CEDAR RAPIDS — When Dakota Crosswhite saw her friend’s business, Tornado’s Pub & Grub, surrounded by water as the Cedar River spilled its banks in late September, she knew she wanted to help.
So she set up a Facebook event, inviting a few dozen of her friends for a night out to support the bar and restaurant after it reopened.
“It’s a family-owned restaurant. They have a whole family who missed out on so much income. I wanted them to have a great Friday night, make up some tips,” she said.
When she woke up the next morning, the event had gone viral. Before she knew it, more than 1,000 people had said they plan to attend, with 2,500 more expressing interest.
“It kind of just kept snowballing to a bigger and bigger event,” Crosswhite said. “I can’t believe how much support there has been for this. It’s blown my mind.”
She formed a planning committee, moved the event back a week to Oct. 15, and got more businesses involved. Now with a daylong slate of live music planned on an outdoor stage, food vendors, a silent auction and family friendly games, her small gathering of friends has become an official “Party on the NoBo Side,” complete with a city permit to shut down Third Street SE on the east side of 16th Ave. SE — the side a wall of sand-filled barriers did not protect during the flood.
Despite the controversy that came with that decision, and the resulting “NoBo” moniker for the “wet” side of the neighborhood, Crosswhite said the event is not about taking sides.
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“Instead of focusing on that, the best thing we can do is focus on how we can build the businesses back up and how we can move forward,” she said.
Crosswhite said part of the reason the event was moved to Saturday is so people can also help NewBo City Market celebrate it’s reopening weekend. The market plans to reopen Thursday.
The Slaughter family, which owns Tornado’s, mounted a round-the-clock pumping effort to keep water out of the building as the river crested. They took on about a foot of water in the basement and reopened Oct. 1. Other businesses on the block, including vintage and retro furniture store Mad Modern and Kickstand Bar & Grill, had water on their main floors and are still refurbishing.
Crosswhite said she plans to divide proceeds from the party, and from a GoFundMe drive, between the “wet side” businesses to help them recoup losses. She said Kickstand owners are planning to distribute the funds to staff who lost more than two weeks of their income.
Brett McCormick, who has been refurbishing two buildings on that block, said watching the community come together has been inspiring. One of his buildings is to house Bo Mac Pizza, slated to open at 219 15th Ave. SE by the end of the year. He said they hadn’t put in insulation or drywall yet, so the building didn’t sustain much damage from the flood. His second building, at 1609 Third St. SE, is to house a live music and entertainment hall in the former Sinclair meatpacking plant, with an outdoor amphitheater behind it. Since the process of gutting the building already had begun, they’re simply continuing that process.
McCormick said he doesn’t need the money from the fundraiser for his business but is hopeful people come out to support his neighbors.
“I think a shared event like the flood has facilitated more meaningful conversations in the neighborhood. I think it has brought people closer together,” he said. “I hope a lot of people come out and the community supports Torando’s.”
IF YOU GO
l What: Party on the NoBo Side
l Where: Tornado’s Pub & Grub, 1400 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
l When: Saturday, Oct 15; gates open 11 a.m., bands start at 11:30 a.m.; outside music ends at 10 p.m.
l Cost: Free will donation