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by Heather Akerberg I photos by

years the People.People,"answeredJim Vose,a volunteerof one-and-a-half with Omaha'sConventionand VisitorsBureau(CVB), when askedwhat he most I I enjoyedabout hisvolunteeringjob. That sentimentis unanimousamong all of CVB'svolunteers;it'sthe opportunityto meet and assistall kindsof folksfrom CVB'stwo boothsat Omaha'sEppleyAirport.In additionto the two visitorinformationboothsat the airport,the Conventionand VisitorsBureauoperatesa visitorinformationcenteron the southwestcornerof 1Oth and FarnamStreets.All the centersare mannedby volunteers, kindlyreferredto as OmahaAmbassadors. 11lt's

The volunteersthat assistat Eppley,calledAirportAmbassadors, are all membersof one of the three GoldenK KiwanisClubsherein Omaha.The Kiwanischaptersinvolvedarethe Oma h aG o l d e nK C l ub,Lovel andGol denK C l ub,and W estOmahaD i amondK Club.The AirportAmbassadors programhasbeen a projectof the KiwanisClubssince1984,lt started with 11volunteersand only one booth at the airport.The programnow has50 volunteers for the airportcenters "Todate,we've logged93,124volunteerhours,"saysDon Egr,chairof the KiwanisAirport Ambassadorproject. The volunteerswork on a rotatingschedule- eachworkinga four-hourshift everyother week.The two airport boothsareopen from 5:00p.m.,Mondaythrough Friday. The downtown visitorinformationcenteris open sevendaysa week-closed on major holidays.On an averageday,AirportAmbassadors assistapproximately100people.However, on busierdays,likeduring the CollegeWorldSeriesor BerkshireHathaway's annualconferenceran AirportAmbassadoris likelyto help 120peoplein one shift.Sinceits inception,the Ambassadors haveassistednearly850,000visitorsto Omaha. "l liketo help people,"saidEgr,who hasvolunteeredsince1997."1enjoy meeting *the errcounterI july/august2008 | f3

people,and it givesme an opportunityto learnmore about my community." All the visitorinformationcentershavea largeselectionof mapsand brochures,which includeinformationon Omaha's attractions,suchas HenryDoorlyZoo and LauritzenBotanical Gardens,and specialeventsthat they offerto visitors.The two airportboothsare locatedon eitherend of the first floor at the airportand areeasyto find due to their bright blue and green d6cor.The booths feature 42-inchTV screensthat play an informationalvideo about Omahaand its attractions,as well asthe currentforecast.The Conventionand VisitorsBureaualsopublishesa 96-pageOmaha2008VisitorsGuide,which givesvisitors the scoopon localaccommodations, dining,attractions,nightlife, and annualevents.The guide is free and availableat any of the centersor onlineat FrankWebber,who hasbeenvolunteeringas an AirportAmbassadorfor more than 22years,got involvedwhen his Kiwanis

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Clubaskedfor volunteers.A retiredschoolteacher, Webber years. taught at TechHigh Schoolfor 35 He agreesthat meeting peopleis one of the bonusesof working at the airport.Many times,hisvolunteeringhasallowedhim the chanceto reunite with former students. "They'llwalk by,and then they'llturn aroundand say,'Mr.Webber!"' Omaha'sAmbassadors answera varietyof questionseachday, from where to eat or stay,to where to go fishing or how to spend an afternoon.Webbersayshe'shelpedpeoplefrom all overthe world,and evenassistedpeoplein a few stickysituations.For instance,on one afternoon,he noticeda man standingin one of the airline'sticket lines. Nothingunusualabout that, right?UntilWebberand the man , both noticedthe man'ssuitcasebeganto rock backand forth he ; on its own. Whenthe man opened hissuitcaseto investigate, discoveredthat hiscat had climbedin thereto take a nap while ; he had been packing.The gentleman'sflight was leavingshortly, so Webberhelpedhim securea carrierfor the felineand callthe man'sbrotherto come and retrievethe animal.All in a dayswork for Webberand the other AirportAmbassadors. Don Egrsaysthe airport is a flurry of activitywith all kindsof peoplecoming and going,from governorsand statesenators to musiciansand athletes.Egrremembersone afternoonwhen he assisteda young man from Venezuelawho was new to the UnitedStates.The young man had come to Nebraskato playfor the Li ncol nS al tdogs, a mi nor l eaguebasebal l te amEgr . helped young phone the man makea few callsand eventuallyconnected r , him with other playersthat hadjust recentlyarrivedand were in the termi nal . So,beyonddirectingvisitorsto hotelsand helpingtouristsde, cide what to do during their stay,the volunteersalsooffer visitorsa tasteof Omaha'shospitality.They'rewilling to help out in any situation, which truly makesthem ambassadorsin euerysense.[In

