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6 Must-Attend Small Town Festivals In Iowa

There are lots of reasons to celebrate in Iowa. But the festivals held year-round in Iowa’s smaller communities are definitely some of the most unique! From celebrations of local heritage to food-focused festivities, there are unique events to attend all across the state. Whether you’re willing to brave the winter weather or simply want to enjoy some festive foods, small town Iowa festivals have something for everyone.

As you plan your travel, be sure to put these must-attend small town festivals in Iowa on your calendar. 

1. Color the Wind Festival – Clear Lake

Bundle up and head to Clear Lake, Iowa for the largest winter kite festival in the Midwest. The Color the Wind Festival is an annual favorite that brings visitors and kite flyers from across the country. These huge, inflatable kites are truly a sight to behold.

People stand on the frozen lake to look at kites during Color The Wind in Clear Lake, Iowa

This festival is especially fun for kids, but make sure you wear lots of layers as it can be quite chilly in northern Iowa this time of year. 

When: Third Saturday in February | Feb. 17, 2024 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

2. Nordic Fest – Decorah

If you’re looking to connect with Scandinavian culture, there’s no better place than Decorah’s Nordic Fest. This annual weekend-long celebration includes all things heritage, culture and food. From parades and cultural demonstrations to every sort of Nordic dish you could dream of, there’s something for everyone at Nordic Fest.

Three girls wait for the Nordic Fest  parade in Decorah
Photo courtesy Ellen MacDonald via Flickr

Be sure to sample some lefse and kringla before exploring living traditions at the Vesterheim Museum.

When: Late July

3. Tulip Time – Pella

There’s no better way to start the spring than at Tulip Time in Pella. This colorful annual event transforms Pella’s historic downtown into a bucket list-worthy blooming beauty. Each year tulip bulbs are planted specifically so that Pella looks its best for Tulip Time.

A man pushes a wooden shoe cart in Pella, Iowa
Photo courtesy Paul_VanDerWerf via Flickr

Enjoy a parade, complete with traditional dress, as well as other historic activities and Dutch food both savory and sweet. 

When: First weekend in May

4. Ice Cream Days – Le Mars

Did you know that Le Mars is the Ice Cream Capital of the World? Celebrate that unique achievement during the community’s annual Ice Cream Days each June. This weekend-long event includes a scavenger hunt, local art tours and, of course, ice cream.

A boy with an ice cream cone in Le Mars
Photo courtesy Travel Iowa

Experience all the sweetness Le Mars has to offer at the Wells Visitor Center & Ice Cream Parlor. 

When: Mid-June

5. Ice Harvest Festival – Cedar Falls

Iowa is home to some truly unique events, including the Ice Harvest Festival in Cedar Falls. This annual event brings history to life through the community’s tradition of ice harvesting.

Exterior of the Ice House Museum in Cedar Falls, Iowa
Photo courtesy Paul Huber via Flickr

In partnership with the Ice House Museum, local Amish families share ice harvesting and carving demonstrations as well as a variety of other interactive activities to highlight this unique piece of local history.

When: First weekend in February

6. Trekfest – Riverside 

Calling all Star Trek fans: Trekfest is the annual celebration of the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. While Captain Kirk isn’t said to be born in this small Iowa community until 2228, its residents have embraced his impending legacy in the meantime.

Klingons at a parade in Riverside, Iowa
Photo courtesy IowaPipe via Flickr

Discovery the history of Riverside and experience a number of Star Trek-themed exhibits at the local Voyage Home Museum. 

When: Last weekend in June 

About the Guest Blogger

Megan Bannister is a freelance writer and blogger at Olio in Iowa based in Des Moines, Iowa. When she’s not sampling and writing about food, Megan enjoys visiting unique destinations, roadside attractions, and “world’s largest” things across the Midwest and beyond. Her book, Iowa Supper Clubs, highlights classic eateries past and present from around the state.

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