KEARNEY — Humanities Nebraska will present a new style of Chautauqua in Kearney that will explore the social, economic, political and international changes of this decade.

“The Fifties in Focus,” the 2019 Nebraska Chautauqua, is set for Friday and Saturday, Aug. 2 and 3. Most events will be at the Merryman Performing Arts Center or the Kearney Public Library.

Remember the 1950s? It was a decade that is often looked at with a sense of nostalgia and romanticism. But the 50s was also a time of sweeping change that can now be revisited with a more objective eye. Television, hot rods and rock-and-roll changed the way we spent our free time. However, it wasn’t all idyllic.

The Cold War tensions continued to escalate with the Korean War and flare-ups around the world. Superpowers competed in an unprecedented space race. The U.S. experienced a baby boom that strained domestic resources. Meanwhile, women and minorities navigated an unfriendly labor market, and the Civil Rights movement began to solidify. McCarthyism compromised families, friendships and working relationships.

The event kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with a “Downtown on the Bricks” concert featuring the Surfin’ Safari Band. Music runs until 9 p.m. at the intersection of Central Avenue and 24th Street.

The Friday schedule includes speakers at the Merryman PAC starting at 5:45 p.m. Included are “A Century of Fashion,” presented by Sue McLain and keynote remarks from William Hitchcock. Food trucks will be open for business at the Merryman.

Saturday events at the library, 2020 First Ave., begin at 9:15 a.m. with “Rock Around the Clock” breakout sessions. Each session will last about 50 minutes. Topics include the fight for civil rights; “Let’s Play Ball, sports in American life; agriculture advances since the 1950s; a look at President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s plans for the interstate highway system and space exploration; a look at the American family during the 1950s; Nebraska in the early days of the Cold War; and popular culture at the time.

Food trucks will be open for business from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the library parking lot.

Other weekend offerings include a 1950s downtown walking tour, a 1950s classic car show in the Museum of Nebraska Art parking lot, kids activities, and programs at the World Theatre.

More information and a complete schedule can be found on the Humanities Nebraska website at

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