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Chickfest brings shoppers from near and far to Charles City

By Kelly Terpstra,

From the vineyards of Fort Dodge to the heart of Wisconsin dairy country, people traveled to attend Chickfest 2019 in Charles City.

The shopping extravaganza featured a little bit of everything on Saturday morning — including Willy Wonka-inspired golden tickets and an indoor farmer’s market.

Sisters Lavonne Majerly and Rita Sinnwell were the first to enter the Charles City Chamber of Commerce doors to receive gift bags for the annual retail promotional event.

The pair stood in line for 45 minutes ahead of the 9 a.m. start time.

Let’s just say the sisters are early risers.

“We get up really early. We’re old farm girls. We get up at like 4 o’clock,” said Majerly.

Majerly drove over 3½ hours to meet Sinnwell, who lives in Charles City. Majerly lives in Stoughton, Wisconsin, about an hour south of the dairy state’s capitol of Madison. Majerly also says she has an apartment in nearby Alta Vista.

“We’re not night people – morning people, yes,” said Sinnwell.

Sinnwell was happy her sister made the trek down to Iowa. The sisters planned to make a day of it. They said they were going to try to hit all 26 participating stores that were involved in Chickfest this year.

“Looks like they had a really good turnout, which is great,” said Sinnwell. “I just appreciate the people putting this on. This is great. It’s always fun to see everybody and check out all the stores.”

Chickfest has become a spring tradition in Charles City. More than 100 people stood outside the Chamber office on the gray and overcast spring morning; the first 150 through the door received the gift bags that included 14 golden tickets dispersed randomly.

“Every Chickfest participating business has one golden ticket good for a special gift, special treat or discount or offer – kind of like Willy Wonka,” said Mark Wicks, community development director, who has been involved with Chickfest for six years now.

A home business vendor show also took place at 216 North Main Street that featured 10 different vendors and 15 companies.

Unfortunately, the planned horse-drawn carriage rides that were to be offered by Top Hat Carriage Service had to postpone because of the weather. They had planned to give carriage rides around downtown, with a pick-up point at Central Park.

Wicks said the safety of the horses was a concern of the owners due to the possibility of thunder.

“The weather man told me sunny and 66,” said Wicks, with a sarcastic grin. “It was the thunderstorm that they had to the west of us that was threatening to come this way. The rain’s one thing, but if there’s thunder, it spooks the horses.”

Deb McNelius dressed up in the traditional yellow chick costume. She greeted Chickfest attendees at the Chamber door and handed them gift bags. McNelius sold her successful clothing business, Darbe and Co. Boutique, last summer to Rhonda Dana.

The boutique was one of the places that Jerry Cooper of Fort Dodge was going to be hanging out Saturday. He stopped by the Chickfest and then was headed off to Darbe and Co. to offer wine samples.

“We’ve got a vineyard. I’ve got about 12 acres of grapes,” said Cooper.

He made the two-hour trip from Webster County to promote Soldier Creek Winery of Fort Dodge, which will sell bottles in Dana’s boutique.

“We supply the grapes for the winery and then we work together with them to help distribute the wine,” he said.

Cooper said has been travelling the state for the last five years representing Soldier Creek Winery. He said he was in Denison on Friday, in southwest Iowa.