City Notes: Planning for the summer of 2017

By Mark Wicks, Charles City Community Development Director

What a great start last Friday to our 2017 summer season of events and activities in Charles City! The first Party in the Park of the season drew a huge crowd and had a wide range of offerings for all ages. It didn’t hurt that Mother Nature cooperated with a wonderfully comfortable evening.

A Charles City Hotel/Motel Tax Fund Grant also made it possible to bring in a second band that night, a dance floor and the inflatable rides. Thanks to all who made that night possible, including our sponsors, vendors and, of course, the public who came out and took part in the fun.

Community support and participation in events such as these are critical to their success and continued sustainability. These big public activities are not easy or cheap to put on. While both Community Revitalization, which puts on Party in the Park, and the Charles City Area Chamber of Commerce are non-profit organizations, they can’t afford to lose money in offering events such as PIP or the annual Fourth of July Celebration. At the very least we need to break even, but even then it is a bit of a losing proposition when you consider the time and effort that went into planning, organizing and putting on the event. Businesses call it “Return on Investment,” or “ROI,” when they look at how much they invested into something and how much is gotten back in return.

After each event the Chamber or Community Revitalization puts on, we review how it went and consider our return on investment.

This is not to say that what the Chamber or CR does is all about money. Of all the proceeds from our events, we only collect 10-15 percent for administrative and hosting costs. The rest of the revenue goes back to the vendors, bands and the community in general through the purchase of supplies, advertising and insurance.

What the Chamber and CR are about is bringing people together and showcasing our community in a positive way. If the event was beneficial to Charles City and the time and effort put into it worthwhile, we look at offering it again. If not, then onward and upward with something new.

The Party in the Park summer series is in its 15th year, because businesses and the public continue to support and participate in it. However, the average attendance at each event over the last few years has begun to dip – last Friday aside where we had a tremendous crowd.

Weather plays a role in that, with one PIP night last year cut in half by rain and two others being so darn hot nobody wanted to be outside. We can’t control that, but with the costs of putting on such events going up and the participation level declining somewhat, we had to look at our return on investment.

When Party in the Park started, our average band cost was $400-$600. Today it is $1,500-$1,800. Sponsor support is still there, but getting harder to come by, while public participation is also still there but not as great as in years past. As a result, the decision was made by the PIP Committee to drop down from six events a year to five and not raise sponsor prices. The five dates vs. six also gives us a little flexibility in the case of a rain-out and trying to re-schedule an event.

In addition to the four remaining Party in the Park events on June 9 and 23, July 14 and Aug. 4, upcoming summer events include the Charles City Challenge: Whitewater Weekend and the Charles City BBQ Challenge, both on June 17 and both put on by the Chamber. Enjoy the sights of whitewater competition and the smell of barbecue smoking all day.

New on the river this year will be an “Inner tube Intermission.” Grab 3-5 people for your team and float the rapids for free.

Tickets to the BBQ Challenge are available at the Chamber Office, 401 North Main. VIP tickets are $25 and get you one rib from every barbecue participant, which is usually enough to feed a couple or even a family of three. Ala carte tickets will be available for $5 and get you three ribs from your choice of smokers. VIP sampling will begin at 4:30 p.m. and ala carte sampling at 5:15 p.m.

New this year will be Black Dog BBQ, the winner

of the Challenge the last two years, serving barbecue offerings to the public all day as a vendor.

The Chamber’s biggest annual event is the multi-day Fourth of July celebration. This year the Fourth falls on a Tuesday, which is somewhat problematic from an event planning standpoint since a lot of people will be working the day before and the day after. History has also shown us that not as many visitors are on hand for the Fourth when it is in the middle of the week rather than ona weekend.

Even more recent history, such as the last few years, has shown us a changing dynamic in the public’s participation in the multi-day events. They still come out in droves for Kid’s Day and on July 4th itself, but the turnout for some of the other days’ activities has been less than great.

Those people who did participate reported having a good time and enjoying the bands, but the crowds were way down from past years outside of the Fourth. Again, we have to look at our return on investment. If the sponsor and public support doesn’t warrant four full days worth of activities in Central Park, then it doesn’t make sense to do that.

This year there will be two full days of things to do in the park, on July 3 and 4. We have two good bands lined up for Monday, with Charles City’s own PV & The Phantoms and then The Plott Hounds, an acclaimed band from Minneapolis featuring native Charles City son Jeff Powell. Back by popular demand on Tuesday will be Endless Summer, immediately following the parade and the Firecracker 5 races before that.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything else going on the weekend before. On Friday, June 30, there is a Classic Car Night at Dave’s Restaurant from 5-8 p.m. The dedication ceremony of the Revival art piece, made from the remains of the historic Suspension Bridge, will take place at 1:30 p.m. on July 1, followed by a reception at the Arts Center.

There will also be farmers market that morning, as well as a Charles City bike ride at 8 a.m. A round-robin Family Doubles Tennis Tournament will also take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Sportsmen’s Park, while a Charles City Jazz Band Reunion to honor Robert Gower will be held at the newYouth Enrichment Center at the fairgrounds at 7 p.m.

The Bill Riley Talent Show returns to the Charles Theatre on July 2, as does the Ron Turner Memorial Golf Tournament at Cedar Ridge Golf Course. There will be a Freedom in Christ service as well in Central Park that day at 10 a.m., along with the Municipal Band’s Patriotic Concert at 7:30 p.m. along the riverfront behind the library. The Comet Bowl is also looking at hosting sand volleyball tournaments again that weekend and there are several class reunions scheduled, so there will be a lot of things to do.

The Chamber encourages you to support these local activities and our businesses. Should public demand and support for additional activities in Central Park increase, we will certainly look at that moving forward. Without that support, though, we simply can’t afford it.

The fireworks, by the way, will be on July 4 this year. They, too, are dependent on public and private support. The more donations for the fireworks show received, the bigger and better the show. The community gets what it puts into it.

As for RAGBRAI, both the Chamber and Community Revitalization will be involved in helping to host the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa when it overnights here on July 26. However the Chamber is not in charge of the planning for that event. There is a local RAGBRAI Committee made up of various representatives of the community that oversees the planning and organization. Please direct your questions and information requests to that committee through its website at

All other questions can go to 641- 228-4234 or