Few holidays can measure up to Thanksgiving for traditions.
There's food. And family. And festivities. And, for many, a long weekend — stretching from the pre-Thanksgiving frivolity Wednesday through Sunday evening, and thinking about going back to work.
Assuming you've got the food and family handled, here are some other things to help you map out your Thanksgiving weekend.
If you're heading out to visit friends or relatives for Thanksgiving this week, you picked the right year to do it.
Falling gas prices and good weather in much of the country should make for a fairly uneventful travel weekend for most of the nearly 49 million people expected to drive at least 50 miles for Thanksgiving.
According to AAA, gas prices in Nebraska have fallen 37 cents in the past month, the second-biggest drop during that period among all the states.
As of Tuesday, the average price of regular unleaded gas in Nebraska was $2.45 a gallon, down nearly 13 cents from a week ago and 37 cents from a month ago. In Lincoln, the average price was $2.44, also down nearly 13 cents from a week ago and about 39 cents from a month ago.
Both the state and local prices are lower than last year at this time, which isn't the case everywhere.
Nationally, Tuesday's average price of $2.61 a gallon is still 8 cents higher than last year. And gas price comparison website GasBuddy said prices nationally are still at their highest level for this time of year since 2014.
“While gas prices have dropped in the last month, we’ll be paying nearly $80 million more over the travel period as a country than we did last year," GasBuddy head of petroleum analysis Patrick DeHaan said in a news release.
Even though AAA predicts a 5 percent increase in Thanksgiving travel, GasBuddy's holiday travel survey predicts a 15 percent decrease in drivers over the weekend.
Those who do travel will experience favorable weather, at least in the central part of the U.S.
The local forecast from the National Weather Service calls for highs mainly in the low 50s from Thursday through Saturday, with rain possible Thursday night and likely Friday.
The weekend is not forecast to end well, with highs in the low 30s and a chance of snow Sunday.
Temperatures in the region will typically be warmer west and south of Lincoln and cooler east and north of Lincoln. Most of the Midwest is forecast to be dry Wednesday and Thursday, with chances of rain Friday.
Those traveling to Friday's Nebraska-Iowa football game in Iowa City are likely to see temperatures in the mid-40s with a possibility of rain.
If you are among the nearly 4.3 million people planning to fly over the holidays, you also should encounter good weather — in most of the country.
Wednesday and Sunday are the worst days to fly, in terms of number of passengers, and Sunday also will bring poor weather conditions to much of the Midwest. The best day to fly to avoid crowds is Thanksgiving itself.
Steve Glenn, owner of Lincoln's Executive Travel, recommends arriving at the airport earlier than you normally would.
"My best advice if you are flying the friendly skies this week is to arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to your flight," Glenn said in his weekly Travel Alert newsletter.
Those staying home and hitting the stores on Thanksgiving and/or Black Friday will find plenty of options.
Gateway Mall will be open from 6-10 p.m. on Thanksgiving, while several stores at SouthPointe Pavilions will be open starting as early as 4 p.m. Thursday.
Other stores that will be open on Thanksgiving include Best Buy, Big Lots, Gordmans, Kohl's, Shopko, Target and Walmart.
Don't forget Small Business Saturday, in which local shops feature special deals in a Black Friday-inspired event, and Record Store Day Black Friday, with local vinyl shops opening early Friday morning to offer special releases and deals.
Also, the Lancaster Event Center will host a vintage Christmas-themed market Friday and Saturday.
Three wide-release movies open in Lincoln on Wednesday. Two are sequels, and one is a remake of a folk story. So, you know, not much new here.
"Creed II" is the latest in the "Rocky" franchise, "Ralph Breaks the Internet" follows 2012's animated hit "Wreck-It Ralph," and "Robin Hood" is a contemporary take on the classic tale. You can find reviews for all three @JournalStar.com, or check Friday's print edition of Ground Zero.
Three of Lincoln's four bowling alleys will be open on Thanksgiving: Sun Valley Lanes, Madsen's and Parkway Lanes. Call ahead for specific hours and to make sure lanes are available.
