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How to enjoy the Memorial Park concert? Be prepared for the heat | Local News

Legendary guitarist Dave Mason has been touring a lot lately.

And it has been hot everywhere he’s played, he said this week from a stop in Lawrence, Kansas.

All of his shows — including a recent gig in sweltering Texas — have been air-conditioned. That will change Friday when he appears with Grammy Award-winning singer Sheryl Crow at the annual City of Omaha Celebrates America concert in Memorial Park.

Forecasts call for Omaha’s high temperature to reach 95 that day, though the humidity should be a relatively low 56%. Mason’s not sure how he’ll feel during his first hot outdoor show in a while, but he has a plan.



Guitarist Dave Mason will perform ahead of Sheryl Crow at the City of Omaha Celebrates America concert at Memorial Park Friday night.



“I probably will be drinking a lot of Pedialyte,” he said.

That’s also a wise move for the audience, said Heidi Walz of Vic Gutman and Associates, who is project manager for the concert.

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She advised people who attend the concert to bring non-glass, reusable water bottles and coolers filled with water and Gatorade. The Metropolitan Utilities District’s hydration station will be at the park from mid-afternoon to 9 p.m. with chilled water for bottle refills.

Walz also said the park will be open at 5 a.m. for people who want to reserve a spot when it’s cool — using blankets with weights, no poles. Then they can go about their business and not wait in the heat all day

“This is summer outside in the Midwest,” she said as a droll reminder of the potential for blazing sun and soaring temperatures. People should also pack sunscreen, bug spray and a couple of cooling, wet washcloths, she said.



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Crews construct the stage for the City of Omaha Celebrates America concert at Memorial Park on Wednesday.



In addition to the hydration station, there will be food vendors: The Kettle Corn Guy, who also sells lemonade; Uncle Earnie’s BBQ, Kona Ice; and eCreamery.

Parks department personnel and others have been setting up for the concert since Monday, Walz said. The first thing they do is place thousands of linear feet of fencing on the large expanse of green space that faces the stage, which is at the bottom of the hill near the intersection of Dodge Street and Happy Hollow Boulevard.

Among other purposes, the fences create an aisle that cuts the park in half north to south. These preparations allow police and fire personnel to reach people in distress because of the heat or other issues, and provide routes for emergency vehicles.

Workers employ a drone to map out the concert area and take pictures backstage so they’ll know how to set things up.

“This is a major, major production,” Walz said. “It’s cool to see all the public and private groups that come together (to put it on).”

Crow, the headliner, has won nine Grammys over a career that started in the early 1990s. Her first nine studio albums have sold 35 million copies worldwide, and seven of them charted in the Top 10, with three singles reaching No. 1 on the Billboard charts. She supports a number of charities, including MusiCares and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. She wasn’t available for an interview prior to the concert.

Mason, a native of Britain, got his start with the rock band Traffic and has had a prolific solo career. He has written more than 100 songs — including “Higher Ground” and “We Just Disagree” — and has three gold albums. He also has played on or contributed to albums by other artists, notably George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland.”

In an interview, Mason said Omaha audiences can expect him to play a number of songs from both Traffic and his solo career.

“Just good music,” he said, with “no dancers, no flames. If you’re into a good band, that’s what we do.”

When asked what was his proudest accomplishment, the 76-year-old artist came back with a joke: “Probably the fact that I’m still doing it at this age.”



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Neal Stepanek (left) and Ross Leisure unload fencing for the City of Omaha Celebrates America concert at Memorial Park on Wednesday.



The concert starts at 5:45 p.m. with a welcome and the National Anthem. A local group, Da Crabby Blues Band, plays at 6, Mason goes on at 7:15, Crow is on at 8:45 and the night ends with fireworks at 10.

Walz said parking options are plentiful. The garage on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus across the street from the park will be open all day and surface lots at UNO will open to the public at 4 p.m. There’s also street parking (with restrictions such as one-side only and one-way streets) and churches in the area are selling spots and using the money they raise for youth programming.

She also recommended ORBT, Metro Area Transit’s express bus.

Nicole Ebat, senior communications manager for MAT, said passengers can catch the express for a ride to the park at any stop.

She suggested driving to Westroads Mall no matter where you live, because you can park there for free, catch the bus and avoid the hassle of finding a spot near the concert.



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Dylan Oliver helps construct the stage for the City of Omaha Celebrates America concert at Memorial Park on Wednesday.



When the concert is over, she said, buses will be waiting on Dodge Street to return you to where you caught the ride downtown.

“ORBT’s going to be way easier (than driving to the park),” she said. “People can bring on coolers and chairs and picnic baskets.”

To accommodate staging post-concert buses, Dodge Street will close at 9:45 p.m. and traffic will be detoured. It will be closed until the end of the fireworks show, she said.

Last year’s concert, as people were emerging from COVID isolation, drew about 20,000 people, Walz said. Both she and Tiffany Regan, executive director of the Omaha Parks Foundation, said this one has the potential for a bigger audience.

