The Houby Days Parade, sponsored by the Czech Heritage Foundation, crosses the Bridge of Lions into Czech Village during the 2016 festival. This year marks the 46th anniversary of Houby Days in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo © Cindy Hadish)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — As the city prepares to close the 16th Avenue Bridge of Lions once again, this time for preventive maintenance, Houby Days organizers hope the closure doesn’t rain on their parade.

The annual festival, scheduled for May 17-19, 2024, in Czech Village, will honor Iowa Hawkeye women’s basketball player and former Washington High School standout Hannah Stuelke as grand marshal of the parade.

See photos from last year’s Houby Days

Hannah Stuelke and Caitlin Clark are shown on the jumbotron during a final four NCAA watch party at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Because the bridge is scheduled to close beginning Monday, April 22, and last two months, the timing conflicts with the popular festival that draws thousands of visitors to Czech Village for live music, food and entertainment.

During a meeting with city officials last week, business owners from New Bohemia, on the other side of the Cedar River, said the construction marks the sixth time in eight years that the bridge will be closed for various reasons, including construction of flood gates.

Other construction already is underway at Third Street and 16th Avenue SE, a main thoroughfare for New Bohemia, which is now closed.

A sign notes a detour April 19, 2024, at 16th Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

“The bridge is in good condition,” said A.J. Barry, civil engineer with Snyder & Associates, which is working on the project.

But Barry added that joint replacements, deck work and other maintenance should prevent more expensive repairs in the future.

Typically, the Houby Days Parade begins in New Bohemia and crosses the Bridge of Lions into Czech Village.

Barry said the bridge will remain open to pedestrian traffic and cyclists during the maintenance work, and barriers will be moved to the side to accommodate the parade, scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, May 18.

The bridge will close again in 2025 when the arch facades are removed from its sides, he said.

The construction schedule for New Bohemia and the Bridge of Lions is shown during a meeting on April 18, 2024.

This is the 46th year for Houby Days – houby is the Czech word for mushrooms – which celebrates the beloved morel in the historic business district on 16th Avenue SW. This year’s festival is dedicated in honor of Mary Kay Novak McGrath, a Czech Village visionary, supporter and businesswoman, who died of cancer in February.

The festival opens at 5 p.m. Friday, May 17, with vendors open to 9 p.m. and performances on the main stage and Kosek Bandstand, including the Deep Dish Divas and Czech Plus Band.

Opening ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 18, followed by the parade at 10 a.m., a car show on the south lawn of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and entertainment on the main stage and at the Kosek Bandstand, including the Czech Royal Court at 11 a.m.

Other highlights include a kolache-eating contest and balloon glow on Saturday and morel mushroom contest on Sunday.

As part of Houby Days, St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, will offer tours of the church at 1224 Fifth St. SE, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and noon to 2 p.m. Sunday for its sesquicentennial. St. Wenceslaus, a Czech national parish, was founded in 1874.

Find the full schedule for Houby Days on the Czech Village Association website.

This stained glass window, shown in March 2024 at St. Wenceslaus Church in Cedar Rapids, is considered one of the most beautiful examples of rose window art in the United States. (photo/Cindy Hadish)