CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The line to buy morel mushrooms stretched a half-block to Sykora Bakery when the sponge-like delicacies went on sale the Saturday morning of Houby Days.
Organizers were scrambling to bring in more morels after 120 pounds of the popular item sold out, and hoped to have the mushrooms for sale again on the final day of Houby Days 2022, on Sunday, May 15. Festivities begin at 9 a.m.
Find the schedule for the final day of Houby Days.
Some of the morels were purchased locally and others from out-of-state, said Nancy Schmuecker, owner of Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio in Czech Village. They were selling for $35 for a small bag or $65 for a large bag.
“It’s a work in progress,” Schmuecker said of the return of the annual festival, which celebrates mushrooms and Czech culture. “It’s a rebuilding year.”
After canceling the 2020 event due to the coronavirus pandemic and holding a scaled-back version last year, this year’s Houby Days still faced challenges, with construction along the Cedar River and the 16th Avenue Bridge of Lions closed for construction.
Because of the bridge closure, the Houby Days Parade could not be held, somewhat of an irony, given that past parades have been dampened by rain and the first two days of the May 13-15, 2022, festival were blessed with sunny skies.
Crowds returned to hear the Czech Plus Band and more live entertainment, including Ship of Fools and other bands from the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy.
Svetlusky, a local group of young Czech dancers, performed on Saturday and hopes to add more members to its troupe.
Many of the performers are also members of the Czech Royal Court, sponsored by the Czech Heritage Foundation. This year’s Royal Court was crowned at the Kosek Bandstand on Saturday, along with the crowning of the new Miss Czech-Slovak Iowa.
Audrey Mickelson, the daughter of Theresa and Steve Mickelson of Cedar Rapids, was named to represent the state of Iowa as Czech queen after answering questions about her heritage during an oratory portion of the pageant and performing a color guard routine to a Czech polka.
Visiting Czech queens Cecilia Minchow and Addie Hejl both traveled from Nebraska to take in this year’s Houby Days festivities.
A kolache-eating contest drew a number of contestants, though the houby contest, scheduled at the last-minute, didn’t draw the competitors as it had in years past.
Gwen Campbell won the 10 & under division of the kolache contest, chomping down three of the Czech pastries before several others in her division; Faith Myers won the 11-18 year old division, eating five kolaches the fastest; and Brady Noska, 19, won the adult division, by eating five cherry kolaches before others in his division could finish theirs.
See photos from Houby Days in 2019 and more from this year’s festival, below: