Hot Air Balloons, Fireworks, Music and More: Chamber, UNK hosting Celebrate Kearney

Celebrate Kearney Graphic

New event showcases Chamber businesses, University Village development

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – Hot air balloon rides, a business festival and fireworks are among many activities featured at a new Kearney event later this month.

The Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce and University of Nebraska at Kearney are partnering to host Celebrate Kearney: Party at the Village from 4 to 10 p.m. April 26. The free community event will be at the University Village development on the west edge of the UNK campus along U.S. Highway 30.

A family fun zone, food trucks, live concert with The Innocence, chamber business main street and beer garden featuring Nebraska brews highlight the event, which includes hot air balloon rides and a fireworks show to end the evening.

The event caps the chamber’s Kearney Love Local Week activities and marks the end of dead week at UNK, which ends its spring semester the following week.

Derek Rusher
Derek Rusher
Kelly Bartling
Kelly Bartling

“As a new, culminating event to Love Local Week, the location for a community celebration became apparent because of the growth happening at University Village,” said Derek Rusher, Kearney Chamber president and CEO. “What began as a blank canvas back in 2012 is now emerging as a unique and strategic opportunity for regional business growth.

“By making the event friendly for all audiences – families, students and businesses – we’re able to fully celebrate the concepts behind Kearney Love Local Week.”

Chamber businesses, organizations and vendors will form a “Chamber Main Street” area and showcase the future of their businesses and share information, giveaways and new products.

Celebrate Kearney also is meant to generate enthusiasm for UNK’s University Village development while strengthening the university’s relationships with the chamber, area companies, future investors and developers of the site.

“The shared goals for this event among the business sponsors, chamber and UNK are simple. We want to begin creating experiences that help generate enthusiasm for Kearney with an eye toward the future,” said Kelly Bartling, UNK assistant vice chancellor for communications and community relations. “Kearney, UNK and University Village are a destination because of these strong business and university relationships. This event celebrates that and takes it to new heights – literally.”

University Village is a public-private development that includes a UNK housing complex called Village Flats that opened in July 2018, and an early childhood education center opening this summer. It is planned as a pedestrian-oriented village featuring residential, retail, academic, service, recreation and community engagement uses.

“The University Village Board is eager to show the vision for the public-private partnership and celebrate the progress by using the community square for the concert, hospitality area and business showcase,” said Bartling. “The hot air balloons aren’t a gimmick – they’re a strategy to get people thinking about the location and possibilities, by getting the scope of the site from above.”

The Kearney Chamber, Rusher said, is excited to launch Celebrate Kearney with its Kearney Love Local Week events and draw attention to the UNK development.

“UNK students were welcomed last fall by businesses at the Blue Gold Showcase and Destination Downtown,” Rusher said. “For the first time, we’ll send them off with a party of sorts to remind them that Kearney cares about them and looks forward to continuing to welcome them back home.”

A free barbecue will be available at Celebrate Kearney for UNK students with their meal plan.

TCelebrate Kearney Posterhe chamber also will partner with Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska and accept donations at the event to help with flood relief in nearby communities.

More information, including sponsorship opportunities, can be found at

Chamber Main Street business festival
Hot air balloon rides
Live music with The Innocence
Fireworks show
Cottonmill Food Factory food trucks
1733 Tap House beer garden
Fort Kearny Family Fun Zone

April 22 – Manday Monday
April 23 – Teen Tuesday
April 24 – We Kare Wednesday
April 25 – Retail Therapy Thursday