Around every turn in the road is a festival celebrating summer in Eastern Iowa. We’ve gathered up a few of the biggest and best to highlight here, but for more, check the calendar at HooplaNow.com and sign up for Hoopla's email newsletter. And if you're looking for even more family-friendly activities, check out our 2018 guide to summer camps and kids programs.
May 5 to 6: Maifest launches the festival season in the Amanas, showcasing history and German heritage through ceremonial Maypole dances, oompah bands, crafts and craft beers, a 10 a.m. Saturday parade and a bounty of delectable delights at restaurants, pubs and Saturday’s World on Wheels Food Truck Fare. Details: Festivalsinamana.com
May 26 to 28 and June 2 to 3: Prithee shine up your suits of armor or dust off your dust caps and jump into ye olden days with the Iowa Renaissance Festival & Gathering o’ Celts in Medici Grove, otherwise known as Middle Amana Park, 27th Avenue and H Street. Music and magic, jousting and swordplay, food and drink await visitors of all ages. Times: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., rain or shine. Admission: $12 adults, $6 ages 6 to 13, free ages 5 and under; multiday passes available. Details: Iowarenfest.com
June 16: Meet Amana meats at the best of the wurst Brats & Brews Festival. Sample sausages, hoist a pint and cheer on the little doggies running in the Dachshund Derby. Details: Festivalsinamana.com/wurst.html
May 26 to Sept. 1: Cars go away and people come out to play and shop at the Downtown Farmers Markets on Saturday mornings May 26, June 2 and 16, July 7 and 21, Aug. 4 and 18 and Sept. 1. On Aug. 25 the action switches to the evening for the ever-popular Market After Dark. Whatever the hour, the festival atmosphere includes food ready to eat or ingredients to take home, entertainment, crafts, flowers, wine and cheese from nearly 200 area vendors. Details: Cedarrapids.org/events/farmers-market
June 19 to July 4: Break out your red, white and blue for Eastern Iowa’s Fourth of July extravaganza, the Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival. Join more than 400,000 people who celebrate with parades, concerts, human and canine contests, kids’ games, a balloon glow, food, fun and fireworks. Many events are free with a festival button. Details: Freedomfestival.com/events
Aug. 3 to 5: The stars are coming out day and night for the inaugural newbo evolve festival of music, art and inspiration. The lineup includes outdoor concerts by Kelly Clarkson on Aug. 3 and Maroon 5 on Aug. 4, as well as celebrity events with the stylish Carson Kressley and Christian Siriano, the artful Clint Harp from “Fixer Upper,” internet entrepreneur and Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, and “Hairspray” and “Cry-Baby” filmmaker John Waters. More events are evolving. Admission: three-day passes, $402.50; concert-only tickets begin at $70 for Maroon Five and $54.50 for Kelly Clarkson. Details: Gocedarrapids.com/newboevolve
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Aug. 31: If your heart bleeds black and gold, FRYfest is the place to celebrate all things Hawkeye all day long. Events in the Iowa River Landing area include a block party, trade show, pep rally and concert. Details: Fryfest.com
July 26 to 28: “You had me at lefse” is the theme for this year’s Nordic Fest celebration of all things Scandinavian. Don’t know lefse from lutefisk? Decorah is the place to be to eat, drink, test your mettle in sporting events and make merry, from the pageantry of Thursday night’s open ceremonies through Saturday’s 10:30 a.m. parade and 10 p.m. fireworks, plus plenty of in between. Details: Nordicfest.com
The Summer of the Arts showcases everything from movies to concerts al fresco, all summer long on downtown streets and the adjacent University of Iowa Pentacrest. It’s an annual free-for-all, with free admission to all events — just be sure to bring blankets or chairs. Festival dates and descriptions are as follows, with more information at Summerofthearts.org
May 18 to Aug. 31: The Friday Night Concert Series showcases local, regional and national talent in a new spot this year. With renovations on the Ped Mall, the music moves to North Clinton Street between Iowa Avenue and Jefferson Street, by the Pentacrest.
June 1 to 3: Art and music meet in the streets at the Iowa Arts Festival, featuring a juried art show and sale, with the biggest names in music flinging their artistry over their audiences.
June 9 to Aug. 25: The Free Movie Series brings hits, throwbacks and family fare to the Pentacrest on Saturday nights.
June 29 to July 1: Temperatures run from cool to hot at the annual Iowa City Jazz Festival. Musicians from the local, national and international scenes keep the beats going on stages, with finale fireworks bursting overhead.
Iowa Soul Festival: Featuring the dance, music, food and art of the African and African-American communities. Dates TBA; Summerofthearts.org/sota-events/iowa-soul-festival
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July 18 to 22: The Great Jones County Fair is the place to be to get your fill of great — not fair — food, rides, exhibits and entertainment. Thousands flock to the hillsides, racetrack and bleachers for great — not fair — concerts. This year’s lineup: Casting Crowns on July 22, Jason Aldean on July 19, Luke Bryan on July 20 and Kid Rock with guest Ted Nugent on July 21. Details: Greatjonescountyfair.com/2018
July 14: You won’t be singing the blues at the Blues & BBQ festival. Centennial Park is transformed into a music venue, with featured artists to be announced in May. The tunes are served up alongside a full lineup of Iowa craft beer and delectable barbecue, plus Turkey Trot races to benefit the North Liberty Community Pantry. Details: northlibertyblues.org
June 29 to 30: The future birthplace of Capt. James T. Kirk rolls out an intergalactic carpet to welcome aliens and earthlings to its annual “Star Trek” extravaganza. Parades, concerts, “Star Trek” trivia and costume contests, recreation, games for all ages and food will give guests an out-of-this-world experience. Details: Trekfest.org
Aug. 25: If you like things that go boom in the night, Boomtown will thrill and fill you with oohs and aahs with earthshaking pyrotechnics from fireballs and fireworks alike. Details: Vintonboomtown.com
Aug. 3 to 4: West Branch native son Herbert Hoover lives on in the annual Hoover’s Hometown Days celebration. Music, food and rides are part of the fun, but the highlight is the world championships of Hoover-ball, a game invented to help keep the nation’s 31st president in shape. Details: Hooverdays.org
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