bow nearly two months late.
COVID-19, of course, is why it’s late.
It’s also why we all must be cautious as we’re having fun — lest this 53rd local edition of Nebraska’s official celebration become our last community event for months.
But do have fun, by all means. We all deserve it.
Considering what Executive Director David Fudge, his staff and volunteers have gone through, it’s nothing short of amazing that Nebraskaland Days is this close to a full schedule.
So isn’t this the perfect year to try that full Western outlaw look, with a bandanna below your cowboy hat and over your nose and mouth?
That would be the best way, we think, to thank Fudge and his team. And keep each other safe.
It’s important to realize what it took to save this Nebraskaland Days, even if some events must be done differently and some can’t be held at all.
When Fudge had to postpone the 2020 event on May 1 — this year’s first “Dress Western Day,” as it happens — he had no guarantee he could salvage anything. None.
He didn’t know whether the PRCA Buffalo Bill Rodeo could be rescheduled, though one suspects the city where rodeo itself was born would have found some way to put a few local cowboys in the Wild West Arena chutes.
Remember, also, what full cancellation would have meant for so many affiliated Nebraskaland Days events — the art show, the Sweet Saloon, the outdoor feeds and nonprofits’ fundraisers.
And the concerts? They were dead and buried for this year. Until this past week.
No, we won’t see Luke Combs and Toby Keith until next June. We lost Miss Rodeo Nebraska entirely (not to mention Miss Nebraska, which has never been part of Nebraskaland Days but feels like its “opening act” with its early June slot).
It’ll be the first Nebraskaland Days ever without the Frontier Revue, which began as a statewide talent show but became a Western-oriented musicale a year after the celebration settled in North Platte.
But the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association found a new slot for this week’s Buffalo Bill Rodeo, which predates Nebraskaland Days itself.
Even more of the nation’s top rodeo competitors will be here than usual, in fact, because COVID-19 erased several other PRCA events.
And some way, somehow, Nebraskaland Days found a couple of concert acts — country star Granger Smith and 1980s rockers .38 Special — to come in two weekends from now.
As vital as the rodeo is, reviving the Viaero Summer Jam Concert Series just might be David Fudge’s greatest “save.”
No matter your feelings on what isn’t being done, or how the rest has to be done, please, please take the time to thank Fudge and team for what they’ve pulled off.
And drop a few dollars. Responsibly.
The nonprofits involved with the affiliated events depend on the funds they raise from Nebraskaland Days to continue doing good for another year.
But Nebraskaland Days itself needs — really needs — your support through your ticket sales.
It’s also a nonprofit. It can’t stage our biggest show of the year, year after year, without funds to pay the bills.
The rodeo and concerts are vital in doing that. We almost lost both completely.
The City Council has granted Nebraskaland Days a “line of credit” from the Quality Growth Fund if it’s needed to get back to normal in 2021.
But if this year’s event can break even, Fudge says, they probably won’t need that help.
Tickets will be limited and seating spread out, especially for the concerts. They have to be. COVID-19 is still with us.
Though Lincoln County’s case count remains small, it’s because we’ve had a few new cases every day lately that the Nebraskaland Days parade has been converted into a static, drive-by Cody Park event.
If saving Nebraskaland Days causes the mass coronavirus outbreak we’ve all worked months to avoid, it might well cost us the fall and winter school and community activities that keep up our spirits through the cold months.
It shouldn’t have to come to that, though, if we’re smart these next two weeks.
So let’s safely enjoy “Nebraska’s Brand of Entertainment.” Thank your neighbors who made it possible. And try that outlaw look.