After a crowd gathered for the Benson Days Parade, part of this weekend's 125th anniversary celebration, more crowds filled neighborhood bars and restaurants Saturday night for Benson After Dark.
On most nights you can find live music somewhere. In Benson on this night, 24 bands played in four venues as part of Benson After Dark. “We were here all day and I love music and to see that here," said Maggie Day. "We're going to check out a few bands and it will be awesome."
Hundreds enjoyed the parade and all of the family fun, but Benson business is geared toward young adults. The bars and restaurants draw crowds from all over the metro and on this night they worked together for Benson Days.
“It's by design, what's happening here in Benson is by design,” said Kurt Goetzinger with the Benson Business Association. “The people who are here and who wanted to be here made this community this way."
Live music and being the artistic center of the city is the goal and the people of Benson seem to be making that a reality. Maggie thinks everyone has done a great job so far, saying more people are coming to Benson businesses for entertainment and she doesn't see that slowing down anytime soon. “Up and coming, growing, it is a microcosm becoming this huge musical culture that we get to experience."
Earlier in the day, drill teams, shiny cars, square dancers and horses were featured along the parade route from Gallagher Park to 63rd and Maple.
Nancy Meyer grew up in the neighborhood and still lives in Benson. She said she wouldn't miss watching the parade with her family. “We're just screaming for all them because we're happy they can be in the parade and we're just enjoying it because it's a nice day today, instead of 102 degrees that we've been having.”
The parade lasted for an hour and followed a pancake breakfast.
Before 1917, Benson was its own city of 5,000 people before it was annexed. Times have changed, but the community has managed to hang on to its roots.
It's a quaint pocket of Omaha that used to stand on its own. Founded by Erastus Benson, a business associate of Thomas Edison, on land purchased from the Creighton family, Benson has had its highs and lows like any community.
“Our downtown area struggled, you know, when the big box stores came into the area so that was tough for Benson,” said Goetzinger. “We went through a lot of empty store fronts, price valuation dropping and so forth.”
But businesses invested and the neighborhood hung in there. “We have this beautiful historic area with amazing homes, but it's really about the people, the wonderful people that live here and choose to live here and with this revitalization happening, we see a lot of young families moving in,” said Goetzinger.
Drawn by the retail, the restaurants, nightlife and more, “Benson obviously has the art, culture,” said businessman Brian Fitzpatrick.
“I like the direction it's going in terms of restaurants, galleries, bars, things like that,” said resident Sara Blake. “There seems to be a lot of new stuff going on right now."
“And it's definitely got a really nice community feel,” said Fitzpatrick.
"We have everything you need for a neighborhood,” added Goetzinger. “You don't have to drive very far. You have entertainment, you have all of your goods and services are right here in our neighborhood."