The Best Days Have Ice Cream

Monday, June 13, 2022

LE MARS — Scoopfuls of fun await at this year’s Ice Cream Days Festival, June 16-18 in Le Mars.

The 2022 festival has been completely reimagined starting with shifting the number of days from four to three.

“We felt that reducing from four days to three days and really jam packing all the events into three days would be the best for the people who are coming in from out of town to enjoy the event,” said Shannon Rodenburg, executive planning committee member, Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce vice-president of marketing, and Wells Visitor Center manager. “It also book ends Father’s Day so we wanted to free up Saturday evening and Sunday to leave time for that as well.”

With the reduction of days, the decision was also made to centralize the majority of the festival’s events in and around the Olson Cultural Events Center.

The chamber coffee will serve as the official kick off of the celebration at 9:30 a.m., Thursday, June 16, at the Wells Visitor Center and Ice Cream Parlor.

Throughout the day events such as free root beer floats served at the Plymouth County Historical Museum, The Browns “Oh, My Iowa!” Show at the Browns Century Theater, a downtown scavenger hunt, Alley Art Exploration, a family bike ride, and the opening of a new exhibit entitled, “Local Waters” at the Le Mars Arts Center, fills the schedule on the first day.

Highlighting Thursday is also the return of Primebank’s annual ice cream social from 6-8 p.m. with a performance by the Notables, culminating with Total Motors presentation of a drive in movie featuring, “Frozen,” at 8:30 p.m. at their location, 801 Hawkeye Ave. S.W.

Friday Fun Day

Friday, June 17 will once again feature a downtown scavenger hunt, free root beer floats at the museum, The Browns show, and Alley Art Exploration.

Good Samaritan Society will once again bring smiles to their residents faces and those of attendees, as they watch children bring their cutest, silliest, and toothless smiles to their annual smile contest and ice cream social.

Registration begins at 2 p.m. with the ice cream social following the contest. The winners will be announced on Friday and will also be recognized prior to the Browns closing show on the Olson stage Saturday.

From 2:30-4:30 p.m., Friday the Le Mars Public Library brings back their Kid’s Fun Fest with performances at 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. at the Olson Cultural Events Center. The event will feature a magician, juggling, comedy acts, and interactive bubble stations.

Here Comes the Carnival

One of the biggest additions to this year’s festival is that of the Midwest Rides Carnival. From 3-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, rides for adults and children alike will be available for the whole family to enjoy.

“What festival doesn’t have a carnival?,” Rodenburg responded when asked about the addition. “In the spirit of reimagining what Ice Cream Days is and what it means to the community and to try and attract people from outside of the community in, we saw a carnival as a big draw and another reason to bring the whole family.”

While the specific rides to be featured at the festival are not yet determined, Rodenburg did say there will be three adult rides with one of those hopefully a Ferris wheel, and at least two kiddie rides.

For those not wanting to experience the thrill rides of the carnival, Rodenburg said there is something for those looking for a more laid back activity.

“We are going to be offering free games — a big Connect 4, giant Jenga, giant checkers, a cherry toss game similar to a football toss, and reimagined corn hole that and we are calling ‘cone hole.’ These games are all going to be located around the Olson grounds on Friday night and then be moved on to Central for Saturday,” she shared.

The evening will round out with a performance by the Omaha Circus Acts from 7:30-9 p.m.

“I’m not going to give away what the crowd can expect but I will say there are going to be some really cool street performers who are going to be walking around the Olson Center on Friday night ahead of the main stage show,” she said. “If you think about what you might see at a typical circus there could be some jugglers, there could be some fire eaters, there could be any number of different acts, but it should be really cool.”

Rodenburg said the committee is really excited to have Omaha Circus Acts be a part of this year’s festival.

“They are going to put on a spectacular show,” she said. “The owner has been really inspired by Ice Cream Days and it will be a customized show with special outfits and everything. For a free entertainment opportunity on Friday, in my opinion, it can’t be missed.”

