Fifty years ago, the streets of Lincoln filled with people dressed in old-timey Pioneer clothing as Nebraska celebrated its 100th birthday.
Bev Cram remembers wearing a floor-length red skirt and matching vest with a beige blouse. At the time, she was a fourth-grade Nebraska history teacher and was thrilled to see her students so excited about the past.
Although Cram left her Pioneer outfit at home Friday afternoon for Nebraska's sesquicentennial celebration, her sentiments remained unchanged half a century later — "This is the best place to live."
About 5,000 or more people spanned across the Centennial Mall for the celebration, said Barb Batie, a member of the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission. Live music played all night in front of the Capitol, there was a traveling children's museum, games, food trucks, fireworks and a laser light show displayed on the Capitol.
The laser lights illuminated Centennial Mall, shining blocks away. For many, they were the highlight of the event.
Amateur photographers Laura Schliesser and Eric Wellman packed up their lawn chairs alongside their tripods and headed downtown specifically to photograph the laser show.
Though they saw the test run show, the couple was awed by the full spectacle.
"It was really cool. It exceeded my expectations and what I thought it was going to be like," Schliesser said.
In 1967, Centennial Mall was built to commemorate the state turning 100. With renovations ending recently along the mall, the sesquicentennial celebration acts as an unofficial dedication, Nebraska's first lady Susanne Shore said.
"I want people to celebrate and use Centennial Mall because it's such a beautiful space," she said.
The courtyard fountains at the State Capitol were debuted this year. The fountains were the only aspect of the building's original design that remained unfinished because of cost.
Gov. Ricketts wished the state a happy birthday before switching on the fountains and watching them bubble to life.
Throughout 2017, hundreds of events were held across the state to celebrate the sesquicentennial. Friday's "Salute to the Good Life" celebration marked the finale of a year of festivities.
In addition to honoring Nebraska's statehood, it gave special recognition to the military and veterans with special seating, military bands and the traveling Remembering Our Fallen display.
Three groups helped plan festivities, the first group forming in 2012.
Batie said that although the event seemed effortless, it's taken a lot of time, dedication and hard work to make it this far.
Batie was one of 17 members from across the state who were appointed by former Gov. Dave Heineman to serve three year terms on the commission. All of the members are volunteers, only reimbursed for gas, a hotel room if needed and a meal. They met at least once every other month in different towns across the state to make plans.
When she got the call from the governor's office, Batie said it brought up a lot of memories about her family's history as homesteaders.
"Our family has a reason to celebrate 150 years," she said.
Her great-great-aunt came to Nebraska from Germany in 1867 and settled near the bank of Battle Creek. After losing her husband and barely surviving a brutal winter, she ran into bad luck again when the profits from her crop were stolen. She wrote to her brothers who moved to America to help cultivate crops and grow the American dream.
Batie marvels at the hardships her relatives endured to ensure her life here would be comfortable.
Nebraska is the only place she will ever call home. To her and many others, it's the best place to be — truly the home of the good life.
"I am a daughter of the prairie," Batie said.