What better way to celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of fall than with live music? And for many of us, there is no better format than the music festival.
Thankfully, several music festivals, each with its unique vision and strengths, occur throughout the Midwest. This list includes 10 festivals in the Omaha area and within driving distance out of state, no more than a few hours away at the most.
If you venture out of the state or even the city, please travel safely. Most festivals have spelled out guidelines regarding health, safety and security. Check individual event websites for the most updated information.
And above all, enjoy yourself, the tunes, and the community-building!
- September 3-6 | Friday: 5 p.m. to Midnight, Sat-Mon: Noon to Midnight
- CHI Health Center Omaha | 455 N 10th St, Omaha
- $7 | Free for kids under five and military families on select days
If your family is looking for well-rounded festivals nearby, check out SeptemberFest. This 40-year-old event is attended by visitors from Nebraska and surrounding states. The Labor Day Parade is historic and classy, the carnival is fun for all, and the Kiddie Kingdom is perfect for your little ones. Plus, there are arts, crafts, and food vendors to discover amidst competitions and unending fun.
The past few months have been full of electric live musical performances, and the season will culminate at SeptemberFest. There will be live music on Sunday and Monday in the beer garden, where the music sounds better! Sunday bands include Ecstatic, Bomb Shell, Stage Fright USA – Tribute to Def Leppard, Enuf Z Enuf, and 3D In Your Face. Acts for Monday include Crazees On The Block – Tribute to Van Halen, Crimson Driver, School of Rock, Tribute to Queensryche, and The Money Makers.
Afro Fest Omaha
- September 4 | 2-10 p.m.
- Stinson Park | 2285 South 67th Street, Omaha
- $10 | Free for kids under 12 (with ticketed adult)
Creating rich understandings of African and African-American experiences is usually left to the vibrant North Omaha. But if you are searching for an exciting local festival in a similar spirit, check out the third annual Afro Fest Omaha. Passion, love, and culture will fill the festival grounds. You will not want to miss this rain or shine Afro-centric festival!
Afro Fest is not just about fun for adults. There will also be an area for kids of all ages to celebrate, express themselves, and win prizes safely. Plus, they can rediscover the African continent in all its glory. It is education made fun and intriguing, and that can be specifically impactful for little ones.
Additionally, African arts are on full display, including local and international artists, live painting, and the best Afrobeat DJs in America. The beer garden and genuine African cuisine will rock your world. Come out, have a blast, and pay homage.
9th Annual LOVAM Jazz Festival
- September 4 | 2-8 p.m.
- Midtown Crossing at Turner Park | 3110 Farnam St, Omaha
Attention all jazz lovers! Though Turner Park likely needs no introduction, as it is well known and loved for its Jazz on the Green series, here is an event you won’t want to miss. The free-to-attend 9th annual LOVAM Jazz Festival may be the perfect way to celebrate your Labor Day weekend.
Here, you can chill out on the lovely green grounds with pleasant contemporary sounds in the jazz tradition. Live acts include Richard Elliot, Selina Albright with Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Scott (flutist), and Chad Stoner (local saxophonist). But there will also be merchant vendors and visual artists to observe and engage with, perfect for those who want to get up and walk around a bit.
Those visiting the festival must bring their lawn chairs or blankets from home to sit on. And if you plan on drinking, do so responsibly – which includes no glass bottles. After all, free fun does not have to be carefree!
Z-92’s Todd-N-Tyler Big Field Day
- September 4 | 7-11 p.m.
- SumTur Amphitheater | 11691 South 108th Street, Papillion
It has been a long year and a half, and the performing arts, like comedy and music, have taken a big hit. So, to celebrate the end of the summer and the importance of these arts, the duo of Todd-N-Tyler from Z-92 is hosting a night of live music, comedy, and podcast recording, called Big Field Day. And they want you to join!
Live comics include Richard Reese and Nick Allen, no strangers to the stage or world of comedy. But legends Lewis Black and Frank Caliendo will also make an appearance via Zoom. In addition, there will be live music, courtesy of local giants Blue House and the Rent To Own Horns.
And if you want to remember the night verbatim and get intimately connected to that remembrance via a popular medium, you are in luck. The whole night will become recorded as an episode of the Special Edition Podcast! So, come and make history at what will surely be a night of classic entertainment.
Shake the Lake Country Music Festival
- September 11 | Starts at 3 p.m.
- Longview Lake Swim Beach | 11101 Raytown Rd, Kansas City, MO
If you are a fan of country music and lakes, then driving down to Kansas City is a no-brainer! This new country music festival, called Shake the Lake, is rain or shine, and it will be worth the travel.
Many have waited patiently for the return of live music. So, to get the good vibes rolling, some of the best new voices in country music will provide the soundtrack to your lakeside experience and return to a live musical crowd. That includes Dustin Lynch, Chris Janson, Adam Sanders, and Casi Joy.
But in addition to the twangy tunes and robust rhythms, you can find tons of fun sprawled across the festival grounds. That includes vendors of crafts and food, organized line dancing, and an interactive games area. But if you upgrade to VIP, you get to access the beach and lake, including a water obstacle course and sand volleyball.
