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The organizers of Nebraska's 150th birthday celebrations saved the biggest party for last -- a Friday night festival expected to draw thousands to Centennial Mall.

“The entire state of Nebraska is invited to attend,” said Regan Anson, executive director of the Nebraska 150 Celebration. “This is the biggest event we’ve put on all year.”

And it was going to be even bigger. Organizers had been planning a make the Salute to the Good Life a two-day celebration, with a Saturday tailgate before the Nebraska-Rutgers football game. But plans changed when Anson learned she couldn’t close streets in Lincoln on a gameday, she said.

Still, the Friday gala will serve as the exclamation point to the sesquicentennial events that kicked off at the Capitol March 1, Nebraska’s statehood day.

“This is the big celebration we’ve been waiting all year to put on,” she said. “It’s the signature event of the 150.”

She doesn’t know how many people to expect at the free event; she guessed 5,000 on event permit applications. But she hopes more show up.

Here’s what you’ll find:

  • Food from around the state. At 3 p.m., up to 14 food trucks will begin serving, and there should be ample variety, Anson said. In addition to vendors from Lincoln, she expects food trucks from across the state -- including Norfolk, Grand Island and Columbus -- to show up.
  • A salute to soldiers. The Remembering Our Fallen display opens at 3 p.m., sharing the stories and photos of 87 Nebraska servicemen and women who died fighting the war on terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.
  • Sesquicentennial merchandise. Nebraska 150 goods will be available for sale at the party, including the most popular item, the black ceramic coffee mug, and the most expensive -- a commemorative .45-caliber Henry Big Boy lever-action rifle for $3,195.
  • A mobile children’s museum. By the time its tour ends, the Truckin’ Through Nebraska exhibit will hit 42 communities in 26 weeks, delivering the story of Nebraska to children in all corners of the state. In Lincoln, it will be open from 3-7 p.m. Friday on K Street, and then move to Canopy Street in the Haymarket on Saturday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Sunday (1-5 p.m.).
  • Music all night. The show formally begins at 4 p.m. with the Nebraska National Guard Band, and Gov. Pete Ricketts with first lady Susanne Shore. The music will continue throughout the evening: Josh Hoyer at 5 p.m.; The Back 40 at 6:15 p.m.; Kris Lager Band at 7:45 and 9:15 p.m.
  • Bright lights and big blasts. At 8:45 p.m., a Texas company will project a 20-minute laser light show on the north face of the Capitol, highlighting the shape of the building. “It will tell a story of Nebraska’s history and take us through present day,” Anson said. At 10:15 p.m., the party will end with a 20-minute fireworks show. “And having fireworks over the Capitol is something you don’t see every day,” she added.
  • More Good Life at the game. The Huskers will help wish the state a happy 150th, too, with a sesquicentennial video on the big screen Saturday and a program cover with the marching band forming the shape of the state, said Chris Anderson, an associate athletic director for NU.

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