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Contracts had already been finalized for the Marion Arts Festival last March when Gov. Kim Reynolds issued an order banning public gatherings for at least eight weeks – exactly the amount of time until the annual event was scheduled the third Saturday of May. With not enough time to transfer programming online, the festival’s organizers had no other choice but to flat-out cancel the event that has been a Marion mainstay since 1992. Fortunately, Director Deb Bailey said, enough sponsors remained for the festival to reimburse the artists for the booth fees they had already paid. “The sponsors have an investment in supporting a project that works to entertain an audience, helps to promote Uptown Marion and uses creativity to be useful in the community,” she said of the sponsors’ loyalty. Many sponsors also stuck with Iowa City’s Summer of the Arts, which produces the Friday Night Concert Series, Free Movie Series and summer staples, such as the Iowa Arts Festival and Iowa City Jazz Festival. “We had a number of sponsors that we had carry over to this year,” said Summer of the Arts Executive Director Lisa Barnes. “With going to virtual programming, we were able to keep those presenting level sponsors last year, as well as individual sponsors.” The nonprofit organization did lose some sponsors for a variety of reasons, including financial pressures put on smaller businesses and the desire to spread support to organizations in need. The absence of live events resulted in a loss of $190,300 in receipts and sponsorships, not including support from the University of Iowa which concluded in June as it faced its own pandemic-related issues, Ms. Barnes said. The Linn County Fair Association also depends on its main event – the yearly summer fair held in Central City – for the bulk of its annual income. When the 2020 fair was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions, the board applied for a federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to cover the salaries of the organization’s part-time employees. The fair also received $75,000 – the highest funding level – from the Iowa County Fairs Relief Program launched last October by Ms. Reynolds and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) with $6 million of federal CARES Act funds. Adapting to the situation Not only was the cancellation of live events hard on the bottom line, it compromised the organizations’ mission to serve their communities. “A big part of our mission is building community through the arts,” Ms. Barnes said. “Just having that opportunity to engage and interact with your friends and neighbors and enjoy live music or a movie – I think everybody’s really missing that.” To keep the community engaged, Summer of the Arts adapted its programming to adhere to health guidelines. Friday Night Concerts were presented online, reaching between a low of 2,300 views to a high of 9,000. “That’s pretty darn good,” Ms. Barnes said. “That’s more than we’d have at an in-person concert.” The organization teamed up with City Channel 4 to stream video coverage of events. It also partnered with Prairie Lights bookstore to present a virtual Black Authors Panel for the Soul & Blues Festival. The Free Movie Series was replaced by drive-in movie screenings at the Iowa City Municipal Airport where spectators watched movies projected on a building from inside their vehicles or just out-side their cars wearing a mask. Although the Linn County Fair canceled its grandstand events and shut down the fairgrounds to the public last year, the board found new ways to keep 4-H and FFA members involved. A virtual fair included livestock shows, contests for exhibits and videos recorded by 4-H, FFA and board members. “They still had their shows, they were just a little bit different. They weren’t in person,” said Heidi Steffen, Linn County Fair marketing manager and co-vice president of the fair’s association. Looking ahead Now that COVID-19 vaccinations are increasing and cases are stabilizing, event organizers are cautiously making plans for this summer. Summer of the Arts will continue its Friday Night Concert Series virtually through June. They are working with City Channel 4 and ImOn Communications to possibly livestream the concerts from the Pedestrian Mall in downtown Iowa City. “It’s not anything definite yet, but we’re hoping to be able to livestream at least some of the concerts and some of the weekend events like the Jazz, Arts and Soul & Blues festivals,” Ms. Barnes said. “It really just depends on the availability of City Channel 4 and obtaining approval from the performers.” Continuing last year’s popular Truckload of Soul concept in which musician Kevin Burt performed from the back of a pickup in various Iowa City