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2008| theencoLrnter

Saddle OrookRccords IndieMusicLabelOwnersKeepTurning theTables by HeatherAkerberg I photographyby

andlord.Barowner.Developer.Labelmanager.WhileJasonKulbelof SaddleCreek Recordsexpecteda few ofthose titles,he could neverhaveforeseenthe others. Kulbelmoved backto Omahain 2000with the intent of assistingRobbNansel, a friendfrom college,in openinga rockclub.Nanselhad beenoperatingSaddleCreekReTogether,Nanseland Kulbelhaveworkedto grow the labelinto an indecordssince'1998. p e n d e n tmusi cdarl i ng. When they first startedthrowing the idea around,Kulbeland Nanselwere focused


permanent rockvenue,a thingtheyfelt Omaha on building-a officesandwarehouse. anda homefor SaddleCreek's lacked, andpossible locations Theprojectwentthroughmanychanges StreetbetweenCuming untiltheydecidedon the plot on 14th the duo'srock Besides beinghometo Slowdown, andWebster. headquarters, the mixed-use complex club,andSaddleCreek's theater, as well a nonprofit asretail alsohousesFilmStreams, andapartments. spaces SaddleCreeknowhasa Withthe bricksandmortarin place, permanent ThoughOmahaseemsan unlikely homein Omaha. placefor a recordlabel,manyof SaddleCreekRecords' choices give labels that Unlike many major artistsa areunconventional. Creekoffers fromthe saleof theirmusic,Saddle smallpercentage itsbandsa 50/50split. "Wecertainlydon{tfollowa lot of the industrypatternsand'sgoodto be awayfrom it for that reason, and [Omaha] isjusta goodplaceto hole-upandgetsomeworkdone,"Kulbel said. Duringthe earlydaysof the label,theirbandrosterconsisted solelyof Omahaartists.Nowthe rosterfeaturesseveralbands fromothercities.No matterwherethe bandisfrom,the qualityof the mainfocus. the musichasremained "Ourapproach hasalwaysbeento geta bandin the studio, havethem recorda record,workon the recordand havethemout on the road,"Jasonsaid. bandson tour,includingNevaDinova, Thelabelhasseveral andTokyoPoliceClub,whichplayedto a Slowdown MariaTaylor, Kulbelisa released theirdebutrecord. crowdin Mayandrecently for of offeringlivemusicto thefans.Thispassion hugesupporter whichmarked the ideafor Slowdown, livemusiciswhatspawned withthe reception June7th.Kulbelispleased itsfirstanniversary thatthe clubhasreceived. "lnthe lastyear,l'veput somuchintothislclub]that l'vekinda fallenout of a lot of thingsthat I wasusedto doing.Therecanbe a hundredpeoplein here,andI won'tknowanyonebutthe barKulbelsaid. tender," Slowdownis definitelya laborof lovefor Jason.He livesin one of the apartmentsin the complexand oftenfindshimself muchof histimeworkinq. spending "Atthispointthat'sjust not myjob-to knoweveryonein the the room-makingsure room,"Kulbeladded."lt'smoreproviding goingon." thatsomething's calendarof events(www.theslowTakeonelookat Slowdown's doinga finejob. [In andyou'llknowthatJason's,

the encounterI july/august2008

The Encounter, Jul/Aug 2008  

"Saddle Creek Records" and "Omaha Ambassadors" by Heather C. Akerberg

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