Great River Days is known locally as a multi-day event that takes place on the Muscatine river front. Traditionally the weekend boasts carnival rides, food vendors, and live music.
In addition, many area residents participate in craft fairs, car shows, wiener dog races, and more throughout the weekend.
Organizers of Great River Days recently announced that the event will not be held in 2017. Great River Days organizer Kerry Keller says the tradition will not continue, specifically under his leadership, “We have to look at the event as a whole. Each year, we are just at the breakeven point. With having to change locations this year, there is a very real chance we would not even be there, and would not be able to pay our debts.”
Keller explains the decision was made after a meeting with Muscatine City Administrator Gregg Mandsager and Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Greg Jenkins. At the meeting, Mandasger and Jenkins explained the hardship of accommodating the event while heavy construction on Mississippi Drive is taking place.
Great River Days would need to be moved to a different location in town in order to be able to continue. Keller explains that there is “no other viable location,” stating that Weed Park lacks parking and electricity and that MCC was not willing to work with the event. Keller goes on to say that moving the event would involve additional expense that would make it even more difficult to break-even.
In a meeting with the Voice of Muscatine, Mandsager and Jenkins further explained the dilemma.
Construction is scheduled to begin on the Mississippi Drive Corridor Project in the spring, with the intersection of Iowa and Chestnut being the first to closed and changed.
Mandasger explains, “We will be working with the construction team to keep the river front open for parking, the buildings will be available for smaller events, and we will work to keep the boat ramp open. We just cannot have large scale events with that many people, it is about public safety.”
“We are more than willing to work with folks, events, programs, whatever it might be to find alternative solutions and locations for those folks and their events,” Mandsager explains.
Both Mandsager and Jenkins express the desire to have events held locally that are both enjoyable for residents and can be seen as a destination event for out of town visitors.
In order for an event or events to be successful, Mandsager says there needs to be a core group of volunteers or individuals who are dedicated to making it better each year. Both men report that both the city and the chamber are open to ideas as to what the next event may be.
“We are willing to work with any entity who wants to put on an event, anywhere within the city, “ Mandsager says.
“It’s important for us to honor and recognize the many years of hard work that the organizers have put into Great River Days, an event that large is not easy and takes a lot of time and detail,” Jenkins says.
Other events, such as the Healthy Living Fest are reported to be taking a break during 2017 during construction, before resuming again in 2018.
Other events that do not take place on the river front are anticipated to continue, including the Second Saturday series that was introduced last summer. “We would love to see that event grow and really become something for both locals and out of town visitors,” Mandsager says.
“The Second Saturday series has the potential to turn into a signature event for the community,” Jenkins says.
The city acknowledges that the construction process has the potential to be bothersome to residents. “The key for Mississippi Drive Construction projects and for large events is that everyone understand that we do have a large construction project going on and that everyone think long term for Muscatine, that we are going to have this wonderful amenity and entry way, gateway into the community but in the interim there is going to be some disruption that we are going to need to work around in downtown Muscatine.”
As for Great River Days, Keller the time has come for him to retire from the process, he says he “would be willing offer advice to anyone who was looking at taking something like that on.”