For those chasing a yuletide feeling, the annual Starry Nights Christmas Tree Festival, a fundraiser for the People's City Mission, runs Friday through Sunday at Speedway Village. The city of Seward is hosting its annual Christmas festival all day Saturday, with a lighted parade at 5:30 p.m. And Omaha will flip on the switch to its downtown holiday lights on Thanksgiving Day, with the annual ceremony starting at 6 p.m.
Before sitting down at the table on Thanksgiving Day, you can burn calories at the annual YMCA Turkey Trot, featuring a 5-kilometer run, mile fun run and the popular turkey leg relay. Events begin at 8 a.m. at the Cooper YMCA, 6767 S. 14th St.
If you're looking for a spectator sport, the annual Turkey Chase go-kart races are Friday, Saturday and Sunday indoors at the Lancaster Event Center.
The Husker football team plays Friday at Iowa, but the volleyball team has matches Friday and Saturday nights at the Devaney Sports Center and the NU men's basketball team returns home Saturday with a game at 1 p.m. at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Across town, the defending national champion Nebraska Wesleyan men's basketball team hosts its annual Snyder Classic, with games Friday and Saturday.
PLYMOUTH, Mass. — The seaside town where the Pilgrims came ashore in 1620 is gearing up for a 400th birthday bash, and everyone's invited — especially the native people whose ancestors wound up losing their land and their lives.
Plymouth, Massachusetts, whose European settlers have come to symbolize American liberty and grit, marks its quadricentennial in 2020 with a trans-Atlantic commemoration that will put Native Americans' unvarnished side of the story on full display.
"It's history. It happened," said Michele Pecoraro, executive director of Plymouth 400, Inc., a nonprofit group organizing yearlong events. "We're not going to solve every problem and make everyone feel better. We just need to move the needle."
Organizers are understandably cautious this time around. When the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim landing was observed in 1970, state officials disinvited a leader of the Wampanoag Nation — the Native American tribe that helped the haggard newcomers survive their first bitter winter — after learning his speech would bemoan the disease, racism and oppression that followed the Pilgrims.
That triggered angry demonstrations from tribal members who staged a National Day of Mourning, a somber remembrance that indigenous New Englanders have observed on every Thanksgiving Day since.
This time, there's pressure to get it right, said Jim Peters, a Wampanoag who directs the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs.
"We'll be able to tell some stories of what happened to us — to delve back into our history and talk about it," Peters said. "Hopefully it will give us a chance to re-educate people and have a national discussion about how we should be treating each other."
The commemoration known as Plymouth 400 will feature events throughout 2020, including a maritime salute in Plymouth Harbor in June, an embarkation festival in September, and a week of ceremonies around Thanksgiving.
The Mayflower II , a replica of the ship that carried the settlers from Europe to the New World four centuries ago, will sail to Boston in the spring. That autumn, it will head to Provincetown, at the outermost tip of Cape Cod, where the Pilgrims initially landed before continuing on to Plymouth.
Events also are planned in Britain and in the Netherlands, where the Pilgrims spent 11 years in exile before making their perilous sea crossing.
But the emphasis is on highlighting the often-ignored history of the Wampanoag and poking holes in the false narrative that Pilgrims and Indians coexisted in peace and harmony.
An interactive exhibit now making the rounds describes how the Wampanoag were cheated and enslaved, and in August 2020 tribal members will guide visitors on a walk through Plymouth to point out and consecrate spots where their ancestors once trod.
There are also plans to invite relatives of the late Wampanoag elder Wamsutta "Frank" James to publicly read that speech he wasn't allowed to deliver in 1970 — an address that includes this passage: "We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end."
Dusty Rhodes, who chairs a separate state commission working to ensure the commemoration has a global profile, said she hopes it all helps make amends for centuries of "mishandled and misrepresented" history.
"The Pilgrims were the first immigrants," said Plymouth 400's Pecoraro. "We're in a place in this country where we need solidarity. We need to come together. We need to be talking about immigration and indigenous people."
Plymouth, nicknamed "America's Hometown," is sure to draw a crush of 2020 presidential candidates who will use its monuments as campaign backdrops. With President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and other heads of state on the invitation list, state and federal authorities already are busy mapping out security plans.
