Starting this weekend, Eastern Iowa is spreading out a seemingly endless musical potluck picnic with outdoor music to suit every musical taste, through September.
This list just scratches the surface of outdoor events that can draw thousands of people to parks, streets, city squares and county fairs.
Community bands have been sending their sounds through the summer breeze in Cedar Rapids since the 1890s. A summer outdoor series is a recent addition to the Riverside Casino table. And the grandstands fill up quickly at the Great Jones County Fair in Monticello, where blankets and lawn chairs create a patchwork crazy quilt on the surrounding hillsides.
But when heat, humidity and bugs threaten to crash the parties, why do we keep flocking to these events?
“Our outdoor summer music season is so short, while we do complain about the heat and humidity and insist we’re not going to stir out of our air-conditioned cocoons, we know if we don’t do it now, we won’t have the chance. And if we don’t stir ourselves and go to them, they will go away,” says Dennis Green, general manager of KCCK-FM. The Cedar Rapids radio station has been staging Jazz Under the Stars for 24 years at Noelridge Park, drawing upward of 3,000 people on beautiful August nights.
“It’s worth it to put up with a few mosquitoes to have these opportunities,” Green says.
— Diana Nollen
Uptown Friday Nights, Cedar Rapids
Fridays, May 27 to July 29: 5 to 8 p.m., Greene Square Park, downtown Cedar Rapids. Live music by popular regional bands, food and adult beverages, presented by the Cedar Rapids Jaycees; $5 admission includes first drink for first 500 people; must be ages 21 and older with photo ID. First up: The Swing Crew, May 27. www.uptownfridaynights.com
Friday Night Concert Series, Iowa City
Fridays, May 20 to Sept. 2: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Ped Mall, downtown. Rain location: Chauncey Swan Parking Ramp, 460 E. Washington St. Local talent; free admission. www.summerofthearts.org/festival-menu/concert-series/about.aspx
Downtown Saturday Night, Iowa City
Saturday, May 21 to Sept. 3: 6:30 to 9 p.m., Weatherdance Fountain Stage by the Sheraton Hotel, downtown. Rain location: Chauncey Swan Parking Ramp, 460 E. Washington St. Local and regional bands; free admission. www.summerofthearts.org/festival-menu/downtown-saturday-night/about.aspx
Thursday Night Live, Washington
Thursdays, May 26 to Aug. 18: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Central Square Park, downtown Washington, Iowa. Local music, entertainment.
Liberty Centre Blues & BBQ, North Liberty
May 29: Noon to 10 p.m., north side of the pond at Liberty Centre, just off Penn Street. Free family event with food, beverage garden; barbecue contest, 4:30 p.m.; music by Kevin B.F. Burt and the Instigators, Bob Dorr and the Blue Band, The Avey Brothers, Ernie Peniston and Dave Zollo; kids’ activities; fishing; fireworks. http://northlibertyiowa.org/bluesandbbq
Marion by Moonlight
Thursdays, June 2 to 23: 6 to 9:30 p.m., City Square Park. Rain date: June 30. www.marioncc.org
Beckster Fest Amana
June 3 to 5: Amana Colonies RV Park and Event Center, 3890 C St. Polka fest with nine bands, food. Friday: 6 p.m. to midnight, $10. Saturday: noon to midnight, $12. Sunday: noon to 6 p.m., $10. Three-day pass: $25. www.barefootbecky.com
Iowa City Community Band
June 5 to July 10: Various times, dates and locations in Iowa City and Coralville. http://iccband.org
Cedar Rapids Municipal Band
June 8 to Aug. 7: Various parks and other sites around Cedar Rapids, beginning 7:30 p.m. June 8 in Greene Square Park. Most concerts start at 7:30 p.m., except 10 a.m. July 2 at the Downtown Farmers Market and 8 p.m. July 4 north of the Police Station. Free admission. www.crmuniband.org/schedule.html
Washington Municipal Band
Thursdays, June 9 to Aug. 11: 8 to 9 p.m., Central park bandstand, downtown Washington, Iowa. www.washingtoniowachamber.com/Performing%20Arts.htm
Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival
Various outdoor concerts, www.freedomfestival.com
June 12: 6 to 9:30 p.m., Glenn Miller Orchestra, Guaranty Bank parking lot, 302 Third Ave. SE; admission free with 2011 Freedom Festival button.
June 18: 6 p.m., Classic Rock Concert Night with Loverboy and fireworks, Johnson Hall parking lot, Kirkwood Community College; $20 preferred seating; $15 ages 13 and up; $5 ages 6 to 12; Freedom Festival button required.
June 19: 6 p.m., Patriotic Pops Concert with Orchestra Iowa, Harmony Hawks and fireworks, Kirkwood Community College; $20 preferred seating; $15 ages 13 and up; $5 ages 6 to 12; Freedom Festival button required.
July 4: 8 p.m., Fanfare to the Fireworks, with the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band, north of the police station; free.
