By Cindy Hadish
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Czech Village has found a silver lining from last year’s derecho.
The hurricane-strength windstorm uprooted trees and created havoc throughout Iowa, hitting the Cedar Rapids area particularly hard.
Trees that toppled in Czech Village damaged restrooms next to the Kosek Bandstand, but one of those is now serving a higher purpose.
Chainsaw artist Nate Greiner, 27, of Greiner Mushrooms, has spent the past week using his skills to carve a giant morel mushroom out of the stump.
“It’s hard to keep up,” Greiner, of Solon, said of the requests he has received for chainsaw carving jobs after the derecho.
Mary Kay McGrath, who owns a number of buildings in Czech Village, and art consultant Janelle McClain, had hoped to have Greiner carve one of the tree stumps during Houby Days, but Greiner discovered the wood had rotted. Still, wood in the other stump turned out to be perfect for the nearly 7-foot-tall creation, which he completed prior to the festival.
Houby Days – houby is the Czech word for mushrooms – celebrates the beloved morel with food, a mushroom contest and other festivities in the historic business district on 16th Avenue SW.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Houby Days was canceled in 2020, but a scaled-back version is returning this year. See photos from the 2019 Houby Days.
Amy Winker, owner of the Red Frog, 88 16th Ave. SW, said organizers are following public health guidelines as they navigate the return of the festival from Friday, May 14, through Sunday, May16.
“We’re not going to have a parade or carnival,” Winker said. “We have to abide by COVID rules and social distancing.”
Czech Village businesses will offer specials, she said, and 16th Avenue will be blocked off for street vendors and activities for children. The Czech Plus Band will perform at 7 p.m. May 14 in the Kosek Bandstand.
Live music will be featured twice daily throughout the festival, which will run 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.
Winker said organizers also hope the popular morel mushroom contest will make a return. Related: Morel mushroom search tips
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library will host the Iowa Pop Art Market as a complement event for Houby Days, highlighting multiple student projects through Iowa BIG and Metro High School, organized during the past year at the museum.
Among those projects is a mural based on the “Bias Inside Us” museum exhibit and screenings of short films submitted to the Teens Dream video competition.
The Iowa Pop Art Market will also feature the works of 18 Iowa artists, along with vintage clothing and jewelry. All booths indoors and outside of the museum will be spaced for social distancing and masks will be required for everyone.
Houby Days vendors will be required to wear face masks and signs will be posted to encourage visitors to wear masks in Czech Village, as well.
“We’re trying to make sure everyone’s safe,” Winker said. “We want to bring it back the best we can, but we want it to be safe for the public, too.”
See images of other chainsaw creations following Iowa’s 2020 derecho and more of the morel carving, below. Photos and article © 2021, HomegrownIowan.com