ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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MAY 26, 2022  |  VIEW AS WEBPAGE
Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
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The Iowa Arts Festival in Iowa City next weekend celebrates the arts around the world, with cultural performances, ethnic dishes from food vendors and educational activities for children. Photo: Courtesy of Summer of the Arts.


By Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

In Iowa City, the Iowa Arts Festival has returned to its rightful place at the start of the city’s Summer of the Arts calendar. On June 3-5, more than 100 local and national artists will take over nine downtown blocks, with plenty of global food, activities for all ages and live music headlined by the rootsy Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel.

The arts festival is one of the three summer biggies, with the Iowa City Jazz Festival (July 1-3) and the Soul & Blues Festival (Sept. 23-24), but dozens of smaller events fill out the season. Try the Friday Night Concert Series, the Northside Concert Series (on select Saturdays) or the Free Movie Series (also on Saturdays). It’s no wonder Iowa City has been ranked among the top 10 most creative small cities in the country.

If you or your kids have energy to burn, try Music on the Move, when local musicians pump up the jams at a different neighborhood playground each week. The idea caught on during the pandemic when guitarist Kevin Burt started performing around town from the back of his pickup; his “Truckload of Soul” was so popular it evolved into a full-on, multi-musician series with the city’s Rec & Roll program. Got it? Now go play outside.
Now that the unofficial start of summer is this weekend, it’s time to celebrate with some favorite seasonal foods—barbecue and ice cream. Le Mars specializes in both. If you’re into celebrating the sweet stuff, the town hosts its Ice Cream Days June 16-18.


Known as the Ice Cream Capital of the World, the town of Le Mars in northwest Iowa literally smells sweet, thanks to the two Wells ice cream plants in town, as well as the Wells Visitor Center & Ice Cream Parlor, where you can sample flavors such as homemade vanilla, rocky road and strawberry cheesecake. For the ultimate sugar rush, order an extreme sundae—the Mega Mix-Up is loaded with four flavors, two crunches and two toppings.

On your stroll through town, look for ice cream sculptures painted up with rainbow hues. And while downtown, save room for Southern-style flavors at Iowa Barbecue. It specialized in favorites like brisket, pulled pork, ribs and scratch-made sausages, and it has a relaxing patio.

And mark your calendar for the town’s annual Ice Cream Days, this year June 16-18. There’s an ice cream social, car show, art walk, outdoor movie and more.
Mark your calendar for the Iowa Craft Brew Festival June 4 in Des Moines. The event runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Photo: Adam Wilson.


Beer lovers, here’s your chance to sample over 300 varieties of craft beers and ciders at the Iowa Craft Brew Festival in Des Moines. The event will be held June 4 at the Lauridsen Amphitheater in Water Works Park, south of downtown. Bring a picnic blanket or chairs to soak in the live tunes and verdant scenery.

General admission is $45, and $5 for designated drivers. Area food trucks will provide bites for an additional fee. Purchase tickets here.
Whether you're cruising out on the boat or in front of the stage, artists can be enjoyed from both sides of the pier at Black Hawk Lake in Lake View. Photo: Frolic Photography.


By Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

The town of Lake View in northwest Iowa lives up to its name year-round, right there on the west end of Black Hawk Lake. But during the annual Stone Pier Summer Concert Series—June 3, July 4, Aug. 6 and Sept. 4—the view is just the beginning. The sound of music, the flutter of the breeze, the taste of barbecue and potato salad all add up to a pretty good evening.

Bands perform right on the pier, which was built in the 1930s by a Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps crew who would enjoy, no doubt, seeing so many people benefit from their rock-hauling labor. Crowds gather on lawn chairs along the shore and in boats out on the water, where folks can order dinner from the “burger boat” operated by volunteers from the fire department. (There are food trucks for the landlubbers, too.)

“It’s just grown into this true celebration of a place—the lake and the community,” organizer Emily Busch says.
The concert series won an Iowa Tourism Award in 2019, the same year Lake View was designated an Iowa Great Place, which means there are plenty more things to do while you’re there. Check the city’s events page for details about various festivals, a popular fishing tournament founded by a local 11-year-old, and bike rides along the 33-mile Sauk Rail Trail that connects to Swan Lake down near Carroll.
Start your summer on a high note with a zip line through the woodsy terrain northwest of Dubuque.


Strap on a harness and zip through the scenic Mississippi River bluffs with Sky Tours at YMCA Union Park Camp
northwest of Dubuque. The park features nine zip lines that stretch up to 1,000 feet. The course starts out easy for first-timers—with zips called “bunny” and “rabbit run.”

A highlight is “The Duel,” billed as the first double-layered line in the Midwest. Expect lots of thrills during the two-hour guided tours. Plus, there’s a 360-degree lookout tower to enjoy all the greenery.
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Tour one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s important examples of Usonian design at Cedar Rock State Park in Quasqueton. Photo: Friends of Cedar Rock.


Step back in time to experience Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of the perfect home for a post-World War II Iowa family. Loaded with natural light thanks to skylights, clerestory windows and sheets of glass, the home is known for its simplicity and beauty. It sits atop a limestone bluff in Cedar Rock State Park, overlooking the winding Wapsipinicon River near Quasqueton in Buchanan County.

As you tour the home (reservations required), see the famous architect’s stamp throughout the space, including the furniture he designed as well as fabrics, carpets and accessories. The home also features his signature tile and a boat pavilion—the only one of its kind surviving.

The home is available for free tours Wednesdays through Sundays. To reserve a tour, call 319-934-3572 or email While at the site, take stroll a through grounds—QR codes provide information about the natural and cultural resources.
Mari Hunt Wassink (left), Dan Hogan (center) and Jake Kundert work in Grow: Johnson County’s 5-acre farm at Iowa City. Produce from these fields goes to those in need around the area.


Writer: Veronica Lorson Fowler

Photographer: Joe Crimmings

For Grow: Johnson County, it’s not enough to raise 25,000 pounds of fresh produce annually to distribute to hunger-relief agencies in the area. It’s also important that they train growers, people who will be leaders in the food system for decades to come.

“We want to create long-term change,” says Jake Kundert, former food systems director at Iowa Valley Resource Conservation and Development, the parent organization, where he worked through summer 2021 before starting work on a doctorate degree program.

That’s why Grow: Johnson County takes its training programs just as seriously as delivering fresh greens, tomatoes, peppers, onions and watermelon—all grown on their 5-acre farm located on the edge of Iowa City—to food pantries and distribution centers. Paid apprenticeships teach agricultural and food distribution basics. The organization also hosts a class, “Beyond Rootimentary,” as an educational outreach program where community members of all ages can learn more about gardening. Read the rest of the story here.

Iowa Stops Hunger is an ongoing initiative by Business Publications Corp. Inc. to raise awareness of food insecurity and inspire action to combat it.

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