Field Trip Friday: The International Omaha

The Greater Omaha Chamber marketing team is on the move – experiencing the sights, sounds, creativity and tastes that typify our region. We’re exploring our community and encourage you to check out these Greater Omaha gems – because best-kept secrets are best uncovered.

No horsing around: we hit the pavement April 12, trotting the short distance to CenturyLink Center, four-day home to The International Omaha, hosted by The Omaha Equestrian Foundation.

The International Omaha is a unique equine event in the Midwest. It pairs high performance competition with a fan-friendly horse expo that makes it a destination event for horse enthusiasts from throughout the area.

Over 3,000 school children will flood the free Horse Discovery Zone, which includes a Gallery of Breeds, a new “History of Horses in Nebraska” exhibit, artwork, live demonstrations and hands-on learning areas. For many students, this is their first time seeing and interacting with live horses. Children have the opportunity to ask the riders questions, pet the horses and learn about the different breeds.

This area is free and open to the public over the course of the four days.

The interactive booths showcase industry education such as the art of blacksmith, grooming techniques, veterinary care and nutrition.

We had fun joining in on the action too!

The Expo area also includes a Boutique Shopping Village with a variety of equine-related vendors, plus a beer garden atmosphere at the Tailgate Lounge, which is beside the warm-up area.

Event Details

The $100,000 InIt2WinIt Speed Jumping Final on Friday night will open and close with a Salute to Military and First Responders, featuring Jimmy Weber singing the national anthem and tributes to the Gold Star mothers as well as the moving riderless horse ceremony.

The Dressage Team Challenge will reach a climax on Saturday with the Musical Freestyle, always a crowd-pleaser, and the crowning of the Dressage Team Challenge.

On Saturday afternoon, horse enthusiasts have an opportunity to watch and learn from world-renowned jumper icon George H. Morris, who will demonstrate his teaching techniques with some of the Midwest’s most talented equitation riders, in the Jumping Showcase.

Olympic Gold Medalist Hubertus Schmidt of Germany offers his expertise in the Dressage Showcase on Friday. Both Schmidt and Morris will also present free demonstrations in the demo arena during the International. This is a rare opportunity for horse enthusiasts to see and learn from the absolute best athletes who have helped shape the sport.

Event History

The Omaha Equestrian Foundation hosted the FEI World Cup Finals in two Olympic disciplines, jumping and dressage. This event brought visitors from some 42 countries as well as the top horses and riders in the world to Omaha to compete for the world championship in each event. It was heralded by McLain Ward winning the jumping championship and bringing the World Cup back to the United States.

The FEI lauded the Omaha World Cup and said Omaha had “changed the way the sport is presented in North America”.

Posted in We Explore |

We Are O.NE. Riley Wilson

We Are O.NE. Series. Let’s make this a place where I get to be me and you get to be you. Let’s make this a place where together, we are O.NE. Put your hands in the middle and share your story.

Each one of our world views is shaped by our lived experiences. However, understanding what others experience is vital to engaging with those around us and in our community. One of my biggest motivators for helping others is listening to their stories and developing empathy. From a young age, I was taught to help those who needed help, in whatever way I could. This internalized sense of brotherhood with members of my community constantly drives me to be a servant for those in the Omaha community.

I was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, but my time in the Air Force, which gave me the opportunity to leave the state for some time, truly gave me a sense of gratitude for my state. When I was brought back to Nebraska while stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, the Omaha community became my home. Omaha is the perfect blend of living somewhere with most of the amenities of a larger city, but without sacrificing what is known here as “Nebraska Nice”.

Though Omaha is not my hometown, I am now proud to call myself an Omahan.

How do you make a difference in this community? 

I currently work at the Nebraska Department of Labor as a Veteran Workforce Coordinator. In this position, I am able to work with veterans who have significant barriers to employment – homelessness, poverty, disability and being previously incarcerated, just to name a few. As a veteran, I am able to communicate with veterans through some shared experiences and help them with both employment readiness and veteran issues alike.

Posted in We Live |

Giving Back In Vibrant Programming

Excerpt from 2016 We Don’t Coast magazine: Photo by Michael Batchelder

It is a melting pot of benefit; an organization that celebrates our diversity, values our elderly and underscores the difference one committed person can make.

Carolina Padilla founded the Intercultural Senior Center in 2009 to create a community for and serve the needs of our seniors, bringing together Latinos, Asians and African refugees, and native English speakers.

Programming at the south Omaha center includes daily exercise classes and field trips, social services, and English, computer literacy and citizenship classes. It also offers transportation, meals and a monthly food pantry.

