North Platte partygoers don’t have to leave town this summer to pick from live music, beverages and outdoor fun. Shows and mini-festivals are planned nearly every week through July.
The big shows start Friday in a big way with mega-country music star Toby Keith.
Keith owns 22 No. 1 hits. Keith's Red Solo Cup video currently has 16 million views.
Keith’s appearance marks the second straight year that Nebraskaland Days will feature a country music star at the height of their career. Last year Brad Paisley performed.
The next night is devoted to rock, when the nationally renowed band Daughtry performs.
Like Keith, Daughtry is a big hit with videos as well as audio.
Big entertainers have become the norm at the state celebration of Nebraskaland Days, and now, more and more North Platte events are getting bigger and bigger.
Big names often appear at Sculley’s Shooters, where nationally touring performers such as Bart Crow and J.B. and the Moonshine band have appeared. Great White is slated to arrive June 19 with an 80s big hair band tribute show.
On the west edge of town, Louie and Diane Herrick, doing business as Unreel Events, is hosting four weekends of entertainment, with a two-day blues festival at the center of it, at the Lincoln Highway RV Park on Rodeo Road.
The Unreel Events begin June 30 with comedian Costaki Economopoulos, a regular guest on the The Bob & Tom Show.
On July 13, Glen Templeton will perform. Templeton is a young country singer who is making a big name for himself and who also pays tribute to his roots, and legendary singer Conway Twitty.
Templeton was picked in 2009 from 20,000 auditions to do a "tribute to Twitty" tour. Conway’s daughters did the picking. North Platte favorite Gary Phipps will open the show. Phipps is a member of the Nebraska Country Music Hall of Fame.
The Unreel Events continue on July 20-21, replacing the South Loup Blues Festival that was held for 18 years in Arnold. Favorite Jason Davis will perform. Davis never missed a blues festival in Arnold.
Besides Davis, headlining the show will be an eight-piece show band from Chicago that pays tribute to the Blues Brothers of the 70s and 80s, made famous by Saturday Night Live comedians and talented musicians John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.
Another Unreel Event is scheduled on July 28, when tribute bands ZZ3 and Hairball pay homage to ZZ Top, Twisted Sister and other big hair and glitter rock bands of the 80s.
The same weekend, another blues fest is set on the banks of Lake Maloney, at the Lakehouse. The Kris Lager band of Omaha, a perennial performer at the Arnold Blues Fest, will bring three bands from Eastern Nebraska to the all-day festival.
“Lager’s bass player called the station and wanted to do an outdoor show,” KODY dee jay Nate Christopher said. “The Rail bar has been a good venue for the Lager and the band, but it’s not big enough to do a festival. This will be a family friendly day, where people can sit on the grass, listen to music, fish and celebrate the outdoors."
At the Lincoln County Fair, Stoney LaRue with guests Nashville Reject will perform July 27.
“We’re getting more adventurous,” promotions secretary Erika Albrecht said. “LaRue is a red dirt singer from the Texas Oklahoma area, and the red dirt movement is huge. And when Nashville Reject comes to town, everyone has a good time.”
Also, traveling folk singers play Thursday evenings all summer at the Fort Cody Trading Post near I-80. The shows began June 14 with Lincoln folk singer Paul Siebert and North Platte’s Jeremy Condon of Emmits Down. Next up is Ray Mullen of North Platte, opening for Texas wit and singer/songwriter Phil Lee. The shows continue through Aug. 9, when electric blues sensation Laurie Morvan hits the stage.
The outdoor shows are family friendly, kids, lawn chairs and coolers are welcome. The Ft. Cody music starts each Thursday at 6 p.m. and concludes at 9 p.m.
This report was first published in the June 13 print edition of the North Platte Bulletin.