Memorial Park was magnet, from dawn to dusk - Omaha.com
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Pat Benatar, shown here, and Neil Giraldo headlined the Bank of the West Celebrates America concert and fireworks show, which annually attracts tens of thousands of concertgoers to Omaha's Memorial Park. Also performing was the band Loverboy.(BRYNN ANDERSON/THE WORLD-HERALD)
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Mallory Marsh, 27, lifts daughter Jayden Marsh, 5, up as they dance to the music Friday at Memorial Park.(BRYNN ANDERSON/THE WORLD-HERALD)
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LaRon Jones, 5, gives his cousin Jamiyia Walllace, 2, a hug before the start of the Memorial Park concert.(CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD)
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Thousands of people blanket the hill at Memorial Park for the annual Bank of the West concert on Friday.(CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD)


Memorial Park was magnet, from dawn to dusk
By Lizzie Johnson / World-Herald staff writer


Photo slideshow: The Bank of the West Celebrates America concert at Memorial Park.

Photos: The pre-concert scene at Memorial Park.

* * *

At 5 a.m., people started flooding into Memorial Park.

They staked out patches of grass with bedspreads, quilts, tarps and even twigs. They carried coolers on their shoulders and balanced folding chairs and umbrellas in their arms. Some carried mugs of coffee, others half-asleep children.

The goal? Get a prime location close to the stage for the 6 p.m. Bank of the West Celebrates America concert, with headliners Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo and Loverboy. It lasted until about 10 p.m.

Last year, about 70,000 people turned out for the concert and fireworks show. This year's crowd was put at 74,000.

Anthony Infante was one of the early ones. After working a night shift, he decided to drive by the park to stake out a spot for his family.

“I just got in and threw down my sheet,” Infante said. “Most of the close spots were filled. When I left, at about 5:40 (a.m.), people were still coming. It's crazy.”

Infante was joined later in the afternoon by his wife, Jodi, and kids, Ava, 9, and Austin, 13. The umbrellas for shade, however, didn't make the trip.

“I had them all ready to go, but we ended up leaving them behind,” Anthony Infante said. “So I had to create some makeshift ones.”

“I mean, this is how they do it in the desert,” Jodi said from under an “umbrella” made of sticks and blankets. “We figured we would give it a go.”

With hours of waiting and little shade, people also had to find a way to entertain themselves while staying cool.

Obvious solutions were guzzling water and caving to Dipping Dots cravings. But for Michelle Steinbach, Melissa Failla and Emily Riley, the answer was different — a game of Yahtzee in the shade.

“We usually play cards, like Uno, but it's too windy this year,” Riley said, shaking the cup of dice. “We've been coming for years. The Beach Boys were one of the best we have seen.”

She paused, examining the dice: five ones.

“Yahtzee,” she said exuberantly.

“I swear, she's cheating,” Failla said.

For Alison Nguyen, the concert — and everything that came before it — was a new experience. Nguyen recently moved from Mississippi to be with her boyfriend, Tom Wenzl. The two brought Wenzl's daughters, Haylee, 9, and Isabella, 11, to weather the heat.

“Look where I'm from,” Nguyen said. “I'm used to this. We brought plenty of water and Kool-Aid to keep everyone hydrated.”

Haylee and Isabella chattered in the background, stopping to sip from plastic bottles of bright red juice.

Did Nguyen think the concert was worth the wait?

“Oh yeah,” she said, grinning. “They almost called me in to work. But I didn't go. It's all part of the experience. Gotta do it right.”

Contact the writer: Lizzie Johnson

elizabeth.johnson@owh.com    |   402-444-1037    |  

Lizzie is a breaking news reporter, which basically means all things weather- or crime-related.


Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom


Copyright ©2014 Omaha World-Herald®. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, displayed or redistributed for any purpose without permission from the Omaha World-Herald.

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