“As the aging community grows, our goal is to become a one-stop shop for high-quality services. We welcome every senior who needs any type of support to increase wellness and decrease isolation,” says Padilla, a native of Guatemala who started the organization as a way of paying it forward. Just 6 years old when her mother died, she was raised by her aunts.

“I left without giving back for what they did for me,” she says, “I felt like I owed something to someone else. For some reason, I just feel an attachment to older people.”

With its vibrant mix of programming, attendance at the center has been growing steadily. At first, only a few people showed up each day. Between 60 and 90 now come regularly.

“Making a change in a senior’s life is not a job, it is a blessing,” Padilla says. “We’re a big family.”

Posted in We Care |

Taste of the Week: Stirnella Bar & Kitchen

The same old night out? That’s just not our taste. Chart your course through a few of our Greater Omaha foodie favorites. Excerpt from 2017 We Don’t Coast magazine:

“We’re trying to create a dining experience in Omaha and the Blackstone District that is unique in itself. You can come in and have different styles of food and one-of-a-kind craft cocktails, enjoy the ambiance and a great level of service.”Matt Carper, co-owner, Stirnella

Two restaurant industry veterans. A joint venture in the burgeoning Blackstone District. It’s a recipe for success for Stirnella Bar & Kitchen, a “refined gastropub” that takes locally-sourced ingredients on a world tour. The dinner menu hopscotches from France (chicken liver pate) to Germany (spätzle) to the southeastern United States (shrimp & grits). The Wagyu Beef burgers and the ribeye are unmistakably Nebraska.

Photo by Brandon Sullivan

“We source as much as we can locally and hand-craft it. The same goes for our bar program,” says general manager Matt Carper who owns the concept with Chef Matt Moser.

Even the restaurant’s name was locally-sourced; a play on the genus – sturnella – of the meadowlark, Nebraska’s state bird.

Before checking out Stirnella’s menu, be sure to check out its décor. That’s local too. Artist Andrea Stein created the attention-grabbing, animal-inspired oil paintings.

“Kids love looking at them. Adults take pictures of them all the time,” Carper says.

Photo by Brandon Sullivan

Posted in We Toast |

We Are O.NE. Wendy Hamilton

We Are O.NE. Series. Let’s make this a place where I get to be me and you get to be you. Let’s make this a place where together, we are O.NE. Put your hands in the middle and share your story.

I’ve always said that I was born with an agenda, a spreadsheet, a budget and the attitude of “come on people! We don’t have time to waste!” My family, however, lovingly refers to me as the “Mayor of Attitude City.” Somewhere in the middle lies the truth.

I know you’re not supposed to let your job define you, but I really love my job! I work at Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska as a fundraiser, amateur comedian and full-time klutz. I have never felt more “me” than working for this organization. When I’m not doing Girl Scouty things, I’m either at a Board or committee meeting, volunteering for something, at Target or wishing I was at Target.

I’m an ambivert which means when I want your attention, you’ll know it. I love burritos, guacamole and anything potato. I have twin sister greyhounds who are practically perfect except when they’re not and a really fuzzy cat who just wants to be hugged 24/7.

Originally from Reno but raised in Omaha, I spent some time away from the Big O (like so many of us do). I went to college in Iowa, grad school in Michigan, then headed to the DC area for my first big girl, real life, adult job. There, I began my career in fundraising and nonprofit management. After about 12 years, something happened. And I don’t just mean that I was about to turn 30, which was earth-shattering enough.

I wanted more. And I thought, why not Omaha?

So I “boomeranged” to Omaha. I never say I “moved back” or I “came home” because there was nothing backwards or regressive about my choosing Omaha. I was moving forward with my life in a city that was special to me.

I knew I could continue to grow my career, be nearer to family and maybe possibly someday even get out of debt because the cost of living is so great (especially compared to DC).

I chose Omaha. I was intentional about getting involved and being engaged so I could reacquaint myself with the city. That was something I could never fully realize in some of the bigger cities I lived in. My life used to revolve around traffic, which prevented me from being a “joiner.” But in Omaha, I not only “joined,” I probably joined too much! What a high-class problem!

Ten years later, I still choose Omaha.

How do you make a difference in this community? 

I hope that I’m contributing to a community that is raising girls to become CEOs – or whatever they want to become! My title at Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska indicates that I’m a fundraiser. Which is true, so please send me all your money. But what I really do is ask the community to give a BLEEP about girls. ALL girls.

