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Omaha Magazine

Tornadoes, Fish, Basketball: Spring in the Midwest

Mar 01, 2020 04:32PM ● By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman

Punxsutawney Phil promised an early spring. I’m not sure what mystical effect a giant rodent has on the seasons, but I look forward to the green grass and warm weather March and April promise.

This issue we feature an article about the Venezuelan community in Omaha. Venezuela was once one of the most prosperous countries in South America, boasting a large oil industry in the 1970s. The oil industry began to wan in the 1980s, and over the last 40 years, the country has become far less prosperous. Venezuela has also has seen much political strife.

Thus, many Venezuelans have come to America, leaving their homes and families behind to start a new life. A few local Venezuelan immigrants tell of their life in Omaha in our feature well.

We also have an article about the San Clemente Island goats of Nebraska. Omaha Magazine’s former intern Kamrin Baker visited the goats and their humans, John Carroll and Chad Wegener, at Willow Valley Farms. I admit that it’s a story I would gladly have written myself.

One reason I hope spring comes early is the ability to be outdoors. My husband Wade and I’s way of being in nature is visiting a campground, while former editor Doug Meig’s way is sitting on a boat with a fishing rod. He traveled to Minnesota to fish for muskie a few times last year, and his story is our adventure feature.

Being outdoors is a welcome change, as during the cold winter months, we mostly sit around watching TV. Wade also spends about an hour a day playing a strategy-based computer game. While he limits himself to an hour each day, others spend multiple hours each day, in some cases making money doing so. Benjamin Lupo, known in the online gaming world as DrLupo, is making enough money playing video games that he quit a high-paying IT job to become a full-time gamer. His story is another of the main articles.

Winter being bleak and gray as it is in the Midwest, a lot of families curl up on the couch in front of screens and stay there until the trees begin to bud. That may be one reason why network television broadcast one beloved movie each year (usually in January or February) from 1959-1991. That movie was The Wizard of Oz. The story has some interesting Omaha connections, which are theorized by Bruce Johansen, Ph.D., in this issue.

Late winter/early spring also brings the Lenten season for many Christians, with Ash Wednesday being Feb. 26. The day before Lent begins is Mardi Gras, a day of feasting and revelry especially popular in New Orleans. Omaha is lucky to have a few places to taste southern specialties, including Acadian Grille, which Niz Proskocil reviews.

If meatless Fridays are in order throughout March and part of April, one place to consider is Malara’s Italian restaurant, our dining feature this round. The menu includes comfort-food favorites such as eggplant parmesan and fettuccini alfredo, along with pasta carbonara or a sandwich with Italian sausage and peppers for those who choose.

A different take on a sandwich with sausage is the Vietnamese Banh mi. Chloe Tran has made a business of bringing Omaha a place to eat high quality Banh mi, and her story is our chef profile.

Our fourth feature this month is about Omahan Tom Kronen. Tom lived an extraordinary life. He was an artist and illustrator who counted work at the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving and for national publications among his accomplishments.

March means the end of basketball season, and our Obviously Omaha highlights some places to watch the madness. Spring also means baseball season, and our sports feature is about Bluejays pitcher John Sakowski.

The warmer weather gives each of us a good reason to follow a hot track—a phrase used by Westside educator Cynthia Bailey to describe a passion. She has followed hot tracks of theater and education, as told in our profile of her.

Another of Wade and I’s favorite warm-weather activities is attending concerts, usually outdoors, but we do occasionally visit venues such as the Slowdown or Waiting Room. Arriving in Omaha in fall 1998, I missed the heyday of music at the Ranch Bowl. Two documentarians are producing a film about the storied venue, where people could roll bowling balls down the lanes and listen to concerts from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queen Latifah, and more. Sean McCarthy tells that story in this issue.

This magazine also contains stories of musicians Bach Mai, artist Mary Murphy, and performer Nadia Ra’Shaun Williams, all great Omaha creatives.

There’s a little something for everyone in these pages, whether reflecting on Venezuelan neighbors while sitting on the grass in a park, or listening to former Ranch Bowl performers while sitting on the porch swing at home. I think I’ll do the latter.

This letter was printed in the March/April 2020 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.