Buffalo Commons continues to set the bar high

Monday, June 3, 2019

Any one of the four headliners at this weekend’s Buffalo Commons Festival would have been enough to carry off a successful event, but as it was, attendees were treated to a feast of history, music and storytelling, often all in one package.

Sure, if we’re honest, Nebraska may not be for everyone, but we can’t imagine anyone who would not find something intriguing in the many sites and stories relayed by Alan Bartels, assistant editor of Nebraska Life Magazine, assembled from his years at The Grand Island Independent and subsequent career roaming the state for his current gig. His presentations were warmly received by the young and young at heart at the High Plains Museum and McCook Municipal Library.

R.P. Smith secured his position as Buffalo Commons Master Storyteller with his appearances at the Bieroc, museum and Fox, offering his unique perspective on raising cattle and, gulp, sheep in the Sandhills, stirring up memories for anyone with similar experiences, and providing insight to anyone who might think a squeeze chute is a kitchen appliance.

We doubt R.P. will ever “sell his saddle,” but in case he decides to, the cowboy poetry mantle will be in good hands with Jake Riley, a millennial with both Justens firmly planted in the life of the Old West, who would only be comfortable with a “man bun” wrapped around a half-pound of ground grassfed beef.

The Diamond W Wranglers have performed everywhere from Europe to China to Carnegie Hall, but we doubt they were more at home anywhere than the downtown Fox Theatre, where provided heartwarming and heart-string tugging finish to the main Buffalo Commons events. A true musical story about an AWOL Navy adventure, revolving around the Apollo 11 landing, was especially timely, a few weeks before the 50th anniversary of the event.

But if you missed out on Sunday’s postscript event, you missed a great chance to gain more insight into the lives of some of the brave souls who helped create the community we call home. Volunteers paid tribute to Civil War veterans buried in Riverview Cemetery, home to the landmark statue erected in their honor.

That event, as well as the rest of the weekend’s activities benefitted from sharp focus on a theme — western music and cowboy poetry for Buffalo Commons and Civil War veterans in the cemetery.

Word is, this fall’s Heritage Days celebration might benefit from the same sharp emphasis on a theme. Stay tuned ...

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