Marion Community Band
June 14 and 28: 7 p.m., City Square Park, Seventh Avenue and 10th Street, Marion. Concert Band and Jazz Band. http://marioncommunitybands.us
Outdoor Beach Party, Cedar Rapids
June 17: 6:30 p.m., Chrome Horse Saloon parking lot, 1202 Third St. SE. Cedar Island Band. Free admission; ages 21 and over; gates open at 6 p.m. http://chromehorsesaloon.net
Summer Outdoor Concert Series, Riverside
June 18, July 30, Aug. 27: Open to all ages, Riverside Casino grounds, 3184 Highway 22. June 18: Huey Lewis and The News, 8 p.m., $35 and $65. July 30: The Xtreme Muzik Tour featuring Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Cowboy Troy and Two Foot Fred, 8 p.m., $35 and $65. Aug. 27: Peter Frampton, 7 p.m., $30 and $50. Tickets in casino gift shop or http://tickets.riversidecasinoandresort.com
Camp Euforia, Lone Tree
July 15 and 16: Jerry Hotz farm, 5335 Utah Ave. SE. Electronica to bluegrass from 18 national, regional and local bands, including host Euforquestra; gates open noon July 15; $65 at www.midwestix.com or $85 day of show, includes parking and camping. www.campeuforia.com
Iowa City Jazz Festival
July 1 to 3: Downtown. Concerts by local, regional and national and international jazz musicians; kids’ activities, fireworks July 3. Free admission. www.summerofthearts.org
July 3: 5:30 p.m., S.T. Morrison Park, with Herman’s Hermits, The Grass Roots and Cedar Island Band; free. www.coralville.org
Marion Big Band
Thursdays, July 7 to 28: 7 p.m., City Square Park. http://uptownmarion.com
Great Jones County Fair, Monticello
July 21: 8 p.m., Jason Aldean, Chris Young, Thompson Square; $25 to $40
July 22: 8 p.m., Lady Antebellum, Josh Kelley; $25 to $40
July 23: 7 p.m., Seether, Hinder and My Darkest Days; $30
Ushers Ferry, Cedar Rapids
July 23: Motorcycles and Music, 4 to 8 p.m., Ushers Ferry Historic Village, 5925 Seminole Valley Trl. NE. Motorcycle show, music, family games; $8 adults, $4 ages 3to 14, free ages 2 and under.
Aug. 13: Music Festival, 5 to 9 p.m. Local musicians on Gazebo Square, concessions; $8 adults, $4 ages 14 and under. www.cedar-rapids.org/resident-resources/parks-recreation/ushers-ferry/events/Pages/July,August,September.aspx
Downtown Getdown, Marion
Thursdays, Aug. 4 to 25: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., City Square Park. Food, 6 p.m., music, 6:30 p.m. Free admission. Aug. 4: Dogs on Skis; Aug. 11: B.F. Burt and the Instigators; Aug. 18: Lonesome Road; Aug. 25: The Beaker Brothers. www.marioncc.org
Jazz Under the Stars, Cedar Rapids
Thursdays, Aug. 4 to 25: 7 p.m., Noelridge Park. Rain location: Parlor City Pub, 1125 Third St. SE. Aug. 4: Ariel Pocock; Aug. 11: Funk Daddies; Aug. 18: Dennis McPartland and The Jazz Underground; Aug. 25: Bob Dorr and The Blue Band. www.kcck.org/events/juts.php
Cabaret in the Courtyard, Cedar Rapids
Aug. 11 to 20: Brucemore, 2160 Linden Dr. SE. Aug. 11 to 13: 7:30 p.m. Divapalooza. Aug. 18 to 20: A Trio of Tenors, 7:30 p.m.; $20 adults, $18 Brucemore members, at the Brucemore Store or (319) 362-7375; $25 at the gate. www.brucemore.org
Amphitheater Music Fest, Cedar Rapids
Aug. 20:10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Greene Square Park, downtown. $10. Local and regional bands, food, raffle. Fundraiser for planned Cedar Rapids Amphitheater. www.facebook.com/#!/pages/CR-Amphitheater-Music-Fest/192783107411582
Bluesmore, Cedar Rapids
Aug. 6: 4 to 9:30 p.m., Brucemore, 2160 Linden Dr. SE. Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, regional and national blues performers, music workshops, food, beverages; $13 adults, $12 students and Brucemore/Linn County Blues Society members by Aug. 5 at (319) 362-7375, $15 at the gate, free ages 10 and under. www.brucemore.org
Landfall Festival, Cedar Rapids
Sept. 21 to 24: Centered at Greene Square Park, downtown Cedar Rapids; free admission. Musicians from Africa, Asia, Latin America, United States and more, presented by Legion Arts/CSPS. http://legionarts.org
Brucemorchestra, Cedar Rapids
Sept. 10: Brucemorchestra IV: Crown Imperial, 7:30 p.m., Brucemore, 2160 Linden Dr. SE. Orchestra Iowa’s season opener features pomp from English and Roman empires. www.orchestraiowa.org
Iowa Women’s Music Festival, Iowa City
Sept. 10: Daystage, noon to 5:30 p.m., Upper City Park, free admission; food and drink, arts and crafts; www.prairievoices.net Headliner: Janis Ian, 8 p.m., Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., $25, Englert Box Office, (319) 688-2653 or www.englert.org