“I definitely feel it will be better than last year,” Regan said. “A number of people are feeling better because of boosters, it’s in an outdoor venue and the fireworks are a huge draw,”

She also said she has heard from people who are “pretty jazzed” that Crow — who recently was on NBC-TV’s “Today” and has a podcast — is the headliner.

Previous concerts with Kool and the Gang and Starship had estimated crowds of 65,000 people, according to omaha.com.

Whatever the audience, Walz thinks Omaha has a winner on its hands with the yearly concert.

“This event is a legacy for Omaha,” she said.

Photos: Memorial Park concerts through the years

1988

1988

1988: Striking a patriotic pose at the Memorial Park concert are, from left, Joanna Golden, 8, of Springfield, Illinois; Sarah Price, 8, of Omaha; Jennie Golden, 5, Joanna’s sister; and Nicholas Ilalia, 8, of Omaha.



1993

1993

1993: The Drifters are one of the bands that performed on July 2.



1997

1997

1997: Fans cheer during the concert.



1997

1997

1997: Fans pack Memorial Park for the free concert.



1999

1999

1999: Gina Rolfe of Omaha claps along to the beat of the music with her daughter, Erica Rolfe, 5. Pictured at the bottom left is Gina’s son, Jayden, 1.



2001

2001

2001: Grant Michelsen cools off with a bottle of water while waiting for the Beach Boys to appear.



2001

2001

2001: Lara Murdzia, a Sr. Airman with the U.S. Airforce band Night Wing, belts out a country western tune.



2001

2001

2001: Kathie Horvath of Omaha gets into the 4th of July spirit while listening to the United States Airforce band, Night Wing.



2001

2001

2001: Crowds gathered early at Memorial Park.



2003

2003

2003: The Omaha Symphony played a free outdoor concert at Memorial Park. Themed “Spirit of America,” it included a patriotic-themed repertoire.



2003

2003

2003: The Omaha Symphony played a free outdoor concert at Memorial Park.



2003

2003

2003: About 125 people attended the performance of Stephan Smith of New York City at Memorial Park.



2004

2004

2004: Thousands of people descended upon Memorial Park’s lawn for a free 311 concert.



2004

2004

2004: A crowd of people waits in the pouring rain for the concert featuring Salem Baptist Church’s Voices of Victory Choir, Mulberry Lane, Three Dog Night and The Doobie Brothers.



2004

2004

2004: Blankets cover the lawn as people claim a patch of land.



2006

2006

2006: A crowd surfer is transported to the front of the crowd and then sent back into the crowd.



2006

2006

2006: John Hagerman, 12, and Gary Hagerman, right, listen to the early acts before Conor Oberst.



2006

2006

2006: Erica Kethan, right and Carly Bird, both of Omaha, dance in the rain.



2006

2006

2006: Fans look on adoringly at Conor Oberst despite pouring rain.



2006

2006

2006: Conor Oberst performs to a rain-soaked crowd.



2006

2006

2006: Conor Oberst performs.



2006

2006

2006: Conor Oberst performs.



2006

2006

2006: Conor Oberst sings to a rain-covered crowd.



2006

2006

2006: A beautiful sunset at the free concert featuring Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes.



2006

2006

2006: The crowd never wavered despite plenty of rain.



2006

2006

2006: Brian Hadfield, left, and Crystal Reid, both of Omaha, pass the time before the music starts by reading books.



2008

2008

2008: Susan Dickhaut of Council Bluffs looks for her kids as they ran to the car parked across the street as a major storm hit.



2008

2008

2008: Nick Carlson takes cover from the hail under a tree.



2008

2008

2008: Leslie Feist performs.



2008

2008

2008: A fan holds up a light for the Feist performance.



2008

2008

2008: A band member plays trumpet for the Feist performance.



2008

2008

2008: People sit in the shade while listening to the music of The Good Life.



2008

2008

2008: Jon Roberts, 18, top, and Stephen Glandenning, 19, both of Gretna, perform a two-man somersault.



2008

2008

2008: Debris is scattered about Memorial Park where people left their belongings to seek shelter when a major storm with damaging winds hit Omaha.



2009

2009

2009: Omaha band Mal Madrigal performed.



2009

2009

2009: Indi band Gomez performed. Ben Ottewell, left, and Tom Gray perform with Gomez. 



2009

2009

2009: Diesel, a very good boy, keeps an eye on the action.



2009

2009

2009: Concert-goers show their enthusiasm. 



2010

2010

2010: Milo, left, and Lacee, chihuahuas owned by Yvette Duvall of Plattesmouth, catch the free concert.



2010

2010

2010: Crowds swarm the lawn area around Memorial Park.



2010

2010

2010: Alyssa Mathews, age 7 of Bellevue, and Hannah Meece, of Omaha, play “patty cake” while waiting for the music to start.



2010

2010

2010: Chris Lenz, age 8, has the best seat in the house on the shoulders of 7-foot-1 Tanner Bradshaw’s shoulders.



