A City That Really Knows How to Celebrate
Every summer, the population of Seward quintuples for a day when more than 30,000 tourists stream into town for the Fourth of July. Seward has been celebrating the Fourth since 1868, which is one of the reasons the United States Congress officially named it “4th of July Small Town U.S.A.” The day begins with a flag raising and ends with fireworks. In-between, the options are endless — a pie-eating contest, a pet parade, a craft fair, a car show and a multitude of music. Promoted and organized by high school youth, Seward’s Fourth is a dawn-to-dusk extravaganza.
At Christmas, the spirit of Seward soars at Centennial Park with a quarter-million light display that features Santa, skaters, elves and more. Open from Thanksgiving through Christmas, visitors to the display enjoy hot drinks, live musical entertainment and horse-drawn carriage rides. Many hours of volunteer labor have made this project a tremendous success.
The musical fine arts thrive at Concordia University with more than a dozen choral and instrumental ensembles. The A Capella Choir tours the globe, and has been recognized at several international competitions.
Concordia is home to the Marxhausen Art Gallery, featuring regional artists, faculty work and the popular year-end student show. The gallery maintains a collection of more than 300 works of art, mostly screen prints, etchings, lithographs and other original prints by nationally and internationally recognized artists who represent a variety of movements and styles. It also houses the Koenig Collection, a permanent collection of prints and works on paper by international artists. Also on the Concordia campus, the Bartels Museum features an unusual rock and fossil collection.
Concordia's theater department produces three full-length shows each year. In addition, theater arts are supplemented by one-act plays, readers’ theater and other student-directed productions. The theater faculty and students are active in the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Students have received recognition for playwriting, directing, set design and acting at recent regional festivals.
Plenty of events are scheduled throughout the year. Concordia is also host to frequent touring artists and shows.
The Seward Arts Council also contributes to the town’s cultural ambience by sponsoring entities such as Friends of the Library, the Langworthy Art Gallery, and several women’s clubs.
The new Seward Memorial Library opened its doors in 2003. Private donations funded most of the $4 million facility that features programs for all ages. The library contains more than 36,000 books, periodicals and audiovisual items, and is part of the Nebraska Inter-Library Loan program. Reading rooms, meeting facilities, computers, internet access, copiers and laser printers are provided for public use. The library staff teaches a variety of computer classes. Concordia University’s Link Library contains more than 166,000 books and periodicals, as well as 550 journal and periodical subscriptions.
Seward is home to the World’s Largest Time Capsule, a 45-ton, 20-by-8-by-6-foot concrete vault filled with some 5,000 relics, remembrances and reminders. Dedicated on July 4, 1975, the brainchild of the late Seward writer and historian Harold Davisson is scheduled to open in 2025.
The Seward County Historical Society Museum in Goehner, Nebraska (about 10 miles southwest of Seward) was built in 1979. Several years ago, the museum benefited from a major endowment along with a $100,000 expansion. Rich in county heritage, the museum features a one-room schoolhouse, a restored 1908 home, antique farm equipment, vintage autos, dishes, doilies, dolls and much more. The Chippewa Northwestern Railway Co., a one-inch scale live steam railroad, operates on the six-acre grounds from May to October.
Each May, theater lovers flock to Goehner, Nebraska to the annual Goehner Melodrama. The Centennial Players have staged the event, which plays to sellout crowds, for 15 years. From stagehands to sopranos, the players and crew are all volunteer, and most return year after year. Proceeds go to scholarships for local high school students and other charitable causes.