Riverbend Rally

Riverbend Rally 2020 won't look like it has in past years, but community leaders are hopeful they can plan some kind of celebration amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While some communities have made the decision to cancel their summer festivals amid the coronavirus pandemic, leaders in Iowa Falls will attempt to give the community some kind of celebration on the Fourth of July, even if it isn’t the same as in past years.

Iowa Falls Chamber/Main Street plans Riverbend Rally, a multi-day celebration that’s held every Fourth of July. This year, amid concerns about COVID-19 and public health officials’ guidelines to social distance to prevent the virus’ spread, the chamber’s board of directors seemed poised to cancel the festival. But at a chamber meeting last week, Iowa Falls City Manager Jody Anderson proposed keeping the festival and scaling it back to keep the public safe.

“They were looking at we may have to cancel Riverbend Rally,” Anderson told the city council on Monday. “Diana (Thies, chamber director) is not going to go ask businesses for donations at a time like this. I encouraged them to come to the council so that we could have some kind of Riverbend celebration.”

Riverbend Rally is not funded by the City of Iowa Falls. Events at the festival are sponsored (and funded) through donations from area businesses and organizations. But this year, with most businesses reporting negative financial impacts from the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting shutdowns, Anderson said few would be willing or able to give to the celebration. He proposed the city give some of its local option sales tax revenue to the cause.

Anderson said some of his ideas for the amended celebration include a “reverse parade” - displays would be set up along a street in town and the public would drive past them. And, Anderson proposed, gift cards could be purchased from local businesses and those could be handed out to the parade-goers as a way to support businesses. Other ideas include a fireworks show - or multiple fireworks shows - set off from high points in town so the public could watch from their homes without congregating in one place.

“We don’t want crowds to gather,” Anderson said. “We need people to stay home or stay in smaller groups. We just need to change things up this year.”

Thies, at the Chamber, said the festival’s carnival, food trucks, Estes Park activities and the gathering at Riverbend Park will be canceled. Other traditional events - a pancake breakfast, bike ride and the crowning of Miss Iowa Falls could still happen, but they’d be held in very different ways compared to past years.

“We’ll be working on trying to get something so people have something to do the day of the Fourth of July,” Thies said. “We want people to still have a nice Fourth. It’s not going to be the same, but it is what it is.”

While Anderson suggested a city donation of $10,000, the council increased that to $20,000 to make sure everything - including fireworks - could be funded. Anderson and Thies said more information about the amended celebration will be announced next month.

So far this spring, Hubbard and Alden have canceled their town festivals. The Ackley Chamber of Commerce announced earlier this week that it has decided to cancel this year’s Sauerkraut Days, which was scheduled for June 11-14. New Providence Heritage Days is still a go, but organizers said it - like Riverbend Rally - will be scaled back.

The full Hardin County area festival schedule is as follows:

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