I hope I’m contributing to a community that sees individuals with disabilities as human beings who deserve the same quality of life as everyone else. I am the adult child of a mother with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I take every opportunity to tell our story, to remind people that a child with autism will grow up to be an adult with autism. And are we, as a community, being supportive? Welcoming? Inclusive? Are we prepared to treat our aging autistic citizens with grace and kindness? What can we, as a community, do better?

I hope that I’m contributing to a community that treasures its artists and cultural potential. This city is so freaking cool and I don’t even think we realize it. I have had the honor of serving on boards and committees for some of Omaha’s fantastic arts organizations. I hope that in some way, I’m helping to make Omaha’s artists (and I’m consolidating all art forms into the word “artist”) feel valued.

Posted in We Live |

We Are O.NE. Chrisna Clark

We Are O.NE. Series. Let’s make this a place where I get to be me and you get to be you. Let’s make this a place where together, we are O.NE. Put your hands in the middle and share your story.

I’m Chrisna—just a burst of positive energy! I’m a professional encourager; one who gives support, confidence and hope to others. Building people up and spreading positive vibes is what I love to do. I want to be able to mentor people and provide encouragement so they can acknowledge their personal worth!

I’ve always done things the non-traditional way. It was like I saw the world through a different lens. As much as I tried to change myself to get others to accept me. The idea of conformity kept reminding me of my originality. When you believe in your potential, that’s when you achieve greatness! Through life lessons and prayer, I discovered grace, self-love and confidence which allows me to continue to push for my dreams and live life to the fullest.

I’m a creative nutcase, in a nutshell! – I’m a creative director, producer, videographer, host and singer-songwriter. I see my life as a sketch book. I can draw anything! What will you create in yours?

How has living here shaped your life? 

I remember when I first moved to Omaha, I told myself that I was staying for only 5 years tops. It’s been nearly 10 years now! I fell in love with this place, simply because of the people. Omaha is the “land of opportunity”! I have had the opportunity to make long-lasting friendships and wonderful professional relationships throughout the years. I love the diversity and authenticity of this city. People truly genuinely care for one another in Omaha.

How do you make a difference in this community? 

I’m the Marketing Manager for the Salvation Army Kroc Center and I can put in very long hours. But that doesn’t phase me. I love what the Kroc stands for…”People are inspired to discover their God-given talents and develop their potential through artistic, educational, physical and spiritual experiences in a Christ-centered atmosphere.”

I’m able to work at a place that aligns with my morals and beliefs. I even get to share my musical talents during our Kroc Sunday Worship Services.

The time and marketing work I put into the Kroc Center has a positive impact on our members. Sharing stories on how people’s lives have changed because of a video I produced or a print piece I created, means that I’m making a difference and supporting the Kroc mission.

Posted in We Live |

We Are O.NE. Anthony Smith Jr.

We Are O.NE. Series. Let’s make this a place where I get to be me and you get to be you. Let’s make this a place where together, we are O.NE. Put your hands in the middle and share your story.

What makes me, me…is my need to be great. I have always felt I was destined to do great things, I just have no idea in what area. So I try them all. I am not afraid to fail or learn. That provides me the confidence to aim to be the best me possible in every aspect. The other side of that is I try to be as humble as possible. I am confident, not cocky. I’m all about team, seeing everyone succeed and helping them do so if I can. Diverse and unique is how I would label myself.

I am a New Orleans native so living in Omaha honestly caused me to slow down a lot – but in a good way.

The city has so much potential that it lends the opportunity for you to branch out and explore who or what you want to be.

Omaha has provided me a GREAT network of close friends and associates who not only support my ventures but inspire me as well. It’s a place that allows you to shape your own identity and doesn’t have many restraints on what you can accomplish if you put the work in.

How do you make a difference in this community? 

I’m very big on mentoring and networking. In 2014, with the help of my fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc and the Black Police Officers Association of Omaha, I started the Omaha Teen Summit. OTS is a day dedicated to allowing high school aged youth in the Omaha metro area to come together to learn, network and solve problems plaguing them. These tasks are accomplished in the form of youth-led sessions such as breakouts (dedicated to college perspectives, finances and life skills), a college/career/health fair, and an open forum town hall meeting (featuring a mixed adult and youth panel). It is open to any high school aged students in the Omaha Metro area. We started with 20 students year one and just had 150 for our fifth installment. For adults, I try to put on entertainment and educational programs that give my peers a chance to network but not in the traditional sense. From Rhythm N Brunch on a Saturday afternoon to Lunch and Grind midday Thursday, there are many ways to connect, relax and grow with new and old friends. I cultivate unique and diverse experiences at all times.

