COVID-19 forces cancellations of area summer events

T.K. West - Correspondent
Cora Johnston, 4, of Adel eats a piece of sweet corn during the 2019 Sweet Corn Festival. COVID-19 concerns prompted the cancellation of the 2020 festival. PHOTO BY ALLISON ULLMANN/DALLAS COUNTY NEWS

With the recent impact of COVID-19, local summer festivals across the Dallas County area have made the decision to cancel this year’s celebrations.

Following the governor’s proclamation and guidelines, the Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce Board worked with the City of Adel before announcing that the 2020 Sweet Corn Festival would not take place this August. Deb Bengtson of the Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce said that the major factor in their decision was that social distancing with 10,000 attendees in a very small area was unrealistic.

The chamber has also been in contact with the festival’s supplier of the sweet corn, Deardroff Sweetcorn, since this past spring regarding concerns about the ability to host the festival this upcoming summer. Deardroff Sweetcorn currently sells its produce to local supermarkets throughout the central Iowa area, such as Fareway and Hy-Vee, to name a few.

“I believe the community understands we are in unprecedented times and the health and safety of the community is the main concern,” Bengtson said. “The Chamber plans to host the 2021 Sweet Corn Festival but only time will tell what it will look like and if [it’s] bigger and better than ever.”

To help support the canceled event, the Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce currently plans to sell T-shirts beginning in early July, with the Sweet Corn 5K Run hosted as a virtual run. As part of the run, participants can register to receive a T-shirt and run any 5K route between Aug. 1-10. Participants will then submit their times via an app and medals will be mailed for age categories as well as overall times.

“Our businesses have always been great sponsorship supporters of the Festival. We are asking them to continue to be a sponsor for the 2021 Sweet Corn Festival,” Bengtson said. “The community can volunteer to help us shuck corn, cook corn, help in the vendor or parade area or work the 5K run in 2021. In 2020 we ask everyone to stay safe and healthy.”

Other communities, such as Van Meter, are also selling T-shirts as a way to raise funds after the cancellation of the 2020 Raccoon River Days celebration. Darby Brinks was just recently announced as the winner of the Van Meter T-Shirt Contest, with proceeds from sales going to support the Van Meter Community Betterment Committee. This committee not only supports Raccoon River Days celebrations but also fireworks for graduation, the local food pantry and more.

“The event plays an important role in bringing our community together. It’s our jump start. At Raccoon River Days, we meet new neighbors, reunite with friends after winter hibernation and celebrate the coming of summer,” Vicki Lyon of Raccoon River Days said.

In Waukee, the Fourth of July event will forgo many traditional festivities and instead consist of a new skydiver demonstration followed by fireworks at Centennial Park. Community members are encouraged to bring a blanket, find open green space and enjoy the event while social distancing. Parks and Recreation Director Matt Jermier said that as part of the city’s budget, organizers continue to budget for increasing events and always look at ways to build on the festival in following years.

“Obviously, we were disappointed not to be able to have the parade and the carnival,” Jermier said. “In general it’s our largest event of the year. We didn’t take this decision lightly but we felt we needed to be responsible with the decision.”

Margie Kenyon of the Minburn Fourth of July celebration also said that attendees typically look forward to the parade, children’s games at the park and a pie auction, to name a few. Proceeds from events such as the pie auction would normally go to support many needs throughout the local community. Kenyon said instead, the American Legion will be accepting donations for expenses related to fireworks, which are still planned for the Fourth of July.

“It made people sad, because it’s one of the best small-town celebrations in the area and it’s a great way to get friends and families together,” Kenyon said. “The pie auction gives to many things in Minburn. Through the American Legion this will be a serious hit on the following year’s fireworks as well as other areas of need in the Minburn area.”

Brian Buethe, President of the Grimes Chamber and Economic Development, said that the status of the pandemic will play a major role in how next year’s Governor’s Day will look. While many items were discussed regarding the local event, the annual Grimes festival was ultimately canceled in the best interest of the health and safety of not only the attendees but also the volunteers.

The chamber currently anticipates that the festival will resume in 2021 but also realizes that if certain circumstances arise, the possibility exists that Governor’s Day could be postponed next year as well.

“Grimes has had an annual summer festival for decades, under multiple names. This will be the first year in many people’s memory that will not occur,” Buethe said. “At events like these, friendships are formed, memories are made and some of that will just simply not occur this year.”

With the recent cancellation of Governor’s Day, the 2020 sponsors were given the option to have their funds reimbursed, forward their investment to 2021, or donate their investment money to one of the Grimes Chamber and Economic Development Corporation’s non-profit organization members. Buethe said that while there is no ongoing fundraising taking place at this time, the chamber is making attempts to honor sponsors, members and the local community.

“Businesses and organizations, who are not already engaged, could consider becoming members of their local Chamber of Commerce. That is an investment that would indirectly support the festival, while also providing other learning, networking, and advocacy benefits as well,” Buethe said.

For more information regarding the event cancellations or how to support local festivals, community members can visit each city’s or festival’s website or Facebook page.