Note you must be 18 or older to enter and at least 21 to drink. Other than that, your only job is to show up, dig the music, and not get too rowdy!
Mississippi Valley Blues Fest 2021
- September 17-18 | Friday: 4-11:30 p.m., Saturday: 12-11:30 p.m.
- LeClaire Park & Bandshell | 400 Beiderbecke Dr, Davenport, IA 52802
Summertime in Omaha proves the city is no stranger to the blues. But there is perhaps no festival in the Midwest nor the country better than this one. For more than 35 years, the annual Mississippi Valley Blues Fest has brought incendiary national acts and blues legends, as well as regional and rising stars to the stage. It is well worth the drive to Iowa!
Acts for Friday include John Primer, Jontavious Willis, Toronzo Cannon & Band, and Southern Avenue. Saturday artists will feature Stephen Hull Experience, Selwyn Birchwood, Melody Angel, Joanne Shaw Taylor, and Eric Gales.
You will have plenty of room, rhyme, and reason to get down within this gigantic public park of 400 acres along the Mississippi River and amid downtown Davenport. Come and be part of a legacy of blues playing excellence!
World Food & Music Festival
- September 17-19| Fri-Sat: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Sun: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Pappajohn Sculpture Park | 1330 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309
Omaha has some of the best dining experiences waiting to be had, and they are diverse and delicious. But for anyone looking to expand their understanding of the world through food, check out the 17th annual World Food and Music Festival. You will doubtless leave downtown Des Moines feeling more connected – an invaluable feeling in this disconnected world.
The food at this event is unbelievably diverse and tasty. Local chefs will demonstrate and sample their cooking all weekend long, with twenty-four countries and their unique culinary cuisines represented.
Throughout this three-day event, you can experience enriching live music. That includes The Original Wailers, a band featuring Al Anderson, who played with Bob Marley in his original legendary lineup.
But the fun does not stop there. Indeed, it only gets deeper! Other events include a United States Naturalization Ceremony, cooking challenges, and diverse cultural exhibits. Expand your mind and palate! See why this festival draws in close to 100,000 people each year!
NE Music Hall of Fame 2021 Induction
- September 19 | 4-8 p.m.
- Omaha Palazzo | 5110 North 132nd Street, Omaha
The arts do not exist in a vacuum. An essential part of supporting them relies on preserving history and recognizing hard work. Local roots run deep, and they should: Nebraska musicians are proud and often wear their state on their sleeve! Omaha has long recognized that two-fold fact, a prime example of which is the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame. This year’s induction ceremony will be one to remember!
Since 1995, Nebraska has recognized Nebraska-based artists, and this initiative all started with Jim Casey, a Nebraskan living in Nashville at the time. The inductions get awarded broadly, not based on money or record sales, but involvement and dedication to various parts of the music industry.
Inductees and performers for this year include Bucky McCann and his band Daddy Mac and the Flack, Bozak & Morrissey Band, Chip Davis, Les Smith Soul Band, Richie Love, River City Allstars, Susie Thorne, and The Grease Band. Come and be a part of history in the making as the state recognizes some of its most hard-working artists!
Lincoln Calling 2021 Music & Arts Festival
- September 23-25 | 3 p.m. (Sep. 23) – 10 p.m. (Sep. 25)
- Downtown Lincoln
If you are a fan of the arts, education, and doing something stellar with your time, make it to Lincoln Calling this year. Hoping to share in the success of Maha last month, the 18th annual festival returns, and it will bring some much-needed diversity and, of course, talent to our stages here in Nebraska.
Some of the best venues in Lincoln will help light up the streets of downtown, showcasing the live acts. That includes Bourbon Theatre, 1867 Bar, Duffy’s Tavern, Zoo Bar, and Bodega’s Alley.
There will be over 50 acts to experience over these three days, some local, some not. Artists include Indigenous, Slothrust, Birthdayy Partyy, Thelma and the Sleaze, Kris Lager Band, Derek Higgins, and more.
Also, those looking to shop can check out the Night Market on 14th Street (between O and P). It will be a unique experience, with something for everybody. Come out and share in the healing and communal powers of music – something our state desperately needs right about now.
Four Winds Music & Art Fest
- September 25| Doors open at 4 p.m.
- The Waiting Room Lounge | 6212 Maple St, Omaha
One of the last great festivals for September is the inaugural Four Winds Music & Art Fest at the Waiting Room Lounge. This all-ages, multi-genre show, by definition, has something for everyone.
Headliners include No Loss No Regrets, Salt Creek, and Jay Influential. In total, though, are 20 acts, all of whom will take the stage and give their best performance in celebration of an emerging vision of refined creative potential, in part due to booking talent Nice Enough Entertainment.
In addition to the rad tunes, visitors can experience the cutting edge in visual arts. The 402 Art Show component will involve Josh Lee, Kamrie Mammola Third Eye Art Gallery, and other visual artists.
If you are a fan of Omaha hip-hop, rock and roll, and visual art, this is the place for you. Come out, be safe, and vibe to the artistic talents of this town!