2011

2011

2011: Jill Shradar sits with Maleah Shradar, 6, and Jane Shradar as they wait for the concert to begin.



2011

2011

2011: Andrew Henry plays catch with his cousin Bill Henry during the concert.



2011

2011

2011: Kip Kelly displays a love for rock and roll during the national anthem.



2011

2011

2011: Josh Gubbels blows some bubbles at he waits for the concert to start.



2011

2011

2011: Connie McNary tries to take some cover from the sun as she checks a message on her phone. Take Me to Vegas opened the concert, followed by 38 Special and Cheap Trick.



2011

2011

2011: Fans of local band “Take Me to Vegas” sing along.



2012

2012

2012: Huey Lewis and the News headlines the concert.



2012

2012

2012: Seth Keith of La Vista dances with his daughter, Zoe, 3, as Mockingbird Sun performs.



2012

2012

2012: Janet Workman saves their space with blankets.



2012

2012

2012: Larry Talmon of Nebraska City sits in the front of the bowl at Memorial Park.



2012

2012

2012: Dave Nicholls of Omaha tosses his daughter Enola Nicholls into the air as he and his wife, Tracy, and 11-month-old son Kahler wait for Huey Lewis and the News to play.



2013

2013

2013: Mallory Marsh, 27, lifts up her daughter, Jayden Marsh, 5, and dances to Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo.



2013

2013

2013: Thousands of people cover the hills to watch the concert.



2013

2013

2013: A beach ball makes its way through the crowd.



2013

2013

2013: Cyn Appley, of Omaha, dances during the performance of Loverboy.



2013

2013

2013: Joseph Gregg, 1, of Omaha, stakes his claim to a spot.



2013

2013

2013: Pat Benatar preforms.



2014

2014

2014: Laurie Joslin, left, and Traci Lamb, right, both of Omaha, cheer on Smash Mouth.



2014

2014

2014: Thousands attend the free concert.



2014

2014

2014: Ashley Grave, Jackie Nevitt, Sam Henderson and Logan Good, all of Glenwood, Iowa, sing along while standing on their coolers.



2014

2014

2014: Smash Mouth performs.



2014

2014

2014: Steve Harwell, left, and Paul DeLisle, of Smash Mouth, perform.



2014

2014

2014: From left to right, Sydney Vanarsdall, Valerie Targy, Mackenzie Hoffer and Shelby Christine dance as Uncle Kracker performs.



2014

2014

2014: Chrissy Whitman kisses her son Raiden, 2, as Uncle Kracker performs.



2014

2014

2014: Daniel Kolbo cheers for the Talbott Brothers.



2015

2015

2015: Diana Cahoy, left, Courtney Cahoy, center, both of Grand Island, and Thomas Bainter, right, of Seward, sing along with Eddie Money.



2015

2015

2015: Eddie Money performs in front of thousands.



2015

2015

2015: A concert attendee cheers on Bonne Finken + The Collective.



2015

2015

2015: Eddie Money performs.



2015

2015

2015: Bonne Finken + The Collective performs in front of thousands.



2015

2015

2015: Tay Melone, center, and Jared Sorensen, right, both of Omaha, sing along while Eddie Money performs in front of thousands.



2015

2015

2015: Robert Gerard Bartlett Sr. of Omaha, cheers after the National Anthem.



2016

2016

2016: Thomas Sena performs with Finest Hour.



2016

2016

2016: The Dylan Bloom Band performs.



2016

2016

2016: Thousands watch the free concert.



2016

2016

2016: The Dylan Bloom Band performs.



2016

2016

2016: Kenny Loggins performs.



2017

2017

2017: Jeff Deboer, left, who arrived at 5 a.m. and Richard Kaufman, who arrived at 6 a.m., both of Omaha, play cards while passing the time.



2017

2017

2017: People shield themselves from the rain while waiting for Kool & the Gang.



2017

2017

2017: The Confidentials perform.



2017

2017

2017: Jerry Johnson waits for Kool & the Gang.



2017

2017

2017: People shield themselves from the rain.



2017

2017

2017: Kool & the Gang perform.



2018

2018

2018: David Victor of Bostyx sings.



2018

2018

2018: Steve Spurgeon of The Confidentials performs.



2018

2018

2018: Jack Zielinski carries a flag around Memorial Park during the concert.



2018

2018

2018: Around 8 a.m. Kassidy Parks, 17, of Jordan, Minnesota, adjusts her umbrella alongside Isaac Newton, 8, of Blair, and Dianna Ray, of Omaha, after claiming their spot around 5 a.m.



2018

2018

2018: Keith Nielsen, left, and Gayle Bailey dance as Bostyx plays covers from Boston and Styx.



2019

2019

Kelsey Lemek, left, and Maci Darbro put down a blanket in Memorial Park on Friday morning in advance of the Friday night concert.



2019

2019

Chris Isaak interacts with the crowd during his performance at Memorial Park on Friday.



2019

2019

Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul perform at Memorial Park on Friday.



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