neighborhoods, Music on the Move featuring Mr. Burt and fellow Iowa City musician Dave Zollo will be held bimonthly in June, July and August throughout Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty. “We’re looking for a neighborhood location that has available parking, so you can sit in your car or bring your chair and sit out and socialize,” Ms. Barnes said. Starting with the Iowa City Jazz Festival on July 2-3, Summer of the Arts will resume live in-person events, following the guidelines of Johnson County Emergency Management and the Department of Public Health. Events will be scaled back by dropping some of the extra stages and making more of the children’s activities a take-and-make format. “We’re trying to make sure that we’re being respectful and not trying to jump the gun, as much as people would love to be out there,” Ms. Barnes said. “Hopefully, by the beginning of July, there will be a much higher number of people who are vaccinated and even though we still plan on requiring masks and having extra hand washing stations and other precautions, hopefully things will be better.” Like Summer of the Arts, the Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival had to make the painful decision to cancel its in-person events in 2020, including its Fourth of July fireworks celebration. Karol Shepherd, Freedom Festival events and marketing director, said while the festival is not yet ready to announce specific details, they are moving forward with a combination of in-person and hybrid events this summer. A popular event affiliated with the Freedom Festival is going ahead after rescheduling last year. The Roundup, formerly known as the BBQ Roundup, will be held June 24-27 at McGrath Amphitheatre in southwest Cedar Rapids. It will feature local bands as well as headliners Pure Prairie League, Orleans, Men Without Hats and A Flock of Seagulls. “We had started to rebrand it last year and then, obviously, it got canceled,” said Katie Ripke, director of marketing and sales for VenuWorks, which manages the McGrath Amphitheatre, Alliant Energy Powerhouse, Paramount Theatre and ImOn Ice arena in Cedar Rapids. “So we’re focusing more on the music and we’re bringing in some bigger headliners than we had in years past.” Four confirmed nationally touring barbeque vendors have been confirmed for The Roundup, she added. VenuWorks has also announced classic rock band REO Speedwagon will perform July 3 at the amphitheatre. “REO Speedwagon is being sold at full capacity, with face masks required,” Ms. Ripke said. “It’s TBD to see what that looks like at The Roundup. We are going to have face masks through the end of the year. We’re planning on actually having them through quarter one next year to get through another winter of this.” All grandstand events originally planned in 2020 at the Linn County Fair in Central City have been rescheduled this summer, including headliner country band Sawyer Brown on June 25 and perhaps the most popular event of all – the Truck and Tractor Pull on June 26. The layout may look different with the stage being pushed back to allow more spacing in the crowd, Ms. Steffen said. The carnival will also return, but with fewer attractions to allow spacing not only on the rides but in the lines. The fair’s board is looking forward to hosting live events again this year. “Especially with it being an outdoor event, I think we’re going to see more people because they can be out and enjoy some fresh air and just get out of the house,” Ms. Steffen said. While the Marion Arts Festival considered an in-person event this May, they are opting for a month-long online event April 24-May 23 on their social media sites. The art show will feature a slate of Iowa artists, including a few that normally would be difficult to book in Marion. “We are going to have the opportunity to get to know and promote people that we haven’t had in the show. They usually only do the big shows like in Minneapolis or St. Louis,” Ms. Bailey said. “We’re seeing different really good artists this year, because it worked for them, and it works for us to be able to promote them online.” Hands-on offerings include two contactless take-and-make projects for families: Kits created by the Iowa Ceramics Center to craft bowls for the 2022 Empty Bowls sale, which benefits area food banks, and a Mother’s Day card through a virtual make-along with Cedar Rapids artist Dori Patrick. Ms. Bailey hopes to have the festival back in-person in 2022 for its 30th anniversary, which will time perfectly with the completion of renovations at City Square Park and the streetscape along Seventh Avenue. “Next year, on May 22, for the 30th anniversary, we’re going to have a brand-new park, a brand-new uptown, and, hopefully, a newly safe brand-new world,” Ms. Bailey said. CBJ