Wampanoag tribal leader and activist Linda Coombs, who's helped plan the commemoration, is skeptical that anything meaningful will change for her people.
"It's a world stage, so we'll have more visibility than we've had in the past," she said. "We'll see if it's enough. It'll be a measuring stick for all that has to come afterward."
With this month's voter approval of a citizen-driven Medicaid expansion initiative, following on the heels of 2014 voter enactment of an increase in the state minimum wage, what might be next on the citizen agenda?
There are early stirrings of a possible initiative petition drive to place congressional and legislative redistricting reform on the 2020 ballot in advance of the 2021 redistricting that will be triggered by the next federal census.
Such a proposal would attempt to distance political parties and elected officials from the process of drawing the maps that will reshape those districts by handing that assignment to a citizens commission.
Similar proposals designed to combat partisan gerrymandering and incumbent protection efforts won overwhelming approval in a number of states, including Michigan and Colorado, earlier this month.
The reforms squeaked through in Utah — 498,891 to 495,342 at last count — and a far more complicated reform package was overwhelmingly approved by voters in Ohio in May.
The Ohio proposal amended the state constitution to require support from at least half of the minority members of the Legislature to enact congressional redistricting, thus forcing legislators to reach a broad consensus.
In Missouri, voter-mandated redistricting change took the form of handing the task to a nonpartisan state demographer. That was part of a reform package that included lobbying and campaign finance restrictions.
In Nebraska, any redistricting maps drawn by a citizens commission ultimately would need legislative approval, unless a constitutional amendment entirely changed the rules of the game.
The possibility of a Nebraska initiative has not moved beyond the initial talking stage.
Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, who helped spearhead the Medicaid expansion initiative, declined to comment specifically on the possibility of a redistricting reform initiative.
"A bunch of folks are looking at a whole host of possible ballot initiatives," he said.
"I think the people are ready on the tough, fundamental issues to consider needed reforms, realizing that elected officials aren't getting the job done."
Asked to assess the possibility of a redistricting initiative, a political source in Omaha emailed: "Some initial conversations already underway."
"I feel like that is the consensus-builder for a broad coalition," he added.
In 2016, the Nebraska Legislature approved creation of a citizens redistricting commission on a 29-15 vote, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Pete Ricketts and no subsequent attempt was made to override the governor's objections.
Under that proposal, the Legislature retained its constitutional power to approve or disapprove the plans adopted by a citizens committee, which would have settled on its own conclusions only after a process that would include a series of public hearings across the state.
If a redistricting initiative is placed on the 2020 ballot and approved by Nebraska voters, that would mark the third time in six years that voters stepped in to take action when the Legislature declined to do so.
The expansion of Medicaid health care coverage to an estimated 90,000 Nebraskans, most of whom work at one or more low-paid jobs, followed seven years of legislative refusal to adopt Medicaid expansion bills.
The minimum wage hike was enacted by voters after state senators rejected previous legislative proposals.
Redistricting reform had been difficult to achieve prior to the 2016 breakthrough that was quickly erased by the governor's veto.
The measure was the product of more than two years of negotiation between Sen. John Murante of Gretna, a Republican, and former Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, a Democrat.
In his veto message, Ricketts said a proposed new citizens commission would open the redistricting process to "political cronyism."
Supporters of the proposal argued that it actually would distance redistricting from elected officeholders, political parties and partisan influence.
Nebraska's unique Legislature is nonpartisan, but political parties and partisan pressure always play a key, and sometimes decisive, role in redistricting decisions.
Substantial redistricting decisions lie ahead in 2021.
Projections by David Drozd, research coordinator for the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, suggest the population in western and central Nebraska's 3rd Congressional District will be 52,000 below what should be the average district size in 2020.
Metropolitan Omaha's 2nd District would be home to 41,000 more people than the average size for Nebraska's three districts.
The 2nd District is the only currently competitive congressional district and its new boundaries would be most subject to partisan gerrymandering in 2021.
Population projections by Drozd suggest the metropolitan complex formed by Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy counties will be home to 56 percent of Nebraska's population in 2020 and thus be entitled to two additional seats in the 49-member Legislature.
That would bring the metropolitan total to 27, with a corresponding reduction in rural Nebraska representation to 22 state senators.