Morel mushrooms take center stage during the annual Houby Days festival in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Morel mushrooms take center stage during the annual Houby Days in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

CEDAR RAPIDS – A chilly spring delayed the morel mushroom season in parts of Iowa, or so says my mushroom “source.”

Fortunately, some Iowans are finding them, as morels will be sold during the Houby Days festival this weekend in Cedar Rapids.

“We’re not going to make money on them, but it’s the idea that we’d like to have them here,” said Pam Lewis, president of the Czech Village Association, which sponsors the annual festival that celebrates all things mushroom.

The price hadn’t been set when I spoke to her, but it sounds like mushroom hunters who are finding morels are faring well financially and the morels that the Czech Village Association is bringing in for the sale are all coming from Iowa. A certified inspector, required in the state of Iowa, will take a look at the mushrooms before they’re sold, beginning Saturday at the information booth, near the Red Baron bar.

Houby Days (“houby” is the Czech word for mushrooms) begins this Friday, May 16, and runs through Sunday, May 18, in Czech Village, next to the Cedar River along 16th Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids.

Festival-goers can buy their mushrooms and eat them, too, as morels will be featured in the egg and houby breakfast, both Saturday and Sunday at Smuggler’s Wharf, 87 16th Ave. SW.

A morel contest is a mainstay of Houby Days, with prizes awarded for smallest, largest, most unusual and best display. Registration begins at noon Saturday.

While bingo was canceled and there will be no parade, thanks to city regulations that made the short jaunt cost-prohibitive, there will be a new parade of costumes, where people dressed in ethnic Czech kroje, or basically any costume, are invited to meet at 3 p.m. Sunday at the National Czech &  Slovak Museum & Library for a stroll through the village. The walk will be led by Janna Waters, Miss Czech-Slovak Iowa.

“Of course we love having the folk costumes, but it is kids day, so any costume is great,” Lewis said.

Also new this year will be a plant sale, with hanging baskets and bedding plants from a local nursery that will be sold both Saturday and Sunday on the Avenue.

Many other activities are scheduled throughout the festival, beginning with Taste of Czech & Slovak at 5 p.m. Friday. Kolaches, of course, will be available.

Find more on the kick-off event and the full schedule below:

Taste of Czech & Slovak

Friday, May 16, 2014 from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.

$12 per person; ages 10 and under are free. Tickets are available at the door.

The NCSML Museum Guild’s Taste of Czech and Slovak once again kicks off the annual Houby Days weekend in Czech Village. This event is returning to the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library for the first time since the Flood of 2008. Attendees will be able to sample more than a dozen entrees, salads, soups, and desserts! (To include garnet cookies, lemon poppyseed cake, and bublanina.) Lemonade, water, and coffee will be served. Kolaches, beer, NCSML Museum Guild aprons, and Guild cookbooks will also be sold.

The evening will also include a performance by Czech Plus Band in the NCSML’s outdoor amphitheater.

Schedule of Events:Friday, May 16

5pm-7pm Artisan & Food Vendors on 16th Avenue
5pm-7pm Taste of Czech at the National

 Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
5pm-10pm Carnival on Inspiration Place
7pm-10pm Brass Transit Authority presented by Penford Products at Kosek Bandstand
Saturday May 17th

8am-11am Egg & Houby Breakfast featuring Accordionist Ron Johnson at Smuggler’s Wharf
9am Flag Raising Ceremony Post 679 Palo American Legion 
9am-11am Czech Plus Band & Czech Heritage Singers at Kosek Bandstand
9am-6pm Artisan & Food Vendors on 16th Avenue 
10am-10:30am Lipa Slovak Folk Dancers presented by NCSML
10am-4pm Car Show Sponsored by Solid Waste Agency at Sokol Park
10am-5pm Plant Sale 16th Ave
11am-1pm Summer Town Band at the Small Stage on 16th Avenue
11am-3pm Mushroom Decorating & Tattoos
12pm-10pm Carnival on Inspiration Place
12pm-3pm Houby Contest Registration (Awards for Biggest, Smallest, Most Unusual, and Best Display at Village Meat Market)
1pm-4pm Papa Balloon on 16th Avenue
1pm-2pm May Pole Dance at Kosek Bandstand 
2pm-3pm Accordion Club at Kosek Bandstand
3pm-4:30pm Lipa Slovak Folk Dancers presented by NCSML at Kosek Bandstand
3:30pm Mushroom Contest Winners Announced at Village Meat Market
3:45-6:45pm Barefoot Becky & the Ivanhoe Dutchmen at the Small Stage on 16th Avenue
7pm-10pm Beaker Brothers presented by Penford Products at Kosek Bandstand
Sunday May 18th – KIDS’ DAY!

8am-11am Egg & Houby Breakfast featuring Accordionist Ron Johnson at Smuggler’s Wharf
9am-11am Czech Heritage Band at Kosek Bandstand
9am-4pm Artisan & Food Vendors on 16th Avenue 
10am-4pm Plant Sale 16th Ave
10am-4pm Tractor Show Sponsored by Solid Waste Agency at Sokol Park
11am-1pm Children’s Games Presented by US Bank on 16th Ave
11:30-1:30pm Dan Johnson & Kevin Burt Small Stage on 16th Ave
12pm-1pm Cabbage Roll by Sykora’s Bakery on 16th Avenue 
12pm-1pm Svetlušky Youth Ensemble Kosek Bandstand 
12pm-4pm Carnival on Inspiration Place
12pm-4pm Houby Photo Boards at Kosek Bandstand 
12:30pm-1pm Children’s Tractor Pull Registration presented by Hawkeye Pedal Pull on 16th Avenue 
12:30-4:30pm Face Painting by Chloe on 16th Avenue
1pm-1:30pm Crown Czech Heritage Foundation Prince & Princess at Kosek Bandstand 
1pm-3pm Children’s Tractor Pull ages 4-11, Hawkeye Pedal Pull on 16th Avenue
2pm-4pm Little Bar Band Small Stage
2pm-3pm Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre Company presented by NCSML on 16th Avenue
3pm-3:30pm Costume Walk (Best Costume Award) on 16th Avenue
3:30pm Bicycle/Tricycle Drawing at Kosek Bandstand
Visit the Czech Village Association‘s website for more information, entry forms, and a printable brochure and festival map.