A milelong strip of Omaha’s Benson neighborhood was taken over by Mustangs, motorcyclists and musicians Saturday morning for the annual Benson Days parade and festival.
For Benson residents, the two-day Benson Days event is a way to celebrate their neighborhood and attract people from other parts of Omaha to the area, which is home to popular restaurants and local businesses. At least a thousand people gathered to watch the parade, and hundreds stuck around afterwards to eat and shop.
Benson, which has been designated as a historic commercial district by the National Register of Historic Places and as a creative district by the Nebraska Arts Council, is one of Omaha’s trendier neighborhoods. With a vibrant nightlife and thriving arts scene, the north-central neighborhood is a hub for 20-somethings looking for a night out and families hoping to settle down.
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Some nearby residents walked from their homes to the parade on Maple Street, while others made use of the increased foot traffic by setting up sales in their front yards. St. Paul Benson Church hosted “JumbleRama,” a massive parking lot sale boasting everything from household items to bins of clothing.
Parade participants started their journey at Benson High School and walked through the entirety of the historic strip along Maple Street from 59th to 63rd Streets. Benson High’s dance and cheer teams danced down the route, accompanied by the Salem Stepping Saints drill team. Members of the Omaha Roller Derby league rocked helmets and elbow pads as they attempted jumps and tricks on the uneven pavement.
At Immanuel Lutheran Church, just a block away from the heart of the action, Marty Hornig ushered people into the church parking lot for the third-annual block party. Volunteers handed out hot dogs, chips, water and free school supplies for kids in preschool through high school. Prime Time Pickers, a family folk-rock band, played music as kids blew bubbles and topped a giant Jenga set.
Hornig, a Benson High graduate and lifelong neighborhood resident, has helped organize the block party the past three years.
“We’ve got a lot of people coming this year, which is great to see,” Hornig said. “It’s a great neighborhood, and it’s even better when everyone gets together for something like this.”
Saturday’s celebrations were just the beginning of the two-day festival. Sunday morning will bring a bike ride sponsored by Mode Shift Omaha and a yoga lesson at Gallagher Park, with both starting at 9 am The John J. Mercer Masonic Lodge will lead tours of Benson’s historic commercial district at 11 am, 1 pm and 6 pm A Sunday afternoon single-elimination kickball tournament at Gallagher Park is expected to attract dozens of competitors.
Details of the day’s activities can be found at www.bensondays.com.
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