- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Omaha, Nebraska, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, are separated by the Missouri River, but officials say a recent food festival suggests that the water isn’t a barrier to collaboration between them for events.

“The river isn’t a boundary,” Council Bluffs parks director Larry Foster said about the two cities, which are tied by a pedestrian bridge. “It can pull us together.”

The Taste of Omaha this past weekend spilled over into Iowa for the first time in 18 years, and an event organizer said attendance might have reached more than 125,000 during the three-day festival, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/1eLiQGL ) reported.

“The bridge makes the destination an excursion,” said Taste of Omaha organizer, Mike Mancuso. “You can walk your food off from the Omaha side and then go check out the Iowa side, and vice versa.”

A consulting team with the Urban Land Institute last year suggested cooperation on the riverfront could benefit both communities. David Brown, head of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, said Sunday he has no reason to think the consultants were off the mark.

“It’s a great idea and a great concept, and it looks like it went over very well,” Brown said, adding that the communities should look for opportunities to collaborate.

Karla and Timothy Kuhl of Council Bluffs said they liked how the bridge connected the cities and the festival. Timothy Kuhl had never taken a walk on the bridge.

Nathan King agreed that using the bridge was a nice centerpiece for the Taste of Omaha.

“It’s nice to see so many people walking the bridge,” King said. “And the Taste only enhances its use, so that’s definitely a good thing.”

The Loessfest last month in Council Bluffs had sponsorships from Omaha, enabling the festival to stage free concerts, movies and other entertainment over a weeklong stretch.

Omaha parks director Brook Bench said the recent activities “could open the door to other things” between the communities.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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