The Ottumwa Courier

May 24, 2013

Celebrating Eldon

By CHELSEA DAVIS Courier staff writer
Ottumwa Courier

---- — ELDON — The annual festival celebrating the town of less than 1,000 ties the community’s bonds tighter through a weekend of music, food, performances and tournaments.

American Gothic Days will take over Eldon again June 7-9.

”It’s the town festival,” said Holly Berg, administrator of the American Gothic House Center. “I think it’s good to celebrate everything we have in town. It’s a way to get everyone out and celebrating everything that goes on here. I’ve always been amazed, since I started here, how many events Eldon puts on every year.”

The theme of this year’s Gothic Days is “All Around Reading,” since the Eldon Public Library is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

New to the three-day event this year is a performance of “Smoke on the Mountain” at the 122-year-old McHaffey Opera House, which just finished being renovated this year after sitting silent since 1947.

”We’ve been working for probably 20 years at restoring that opera house,” Stacey said.

A week ago, the first performance in nearly 70 years was held at the opera house: the Cardinal Parade of Bands concert.

Though there isn’t an exact way to count attendees each year since there is no entry fee, Berg said the American Gothic House Center alone saw around 250 people pass through every day of the festival last year.

”But this year, it’s also Eldon Alumni Weekend,” she said, which means even more will likely roll through town.

The weekend will be filled with activities for all ages, including a 5K walk and run, art contest, bicycle ride, parade, kids’ games, mud run and cardboard boat races — “which are always hilarious,” Stacey said.

The event, which is sponsored by GATE (Gothic Area Tourism of Eldon), has been held every year since GATE was launched in 1987, Stacey said.

”It put together the community to raise funds to help sponsor different events in the community,” Stacey said. “Our motto is ‘Improving our community’ and we use all our monies for community improvements. We’ve done park benches in the park, we sponsor bingo, we’ve planted trees and we’ve helped our little leagues with finances to have ball equipment.”

American Gothic Days is one way to give back to the community as a whole, she said.

”It’s a celebration of our town and what we’ve done,” she said.

A special guest is planning on coming down to the festival this year: KCCI anchor and reporter Marcus McIntosh. Stacey invited McIntosh to come since KCCI’s “Read With Me” program ties into Eldon’s reading-themed festival.

”We never invite any dignitaries, it’s normally just local people and groups with floats,” she said.

Also new to the festival this year is a yard ornament contest, where homeowners can make spoofs or parodies of the American Gothic painting in their front lawns.

— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.

Friday, June 7: 5-7 p.m.: Supper in the Park, sponsored by Libertyville Savings Bank & Beef Producers. Music by Mike Aceto. 7:30 p.m.: "Smoke on the Mountain," McHaffey Opera House. Tickets: $10. Saturday, June 8: 7:30 a.m.: 5K walk/run, American Gothic House Center. Registration begins at 6:45 a.m. 10 a.m.: Parade 11 a.m.: Barbecue chicken dinner, KD Center 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Kids' games and pedal pull, KD Center 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Vintage car show, Rock Island Depot Noon: DDCW Chuckwagon, Eldon City Park 1 p.m.: Mud run, Wapello County Fairgrounds. Registration 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. 2 p.m.: "Smoke on the Mountain," McHaffey Opera House. Tickets: $10. 3 p.m.: Cardboard boat races, Wapello County Fairgrounds 5 p.m.: Cast iron cooking demonstration and homemade ice cream, Eldon City Park 7-9 p.m.: Music in the Park, featuring country artist Mitch Goudy and vocalist Diana Upton-Hill Sunday, June 9: 7:30 a.m.: Bike ride, American Gothic House Center. Registration begins at 6:45 a.m. 7-10 a.m.: Breakfast, Eldon Fire Station 9 a.m.: Disc golf tournament and lessons, begins at American Gothic House Center 1 p.m.: Mud volleyball, Playground Park. Teams must pre-register. 1 p.m.: Horse shoe and bocce ball tournaments, KD Center. 7:30 p.m.: "Smoke on the Mountain," McHaffey Opera House. Tickets: $10. Art contest winners on display Saturday and Sunday at American Gothic House Center. For more information, call Eldon City Hall at 641-652-7510 or Mayor Shirley Stacey at 641-680-2634.