Nearly every year since 1987, a free concert, fireworks show and a lot of fun have brought thousands of people to Omaha’s Memorial Park. If you’re going — and who isn’t? — you should know a little about the City of Omaha Celebrates America event before you arrive. We know the secrets. After all, The World-Herald has been there for every one of these things.
What is it?
A free general admission, first-come, first-served concert and fireworks display that’s taken place nearly every year for three decades.
Where is it?
Memorial Park, the huge green space at roughly 60th and Dodge Streets. The stage is near the Dodge Street side of the park, and fans sit on the sloped lawn that runs up to Underwood Avenue. Tens of thousands of people will fill the park.
When does it start?
The big fun at Memorial Park won’t happen until the evening, but the park opens at 5 a.m. If you’d like to place a blanket on the grass, you can arrive as early as 5 to stake out your territory. But don’t bring actual stakes. They’re not allowed. Neither are tarps. Music begins at 6 p.m. Fireworks will start around 10 p.m.
What about parking?
Parking can be tough. If you can find an open spot north of Memorial Park, you can only park on the east side of north-south streets. Please don’t block driveways. You also can park in designated lots at UNO, but only after 4 p.m. Traffic near the park will be reconfigured, so pay attention to signs and police when you’re driving around.
What’s allowed in the park?
You can bring food and drinks to the concert, but bottles are prohibited. And since it’s a city park, you’re not allowed to bring alcohol either. Food vendors will be on-site, and free water also will be available.
Who’s playing this year?
It’s a good lineup. Topping the list is Little Steven, aka Steven Van Zandt. He’s an actor (“Lillyhammer,” “The Sopranos”), but he’s better known as a member of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. Van Zandt was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and he has a new album, “Summer of Sorcery,” out now. Little Steven played a fantastic show last year in Omaha, and we interviewed him before the Memorial Park show.
Chris Isaak is best known for the love song “Wicked Game,” but much of his material, including “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing” and “Somebody’s Crying,” feature a classic rock sound more like Elvis or Roy Orbison. Isaak has also acted in numerous TV shows and movies. Isaak puts on a great show, too. And yeah, we talked to him as well.
The Omaha band The Firm is the opening act.
Who has played in the past?
This event has quite a history. Past performers include Kool & the Gang, Foreigner and The Village People. Only one band has played the event more than once: The Drifters in 1993 and 1999.
What if it rains?
In the event of inclement weather, the concert will be canceled, and it will not be rescheduled. The event has been rained out twice: 2004 and 2008.
Is there anything else I should know?
This year’s concert will also serve as a flood relief benefit. Concertgoers will be able to donate to the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation during the event by using their phones, by visiting a Farm Bureau booth with a check or credit card or by visiting MemorialParkConcert.com.
What happens after it's over?
After the fireworks, a portion of Underwood Avenue will be shut down to allow pedestrians to safely exit the park, Omaha police said. Drivers are encouraged to use an alternate route and expect delays.