Scoopfuls of Family Fun

The culmination of those two days all leads up to the highlight of the festival on Saturday, June 18, the parade. This year the parade will begin at 10 a.m. on the Boulevard (8th Street) and end at First Street Northwest.

“The parade route has been shortened this year because the city passed new rules that no parade in the City of Le Mars can be longer than 10 blocks,” Rodenburg said.

In previous years the parade had always ran from Le Mars Community High School and traveled down Central before ending at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds.

This year, Rodenburg said the parade has 82 entries.

“With over 80 parade entries, spectators can expect to see a wide range of creative vehicles and floats celebrating ice cream while showcasing all the great businesses and organizations in Le Mars and the surrounding communities,” she said.

In addition to the parade route change, Rodenburg also noted that participants are no longer able to throw candy as part of the new regulations implemented by the city.

“You will see a lot more volunteers this year because of the sheer amount of candy that will need to be handed out and it will need to be done from a much smaller distance or hand-to-hand contact,” she explained.

Vendors, Food, Beverages... Oh My

Once the parade is over, guests can head back to the area surrounding the Olson Cultural Events Center to visit the 43 merchants who will be on hand selling their various goods.

The Merchant Market will be stationed on First Avenue Northwest from in front of the Le Mars Sentinel office and extending north towards the Knights of Columbus Hall.

“We are not going to block any of the Fareway entrances and as a way of making up for our snafu last year, we have some signs printed and volunteers stationed to ensure their parking lot remains used for only Fareway shoppers,” Rodenburg said.

Another issue addressed since last year’s event was the number of food vendors available to meet the crowd demands.

This year there will be eight food vendors plus beverage stations Friday and Saturday in the KC Hall parking lot. Midwest Rides will also have a food stand near the carnival rides.

“Our approach was to only allow food vendors from Plymouth County to participate,” Rodenburg said. “In the spirit of wanting to celebrate the small and local businesses here in Le Mars and immediate surrounding communities, food vendors are limited to Plymouth County.”

Food vendors available for this year’s festival include:

• The KC’s — serving chicken strips, mac ‘n cheese, grilled chicken, grilled cheese, pork tenderloin, philly’s, and more.

• Chicken and Waffles — serving their standard sandwiches, wraps and fried pickles.

• Hy-Vee — serving hamburgers, hot dogs and brats.

• Loaded — serving their array of sandwiches, including patty melts and burgers.

• Jack’s Kettle Korn — serving their famous Kettle Korn “as they have been for numerous years now,” shared Rodenburg.

• Habitué on Wheels — serving fruit smoothies and lattes, and possibly muffins and cookies.

• Tropical Snow — serving up snow cones; and

• Wells on Wheels — selling various novelties.  “If you want something quick to grab and go, go to the Wells on Wheels truck. If you want delicious, decadent, extreme desserts or your favorite waffle cone come across the street to the Wells Visitor Center,” Rodenburg urged.

In addition to the food vendors, Rodenburg said several beverage stations will also be set up around the Olson selling water, lemonade, ice tea, and cold brew beverages.

“We feel you have your sweets and treats but you also have your more hearty staples. And if you want a reprieve from what is going to be the sunny and warm weather, there are of course restaurants along Central and Plymouth we would encourage guests to visit,” she added.

Highlighting the Arts

On Saturday afternoon, Celtic dancers will return to once again perform their traditional Celtic dance at noon. In addition, Le Mars’ own Central Dance Academy performers and Turn Around gymnasts will offer performances for the crowd. The Turn Around will perform at 12:30 p.m., with the CDA performing at 1 p.m.

Absolute Science, a magic performance, will appear on the Olson stage at 1:30 p.m.

“The show will be different from last year but it is the same act. He does an amazing show. He involves the kids and there’s educational elements to the show. It’s really fun for the whole family,” Rodenbug shared.

At 2:30 p.m., The Postal Playhouse will also return after their performances last year to put on another act.

“They are very excited. They had so much fun with it last year and were chomping at the bit to be involved again this year,” Rodenburg stated. “It’s always nice when we not only celebrate the businesses and all that we have to offer here economically in Le Mars, but we celebrate the arts and the culture and those who really help set this community apart.”

