Due to the duration of the 2019 Missouri River flood, Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park has not yet been restored and reopened. Thus, City of Council Bluffs officials have decided to cancel Loessfest 2020.
Vincent Martorello, director of parks and recreation for the City of Council Bluffs, attributes the short timeline between the spring thaw and Memorial Day to the decision to cancel Loessfest. “We can’t begin restorations until spring. Planning and executing Loessfest is very labor and time-intensive,” he said. “Because of the current conditions of River’s Edge Park, we have decided to focus our spring efforts on returning the park to its original beauty.”
Loessfest was established in 2013 and quickly became the community’s traditional kick-off to summer. Taking place over Memorial Day weekend, Loessfest offered a wide array of free events with something for everyone to enjoy. In the first five years, Loessfest brought more than 175,000 people from all over the region to our riverfront. In 2019, Loessfest was initially postponed to Labor Day weekend, then canceled altogether due to ongoing flooding.
Other locations were considered before canceling Loessfest 2020. It was ultimately decided that a critical component of Loessfest is the location; the backdrop of the Omaha skyline, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge that adjoins two communities, and the opportunity to bike, walk, or drive to the events. Officials are hopeful that the festival will return in 2021.
River’s Edge Park was designed to withstand water inundation given typical conditions. Because the flooding of 2019 exceeded typical conditions, the restoration process will take longer. Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh is confident the park will be restored as soon as the weather allows crews to begin clean-up. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but our crews are prepared for the challenge,” said Mayor Walsh. “River’s Edge Park is a point of pride for Council Bluffs and we look forward to opening again soon.”
The Parks and Recreation department recognizes that people appreciate and enjoy Loessfest, and canceling is not ideal. While it is not a replacement for the 3-day festival, staff have been working on an event series that will take place throughout 2020 at several different parks in Council Bluffs. The event series will have something for people of all ages. An announcement is coming soon!