“Back In Time, Forward in Anticipation”

McCook, Nebraska

June 8-19, 2018

Prepare for a whole lot 'a stories, music, and fun at the 22nd Annual Buffalo Commons Storytelling and Music Festival June 8-9, 2018 in McCook, Nebraska. Events will include a bus adventure, dinner cabaret, stage show, museum concert, garden party, local stories and songs, open mic opportunities, children's story theatre and much, much more.

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: Bil Lepp -- nationally acclaimed storyteller, humorist and author; Zoe Lewis -- English folk musician; Roxanne Layton -- Manheim Steamroller percussionist and recorder. Rounding out the talented trio of musicians will be Kate Wolf on the bass Guitar. Chuck Peek -- 2016 Nebraska Book Award Winner, historian, author, poet will return to his "hometown" once again to entertain us.

A festival favorite event, the Buffalo Commons History's Mystery Bus Tour will explore the incredible Red Willow Dam. “The Watering Hole-A Look at our Natural Resources – Past, Present, and Future” will feature a tour the Red Willow Dam as participants hear of its history and repair, visit with a conservation officer and hear and see how bison are being reintroduced into the area, what happened to them way back when, and their importance today. Lunch is provided at the Lighthouse Marina. The day will begin at 9 am in Tipton Hall Weeth Theatre on the McCook Community College Campus where the tour will end at 3 pm.  Cost of the tour is $39 per person (this includes lunch). To register, call 308-345-8122.

Featured Guest Artists and Presenters


Kim Weitkamp

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.

Frank Solivan & The Dirty Kitchen Band.jpg

Frank Solivan

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.

 Photo credits: Kerri Garrison Photography

Photo credits: Kerri Garrison Photography


Jeff BarnEs

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

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.

Watch for Updated Schedule. Coming Soon...


Friday, June 9, 2017


History’s Mysteries Bus Tour: 1935 Republican River Flood
McCook Community College – Hormel Center
$35 - Reservations required. For tickets call 308-345-8122.

9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.




Stories for Youth – Kim Weitkamp

1:30-3:00 p.m.             



Storytelling Savvy "How a Story Gets Told"
Ginger ten Bensel, Chuck Peek & Jeff Barnes
$15 - Reservations required. For tickets call 308-345-8122.

3:30-5:00 p.m.                         


Music and Storytelling Dinner Cabaret
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Kim Weitkamp, Chuck Peek
$45 - Reservations required. For tickets call 308-345-6500.

6:30 p.m.    


Saturday, June 10, 2017


Meet & Greet - Refreshments

“Back in Time” Community Stories 
Chuck Peek, Jeff Barnes, Walt Sehnert

8:45 a.m.

9:00 a.m.


Stories with Master Storyteller Kim Weitkamp

10:30 a.m.

Music with Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen

11:15 a.m. 



Open Mic with Chuck Peek & Walt Sehnert
(Stories must be audience appropriate and no longer than 5 min.)

12:30 p.m.

Poetry Slam and Poetry Out Loud Poet Chuck Peek

2:00 p.m.



KidsFest “Peanut Butter Theatre” 
Kim Weitkamp

12:30-2:00 p.m.



“Meet Senator and Ellie Norris”  Norris Home
Clark and Dawna Bates

3:00-4:00 p.m.



“How the West Has Fun” Grand Finale
Kim Weitkamp, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen blue grass band
Admission: Adults $15, Students $5
Tickets can be purchased from MNB, Sehnert's Bakery & Bieroc Cafe (308)345-6500, McCook Chamber (308)345-3200 and at the Door.

7:30 PM



Kim Weitkamp & Open Mic for Music & Stories

9:30 p.m.