The 2008 Omaha Summer Arts Festival was hit hard by a severe storm Friday afternoon of the 3 day show. Wind speed was over 70 mph. Many booths toppled or flew through the air, thousands of dollars of art was destroyed, but no one was hurt. Several years ago the Omaha show staff created a well thought-out and detailed Emergency Plan. Having a plan in place and following it before, during and after the disaster no doubt saved lives and limited damage.
During set-up, palettes of free sand bags were available for every artist to help secure their booth. Artists, patrons and vendors were warned of the oncoming storm about 25 minutes before it hit. Immediately after that warning they all were informed of mandatory evacuation. After the storm, the show held a meeting with all the artists and vendors to discuss recovery plans. Clean up had already begun in ernest. Giant lights, like those used at night for freeway construction, were brought to every intersection in the show. Artists were able to work late into the night to prepare for the remaining two days of the show while the main stage was completely rebuilt and debris was cleared.
Award judging had not been completed before the storm so at artists' suggestions, the show donated the award money to the nearby Boy Scout camp recently demolished by a tornado which also killed four Boy Scouts at the camp.
All exhibitors from the 2008 show are invited jury-free to the 2009 show.
"For being fully prepared with an excellent emergency plan, for following through with the plan to protect lives and property and for making compassionate decisions regarding award money and next year's show jury NAIA is honoring the 2008 Omaha Summer Arts Festival staff as our first entry into the newly created NAIA Hall of Fame."
Thank you and Congratulations!
I might add a little praise of my own to this. I straightened everything up after the storm on Friday and was set back up by 11pm. It wasn't as stable as it used to be, but it was up. Saturday was nice weather and rain had just about been taken out of the forecast. However, when I left the show about 9pm I noticed some low clouds just north of Omaha. I went to get something to eat at a Red Lobster near my hotel which was about 10 minutes away. Nothing has been said about the storm which moved through on Saturday night but for about 30 or 40 minutes it rained hard and the wind blew quite a bit. The festival staff was still keeping up with things pretty well. When I was paying my bill at Red Lobster about 9:50pm my cell phone rang. It was Carly Barth with the festival. Apparently they thought I may have had some things knocked over in the storm. Although this news just about ruined my dinner, I was impressed that they had their act together this well. After the call I drove back over to the show to check on my things. Several panels had come loose and fallen over but nothing was really hurt. For the second night in a row it was about 11pm before I left the show and was done for the day. I did hear about some artist's work being damaged on Saturday night but it was nothing compared to Friday.