“Back In Time, Forward in Anticipation”
June 9-10, 2017
Festival 2017 will celebrate McCook’s 135th birthday and Nebraska’s 150th with acclaimed storytellers, poets, historians, musicians, a stage show, a dinner cabaret, stories and theater for the young, “History’s Mysteries” bus tour, a storytelling workshop, a free show at the High Plains Museum and a chance to listen and tell community stories, a poetry slam, a “meet and greet” with “Sen. George Norris and his wife Ellie.” The arts and humanities have always been central to Southwest Nebraska and McCook’s development as the “Capital of the Buffalo Commons” from the early homesteaders through today. The joys, the hardships and the characters we’ve encountered here on the mixed grass prairie are reflected in our art, in our music, and in the stories we pass along.
The festival strives to provide experience-based learning by combining super venues, outstanding artists, and enthusiastic hosts to invite audiences of all ages and ethnic backgrounds into a celebration of rural community. The artists not only entertain, they model, teach, and inspire. This year’s guest artists, include: Kim Weitkamp -- nationally acclaimed humorist, author; Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen -- 2015 Grammy Nominee for Best Bluegrass Album; Jeff Barnes -- fifth-generation Nebraskan, author and humanities scholar; Chuck Peek -- 2016 Nebraska Book Award Winner, historian, author, poet’ Ginger ten Bensel – singer/songwriter, musician, storyteller; Joy Haden – historian, author of “The 1935 Republican River Flood;” Walt Sehnert -- author, columnist, historian; Pastor Clark and Dawna Bates -- as Senator George and Ellie Norris; Ginny Odenbach – poet, author; Gene O. Morris – former McCook Gazette publisher.
Featured Guest Artists and Presenters
Humorist, keynote speaker, presenter, consultant, singer, songwriter, producer, entrepreneur, and spoken word artist,
Kim Weitkamp, has a lot of titles . . . but one main thing ties them all together. Story. As the redheaded child of exhausted parents, Kim grew up enjoying the role of the middle child. Allowed to roam free in the heart of Amish Country, her imagination was ripened by a life lived outdoors. Now she enjoys the role of being one of the most sought-after storytellers and speakers in the country. In her work as a humorist, storyteller, singer and songwriter, she has taken home a full armload of awards and recognitions. She has worked on and created successful peace projects, including the Peace by Piece Project in collaboration with the Taubman Museum of Fine Arts. As this year’s featured storyteller, Kim will also take on an armload of responsibilities during the festival. She will perform story concerts Friday at the dinner cabaret and Saturday at the Fox Theatre. She will present a storytelling workshop for youth at the library on Friday and entertain children on Saturday afternoon. Participants will have the opportunity to interact with Kim at the High Plains Museum on Saturday morning and enjoy ghost stories at the Bieroc Saturday night.
Since Frank Solivan left the cold climes of Alaska for the bluegrass hotbed of Washington, D.C., he’s built a reputation as a monster mandolinist — and become a major festival attraction with his band, Dirty Kitchen. Solivan, with banjoist Mike Munford, 2013 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Banjo Player of the Year, award-winning guitarist Chris Luquette and bassist Jeremy Middleton, simmer a bluegrass/newgrass stew from instrumental, vocal and songwriting skills so hot, they were named IBMA’s 2014 Instrumental Group of the Year, 2016 Instrumental Group of the Year and earned a 2015 GRAMMY Nomination for Best Bluegrass Album. Storytelling through music is a vitally important component to the success of every Buffalo Commons festival, so the musical groups are not only musicians but story artists. One reviewer’s observation states, “Solivan’s gang of grassers amount to a not-so-secret recipe that’s full of home and heart.” Dirty Kitchen will entertain and inspire musical stories Friday evening at the Bieroc Dinner Cabaret and Saturday evening at the Fox Theatre. The group will perform and be available for questions Saturday morning at the High Plains Museum, as well as at informal gatherings throughout the weekend.
A freelance writer and fifth-generation Nebraskan, Jeff Barnes is a board trustee of the Nebraska State Historical Society, past chairman of the Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission, and former marketing director for the Durham Museum.
A former newspaper reporter and editor, Barnes is the author of "Forts of the Northern Plains," "The Great Plains Guide to Custer," "The Great Plains Guide to Buffalo Bill," and "Extra Innings: The Story of Modisett Ball Park." He is also the author of a centennial history of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and is currently writing and photographing a retrospective of 150 Nebraska buildings for the state’s sesquicentennial.
Barnes is a frequently requested speaker with Humanities Nebraska and presents throughout the Great Plains on the history of the region.
Dr. Charles Peek
The wealth of talent, experience, and expertise
Dr. Charles Peek brings to Buffalo Commons is beyond measure. Storyteller, author, historian, poet, and raconteur, Chuck returns to his hometown to join historian Jeff Barnes and local writer-historian Walt Sehnert to moderate community stories themed “Back in Time, Forward in Anticipation” at the High Plains Museum. He and Naugel will also lead a “Storytelling Savvy” learning opportunity at McCook Community College Friday afternoon. Chuck will present poetry programs Thursday and Friday evenings at the Bieroc and lead the Poetry Slam on Saturday afternoon. Chuck also meets with committee members months prior to the festival to share expertise from his service in many organizations, including the Cather Foundation.
Ginger ten Bensel
TV News Reporter, Cowgirl, Singer/Songwriter, Storyteller through music Ginger raised on a Southwest Nebraska farm, entrusted with not only helping with the family business, but also tending to eight or more horses a day. That work ethic carried her on to pursue her dream in Nashville, Tennessee as a singer/songwriter. She opened for several stars including Chuck Berry and Clint Black and performed at the National Western Stock Show, the College World Series and at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. Her ability to entertain also allowed her to host her own TV shows in the South, then transition into being a TV news reporter for 14 years in Hastings, Nebraska. So whether it’s in a music studio, with a news camera in hand, or writing songs while riding horseback, Ginger has a knack for telling stories, no matter what the subject.
Joy Hayden has always had a love for history and strong ties to the High Plains region. As a girl she was fascinated by the stories her grandparents told about their family history. When she married into a family of farmers and ranchers, she soon learned to love both the land and the stories her husband’s family told about their struggle to survive through droughts, floods and the challenges of life close to nature. Her commitment to the preservation of these stories is demonstrated by her active participation in the Daughters of the American Revolution, her membership in her local historical society, and the interest she has in local historical events. A graduate of Fort Hays State University, Hayden has spent many years studying and compiling the history of the 1935 flood, meeting with survivors, and traveling along the river to document this exciting chapter in the Republican River’s history.