CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids will be celebrity central this Aug. 3 to 5 when the inaugural “newbo evolve” festival brings to town Grammy winners Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, director and author John Waters, fashion stylist Carson Kressley, fashion designer Christian Siriano and woodworker Clint Harp from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” fame.
Not to mention the “Cedar Screamer,” a 1,000-foot zip line rising 10 stories to give thrill-seekers a bird’s-eye view as they zip from the NewBo District to the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library site across the Cedar River. The feature will be open to the public from May through mid-August.
Billed as three days of “music, art and inspiration,” the new festival announced Monday is inspired by, organizers said, the established South by Southwest and Burning Man festivals and TED Talks. The local version is designed to showcase the city’s evolution since the flood of 2008 raged through the heart of Cedar Rapids.
“We believe all eyes in the nation will be on Cedar Rapids, Iowa,” said Aaron McCreight, president and chief executive officer of GO Cedar Rapids, the travel and tourism bureau presenting the event. He was addressing more than 100 people gathered for the reveal Monday at Ideal Social Hall, 213 14th Ave. SE, adjacent to the planned concert site.
GO Cedar Rapids has been working on the plans for more than a year, McCreight said in an interview. The budget is not finalized, but he said it would be “in the neighborhood” of $4 to $5 million, with talent being a large line item. He said organizers believe the numbers will work when factoring in ticket sales, sponsorships, merchandise, food and beverage and other revenue sources.
The city of Cedar Rapids has been providing the organization with $1 million annually from hotel/motel tax grants, and one of the agreed upon goals was for GO Cedar Rapids to create events that would bring people to the city.
Last fall, the city advanced GO Cedar Rapids $500,000 from the September 2018 allocation to help pay for the zip line and to cover other upfront costs. GO Cedar Rapids must either repay the loan or forgo that amount in September.
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The newly completed Sinclair levee on the banks of the Cedar River in the NewBo District will morph into an outdoor venue to accommodate 15,000 people for Clarkson on Aug. 3 and Maroon 5 on Aug. 4.
Four thousand all-inclusive passes for people ages 18 and older go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday through newboevolve.com and Ticketmaster. Cost is $375 plus taxes and fees, and offers preferred-section seating at both concerts as well as admission to the full festival offerings.
Passholders can go to various area sites to hear celebrity keynote speakers and attend interactive sessions on art, food, fashion, dance, gardening, technology and well-being. Passes also feature perks and discounts to other activities, restaurants, shops and venues. The NewBo City Market yard will be transformed into what organizers call “an ultra” lounge and performance area, a meeting space with a bar, seating and entertainment on the market stage, open to passholders.
For those who just want to see the main stage concerts, another 11,000 general admission concert tickets for all ages go on sale at 10 a.m. Feb. 9. Prices begin at $54.50 for Clarkson and $70 for Maroon 5, available online at gocedarrapids.com/newboevolve/tickets, the U.S. Cellular Center Box Office or at 1-(800) 745-3000.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart plans to snap up four passes.
“It’s really exciting, and it really does show just how far we’ve come since ’08,” he said of the city’s ongoing flood recovery and prevention efforts. “We’re not where we can be, but this is another big step forward — and an exciting step forward.”
It’s a chance for people who haven’t been here to see what’s going on, he added.
“They’ll see a cool, hip community that surprises them,” he said. “ ... It’s not just for outsiders — it’s for everybody in Cedar Rapids. I hope most of the tickets are sold to people here in Cedar Rapids.”
The events fall the same weekend as the popular open-air Hinterland Music Festival south of Des Moines and Lollapalooza in Chicago’s Grant Park — facts not lost on the GO Cedar Rapids staff.
“You should have seen us about a year ago,” McCreight told The Gazette. “We had the regional calendar in front of us, with all the things that are going on. As you might imagine in the Midwest in the summer, it’s tough. You’re never going to find that one weekend where nothing is happening. ... We looked at that weekend as being the weekend between RAGBRAI and the Iowa State Fair. That’s our sweet spot right there, so let’s own that weekend.”
Crossover artist Clarkson, who shot to fame as the first “American Idol” winner, and California rockers Maroon 5 were chosen “specifically because of their broad reach, because of their broad appeal,” McCreight said.
The affiliated sessions are targeted for a broad age range, too, he added, citing “that 25-to-65” gamut. “It’s a broad-reaching festival that everybody should be able to find something or some things that speak to them.”
Scott Dix, managing director at NewBo City Market, falls in the middle of the target zone at age 38.
“It’s tremendously exciting,” he said. “I’m new to Cedar Rapids — I’ve only been here for about 18 months, and just recently taken an active role in the community. And to jump in at a time at NewBo City Market, where we’re going to be a central hub and a major part of the evolve event, is extremely exciting for me. So it’s nice to be in the center of the blast radius of this whole thing.”
He sees the concert lineup as “a great draw.”
“We’ve got this beautiful five-hour circle where it seems like every major city in the Midwest is just five hours away,” he said, “so hopefully our reach goes out that far. We’re going to be bringing some people in to show them how great Cedar Rapids really is.”
If you go
• What: newbo evolve
• When: Aug. 3-5
• Where: Cedar Rapids’ NewBo District, with sessions and panels at other sites, including DoubleTree by Hilton, Theatre Cedar Rapids, Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids Public Library, African American Museum of Iowa and National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
• Concerts: Kelly Clarkson, Aug. 3, and Maroon 5, Aug. 4; Sinclair levee at Second Street and 14th Avenue SE
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• Festival passes: $375 plus taxes and fees, ages 18 and older, on sale 10 a.m. Friday at newboevolve.com and Ticketmaster; admission to both concerts and all festival events
• Concert-only tickets: Clarkson, beginning at $54.50, Maroon 5 beginning at $70, all ages, on sale 10 a.m. Feb. 9, U.S. Cellular Center Box Office, 1-(800) 745-3000 or www.gocedarrapids.com/newboevolve/tickets/
• Information: www.newboevolve.com
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B.A. Morelli from The Gazette contributed to this report.