CEDAR RAPIDS — Most who made their way to the inaugural “newbo evolve” festival this weekend say they would welcome its return next year.
The three-day festival saw a modest debut, with most of its top-billed speaker events seeing attendance of fewer than 100.
But its musical acts drew big crowds, and even residents who didn’t shell out for festival passes — which were sold for $375 plus tax each — said they were rooting for the festival’s success.
“I think it’s awesome to bring something like this to Cedar Rapids,” said Harold Stone of Cedar Rapids. “I hope to see it again next year. It brings a great energy to Cedar Rapids.”
Stone visited the NewBo District Sunday with his wife, Amy, and their two young daughters. Passes for the family of four weren’t in the budget, they said.
“But we’re down here to support what we can,” Amy Stone said.
The festival featured a celebrity-filled speaker series that took place mostly at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel downtown, pop-up shops downtown, exclusive lounges in the New Bohemia neighborhood and outdoor shows by Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5 south of NewBo.
The idea of having such an event in their hometown was enough to make Lynn Manternach, 55, and her husband Tim Wigans, 57, buy passes soon after it was announced.
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“We were excited to see something so cool in Cedar Rapids,” Manternach said. “We wanted to do what we can to make sure it happens again.”
Some logistical pieces could be improved, she said, such as having events spread out across town instead of centralized in the event’s namesake neighborhood.
GO Cedar Rapids, the tourism bureau behind the festival, “is learning a lot of about how to conduct a festival like this,” said Mike Hattery, of Cedar Rapids, who also paid full price for his pass. “They’re figuring it out. … The logistics, security — it’s a huge learning process the first time.”
Thomas Ramsey, too, attended the festival in a show of support for GO Cedar Rapids. The 58-year-old from Washington, D.C., said he bought passes for himself and his niece after seeing a friend from college — Scott Tallman, director of community events for GO Cedar Rapids — post about the festival on social media.
“I saw that he had posted this on Facebook and I said, ‘Wow, that’s great that Cedar Rapids is getting something like this,’” Ramsey said. “And since he’s an old friend, I decided to support it.”
He and his niece, Lydia Oft, 18, attended most of the festival’s events.
“We’re wanting to get our money’s worth,” Ramsey said.
Although GO Cedar Rapids predicted tens of thousands would turn out for its inaugural festival, it was clear throughout the weekend a massive crowd hadn’t materialized.
Jennifer Rigdon, 50, of Cedar Rapids, said she would attend the fest again but hoped a successive event would be able to attract more people.
“Some of these sessions are so incredible that we feel so sad that the rooms aren’t very full,” Rigdon said.
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She bought her pass soon after learning about the festival. While she enjoyed the all-access pass, she said the event should also include tickets to individual sessions and events for people without passes.
“Then you fill the room a little more,” she said.
Still, most who spoke to The Gazette over the weekend said they would return for another “newbo evolve.”
“Bringing world-renowned chefs and presenters brings another level to Cedar Rapids,” said Tanya Green, who received a complimentary pass because her husband, Chef Anthony Green, was a presenter. “Getting to experience it the way we did — it was really amazing.
“You had to be here to experience it.”
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