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Farnham Fest celebrates culture in Omaha's Blackstone district

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A pedestrian safety pilot program is planned on Farnham Street between 36th and 40th streets.

As the Blackstone District itself has grown and developed over the past decade, so has Farnham Fest, an annual event that celebrates what the Midtown Omaha area has to offer.

On Saturday, Farnham Street in the heart of the Blackstone area was bustling with vendors and entertainment, including dog contests, adult spelling bees and drag shows.

According to Rachel Bythwood Ayers, event organizer and creative director for the Blackstone area, the festival began more than a decade ago and was initially focused on raising awareness of the redeveloped neighborhood. Right now, it’s all about celebrating Blackstone’s culture.

“It’s grown into a celebration of our community and neighborhood of diversity and all the beauty that’s out there,” said Bythwood Ayers.

Over the past decade, the once faded Blackstone District has transformed into a vibrant area with a wide variety of restaurants and bars.

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Farnham Street was restored to a two-way street between 36th and 42nd Streets in 2014. We believe this has contributed to the revival of the business district by the developers. On Saturday, Farnham was cordoned off between He 39th Street and His 40th Street due to the festival.

The event is scheduled to run until 11pm and Bythwood Ayers said he expects crowds to build before the first drag show in festival history starts at 9pm. Inclusion has always been central to the event.

“This is not a place for hate,” said Byswood Ayers.

Another new addition to this year’s festival was live karaoke by 80’s cover band Secret Weapon.

By 4pm on Saturday, event-goers were browsing vendors, grabbing drinks, and watching adult spelling bee participants try their luck on stage.

Although there were no food vendors on site at the festival, many event-goers stopped by nearby restaurants for refreshments.

Karen Roy of Karen’s Kreations was at an event selling upcycled creations, including recycled glassware candles and handmade jewelry. She said she was grateful that Roy had a variety of on-stage activities planned to keep the event exciting.

“So far, I really like the crowd,” she said.

Michael Principe moved to Blackstone about a year ago and says he really enjoys the area. He said he appreciates how the event demonstrates what the area has to offer to the community.

“It’s cool for everyone to get together,” he said.