The newspaper company that publishes the Papillion Times will sponsor four holiday concerts in December following the announcement Sunday the Heartland of America Band’s annual holiday concert was canceled due to government spending cuts.
The Omaha World-Herald announced Sunday the band’s concert, which the World-Herald had sponsored for 26 years, was a victim of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration. The Department of Defense cut much of its community outreach efforts, including demonstration flights by the Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds.
The same cuts scuttled this year’s Offutt Air Force Base Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air Show. With those cuts extended as part of the recent deal to reopen the federal government, the outlook for next year’s show isn’t promising. But 55th Wing Public Affairs said Monday no decision has been reached.
But holiday music will go on in a new format, despite an Air Force personnel realignment this summer that left the Heartland of America Band at Offutt reduced to 16 musicians.
The remaining band members form three ensemble groups: Offutt Brass, playing classical, jazz and popular music; Raptor, showcasing rock and country tunes; and Vortex, offering a mix of rock, funk, jazz, blues, soul, swing, country and pop hits.
All the ensemble groups will perform during four Sarpy County performances this winter:
• Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m., Bellevue East High School, 1401 High School Drive;
• Dec. 15, 2 p.m., Gretna High School, 11335 S 204th St.;
• Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m., Papillion-La Vista South High School, 10799 Highway 370; and
• Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m., Papillion-La Vista South.
The three concerts, featuring a selection of festive holiday music, will offer free admission. The shows are sponsored by Suburban Newspapers Inc., which publishes the Papillion Times, Bellevue Leader, Gretna Breeze and Ralston Recorder. That newspaper group is owned by the World-Herald.
A fifth concert will be held in Glenwood, Iowa, on Dec. 8. That free show — which begins at 2 p.m. at Glenwood Senior High School, 504 E. Sharp St. — is sponsored by The Opinion-Tribune, which is owned by Landmark Community Newspapers.
Joel Long, the World-Herald’s director of communications, said the performances will feature very talented musicians from the three ensembles.
“The shows that will be put on will be top-notch,” Long said.
All the costs of the concerts will be paid for by the event sponsors, because the Air Force is not allowed to spend any money on the events.
“We understand the tradition of holiday concerts downtown with the Heartland Band,” said Shon Barenklau, Suburban Newspaper’s publisher. “We would do anything we can to help out so the community doesn’t have to go cold turkey.”
Ticket information will be announced in upcoming editions of the Papillion Times and Bellevue Leader, as well as the World-Herald and Opinion-Tribune. Supplies will be limited.