Posted in We Live |

We Are O.NE. Jackie Chavez

We Are O.NE. Series. Let’s make this a place where I get to be me and you get to be you. Let’s make this a place where together, we are O.NE. Put your hands in the middle and share your story.

I have always been someone who likes a challenge. I have lived in Omaha most of my adult life. I left for LA in 2011 after graduating from UNO and lived there for a few years to see what big city life was like. It was amazing, it was hard, it was exhilarating but ultimately not a place I felt like my most authentic self. I see myself as a passionate and ambitious individual who tries to make the most of opportunities and challenges as much as possible.

Living in Omaha has shaped me into being a person with authenticity – a genuine down to earth woman that has discovered how much Omaha can offer and the gem it is.

Since leaving and coming back I have come to appreciate Omaha more for what it has given me, how it has shaped my life and how my family and friends here are the most beautiful people I could have in my life. Being in Omaha is being rooted in family and close friendships.

How do you make a difference in this community? 

I like to think I make a difference for the company I work for, the volunteering I do and the people I come into contact with every day. I helped form a Latina Youth Leadership Camp in Omaha 10 years ago called LIVE (Leading Individuals, Voicing Equality). Since its inception in 2007 it has given young Latinas in Omaha and surrounding areas a place to grow in leadership, education, culture and faith. I am very proud of this camp. It has been a gift to be able to give back to my community and to be able to make a positive difference in young women’s lives.

Posted in We Live |

Back in the Driver’s Seat

Imagine if we all tried to not coast.
If we all did a little, think how much better we would all be.
Let’s make it a place where we lift others up and help others over.
A place where We Don’t Coast.

Excerpt from 2016 We Don’t Coast magazine:
Photo: Courtesy of QLI

Don’t tell Josh Jackson to coast. At only 18, the New Mexico-based sprint car driver slows down for nothing. He’s a relentless talent as determined as ever to make it to the national scene of stock car racing.

In August 2015, a future at full throttle collided with a moment of terror – a violent, high-speed crash mid-race that nearly took Jackson’s life, fracturing his skull, causing traumatic brain injury that impaired his vision, speech, and cognitive and physical abilities.

Jackson arrived at QLI in early 2016, where rehabilitation helped him regain the skills necessary to not only accomplish everyday tasks but return to his life-defining passion. After months of intensive therapy, QLI got Jackson back on track – this time, in a race to rebuild his life.

Partnering with local Joe’s Karting, QLI’s expert clinical team transformed Jackson’s zeal for racing into a platform for recovery. QLI customized racetracks for him, creating exciting new ways to target his most critical therapy goals. Each lap around the course motivated this drive to recover. Each lap signaled his astounding potential to rise above hardship. Racing helped him set the pace for a life beyond injury.

Jackson, who has since returned to New Mexico to manage his own race team, says,

“The best therapy is the kind that gets you back to what you love.”

Read more stories like this here.

Posted in We Care |

We Are O.NE. Brittany Story

We Are O.NE. Series. Let’s make this a place where I get to be me and you get to be you. Let’s make this a place where together, we are O.NE. Put your hands in the middle and share your story.

I am 22 years old and have lived in midtown Omaha my entire life. As a teen, I started to express my creativity through crazy outfits, make up and hair. A lot of my inspiration comes from people, color, nature and pop culture. I believe we should all live life with a pop of color. Whether that is making a statement through an article of clothing or creating a piece of art to make others feel. I’m big on feeling. With my main interests being in beauty and wellness, I want to teach and inspire those to feel physically, mentally and spiritually better. The more I experience life, the more I learn that true happiness comes from helping and healing others. Oh! I’m also a Leo so I love attention and can appreciate detail like no other.

A wise woman also told me “Don’t get lost in the details.” That’s so important to me as a creative. I just want people to know that they can make it doing something they love with people they love.

How has living here shaped your life? 

Living in Omaha has been interesting. People would think that there’s only a certain kind of person that lives here. I’ve met and worked with some of the most amazing people here. My high school experience definitely helped shape my life. Central High School had every kind of person you could imagine. Artists, non-conformists, stereotypical “cool kids”, punk rockers, you name it! Although I am preparing to move to a much bigger city to propel my career, Omaha has given me great practice for what’s to come.

How do you make a difference in this community? 

I feel like the difference I make in this community is that I am an open book. I share all of my secrets! Anywhere from how to start modeling to wellness tips! I want people to feel comfortable talking to me. My favorite line is “Ask as many questions as you want!”

Posted in We Live |