Other activities stationed around the Olson on Saturday will be face painting, air brush and glitter tattoo, caricature and balloon artists. A bubble station will also return this year after being a huge hit in 2021, but will be moved to the Bamboo Village parking lot.

Tours will also be available of the Le Mars Community Theatre at noon at 2 p.m., free root beer floats will be served from noon to 5 p.m., at the museum, as well as a Trains Across America program at 1:30 p.m., and ice cream bingo will be featured at the Wells Visitor Center at noon.

The final downtown scavenger hunts will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, as well as Alley Art Exploration.

The Big Finale

The three day festival will conclude at 4 p.m. with The Browns “Ice Cream Days” show on the Olson Cultural Events Center stage.

Another major change with the reimagination was the cancellation of the Ice Cream Bash, which previously rounded out the festival Saturday evening.

“We have heard feedback from several people throughout the community that the concert is going to be missed this year,” Rodenburg shared. “So once we get past the event this year, the executive committee will be meeting and we will see what a concert may or may not look like next year.

“This year, we didn’t want to bite off more than we could chew. We really pulled this entire festival plan together in four short months. It became kind of a prioritization piece and this year we really wanted to focus on keeping everything family-friendly,” she continued.

Tough Decisions Met With Resistance

Just as concerns have been raised over changing certain logistics of the festival, feedback has also been heard regarding eliminating former festival elements, such as the Ice Cream Bash and Fishing Derby.

“We have received some feedback from events that have not been included as part of the Ice Cream Days Festival list of events and reason again goes back to centralizing the location. If you are a visitor coming from the Omaha area and you want to experience the best that Ice Cream Days has to offer, the hope would be that you park your car downtown and spend the entirety of your evening, morning or three days around the Olson Cultural Events Center,” Rodenburg shared.

“So we had to make some calls this year that had been met with some resistance and there were no hard feelings involved. It was purely sticking to the strategic foundation we had laid which was it needs to fit in this criteria to be eligible to be an Ice Cream Days event. One of the biggest pieces of that was the ability or willingness to move events to a centralized downtown location.”

Rodenburg however did acknowledge there was one exception made to the festival’s new vision.

“The drive in movie at Total Motors is not downtown at Olson because we just didn’t have the capacity for the estimated attendance for that event and the fact that the old drive in movie location was where Total is now,” she explained.  “In that way it made sense because Total can accommodate all of those cars and so that is the one exception to the rules we had laid out.”

Community Pillars Step Up

This year’s festival is being sponsored by 25 local businesses who committed $1,000 to $10,000 towards the three day event.

“There has always been an ask for event sponsors but the previous approach to sponsorships was not conducive of putting on an event of this scale. In shifting our approach this year and looking to seek sponsors in a tiered structure it really helped us to give them benefits that they’re looking for to help market them to people who are coming to this community,” Rodenburg said.

Rodenburg continued the other piece was the investment level required to execute an event reimagined to the magnitude in which the 2022 festival was.

“This year was much higher than in previous years because we are attracting top level entertainment and we wanted the majority if not all of the events to be free for people to enjoy. In order to do that we had to invest a bit,” she shared.

“As the Ice Cream Capital of the World it made sense that Wells Enterprises came in as the presenting sponsor. In doing so, we were able to leverage all of Wells resources — the design, communication and marketing teams. This really brought the whole toolbox of what they use for their premium brands to market Ice Cream Days as a best-in-class event,” Rodenburg noted.

Hoping to Draw from the Tri-State Region

Those resources helped the executive committee spread the word about the festival reaching as far as two and a half hours away stretching from Okoboji to Sioux Falls to Lincoln, Nebraska.

“I’d love to see at least 5,000 people,” Rodenburg said of her attendance goal for this year’s festival. “We see a lot of potential of what Ice Cream Days can grow into. We want to approach it in the right way and establish the right foundation so that we can grow from this at the appropriate speed to get it to be one of the region’s top festivals of the year.”

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