This story was originally published in the Nebraska Examiner.
OMAHA — Events promoting the cultures and histories of South and North Omaha are the biggest winners of $1.37 million in tourism and recreation grants announced Wednesday by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.
In all, six entities that also represent the communities of Beatrice and Kearney were awarded funding for tourism-related marketing and planning.
The funds were earmarked in the Nebraska Economic Recovery Act, otherwise known as Legislative Bill 1024, which state lawmakers approved last year. The source of the funds is the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which allocated nearly $3.1 million for travel, tourism and outdoor recreation initiatives in Nebraska areas disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Twenty-nine applications totaling $8 million in requests were submitted. In addition to the six grantees announced Wednesday, the DED has yet to name winners of the remaining $1.7 million, which is to go to tourism-related infrastructure projects. Finalists are still under review.
Of grantees announced Wednesday, Freedomtainment, a nonprofit since 2021, was awarded one of the largest amounts: $352,000.
The Freedomtainment website says the organization was established by longtime North Omahans and business owners to provide entertainment and educational activities centered around the culture and history of North Omaha.
Upcoming is the June 17th Omaha Freedom Festival, a celebration of Juneteenth, which honors the emancipation of those enslaved in the U.S. Main stage activities are to be held at the Malcolm X event plaza.
Casa de la Cultura, also awarded $352,000, has as its main offering the annual, weekend-long Cinco de Mayo celebration in South Omaha, which recognizes Latino heritage.
“Reliable and effective marketing and event coordination will ensure the festivals (including Fiestas Patrias in September) attract more visitors into South Omaha,” the nonprofit’s application said.
- The Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney’s $225,000 award is to offset costs of a marketing campaign promoting the grand reopening of the museum as a cultural destination for Nebraskans and other visitors.
- The Omaha Theater Company’s $250,000 award is to help with marketing and a website redesign aimed at refilling the seats at the historic Rose Theater downtown Omaha.
- The City of Beatrice’s $150,000 is to enhance existing events such as the Chocolate Lovers Shopping Day Extravaganza, Gage County Classic Film Festival, Goldenride Bikefest and Homestead Days.
- The City of Kearney also received a $41,160 tourism grant to help with its annual Christmas Walk and the 2023 Sesquicentennial Birthday event.