CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – After canceling the 2020 event due to the coronavirus pandemic and holding a scaled-back version last year, supporters are eager to see a return of the popular Houby Days festival to Czech Village.
Still, the closure of the 16th Avenue Bridge of Lions due to construction, and other work along the Cedar River, next to Czech Village, means some activities won’t be held during this year’s celebration, from May 13-15.
See photos from Houby Days in 2019.
“This year is definitely full of challenges,” said Leah Johnson, owner of Rustic Chic Boutique and co-president of the Czech Village Association. “Coming back after being off for two years is a challenge in itself. The bridge being closed is definitely making it a different experience this year. There will be no parade and no carnival either, as that area is under construction. But we are trying to do some different things this year, as well as continuing older traditions.”
One recent addition to the schedule is a return of the Houby Contest.
Houby Days – houby is the Czech word for mushrooms – celebrates the morel mushroom, which has included an annual contest in years past for the biggest, smallest, most unusual and best display of the sponge-like mushrooms.
Judging for the contest is set for 3 p.m. Saturday, May 14.
Johnson has been working with the other association co-president, Alicia Freese Beck, owner of the Health Hut, to organize the festival’s return.
One of the major new additions for 2022 is a Fun Run on May 15, sponsored by SOKO Outfitters, a specialty outdoor store in Czech Village, as well as Lion Bridge Brewing and Hospoda. The run will go from Czech Village up to Mount Trashmore and back.
Some traditions will continue this year, with a return of the Miss Czech-Slovak Iowa Pageant and live music by the Czech Plus Band.
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library will offer reduced admission and video presentations throughout the weekend.
Sixteenth Avenue, which runs through the historic business district, will be closed for food and craft vendors and the city’s new mobile bandwagon will be used as a stage, in addition to the Kosek Bandstand and the patio of Sykora Bakery.
Activities for children, a silent auction, raffle and houby scavenger hunt are among other events.
As a nonprofit, the Czech Village Association is also facing funding challenges this year, Johnson said, as it relies on sponsorship for Houby Days.
The group is offering sales of T-shirts and stickers in advance of the festival on the Czech Village Association Facebook page.
Johnson is hopeful that morel mushrooms will be sold at the festival, as they have in the past, but supply is dependent on Mother Nature, she said.
Sales are planned to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 14, in front of Merle Norman, and go until they are sold out.
More: Slow start to morel mushroom season
Houby Days 2022 schedule:
Friday, May 13 – Vendors open 5-9 p.m.
Sky Train with Craig Erickson at Kosek Bandstand – 5-7 p.m.
Czech Plus Band at Kosek Bandstand, sponsored by Czech Heritage Foundation – 7-8:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 14 – Vendors open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Opening ceremony and flag-raising – 9 a.m.
Czech Plus Band at Kosek Bandstand – 9-11 a.m.
Svetlusky Youth Ensemble at Kosek Bandstand – 11 a.m.
Miss Czech-Slovak Iowa Pageant/presentation of Czech Royal Court followed by Kroje Walk through Czech Village – 11:30 a.m.
Registration begins for Houby Contest, information table in front of Health Hut — noon.
Eastern Iowa Arts Academy at Bandwagon Stage — noon.
Kolache Eating Contest, Kosek Bandstand – 2 p.m.
Tour at St. Wenceslaus Church — 2 p.m.
Jake Stack at the Bandwagon — 2 p.m.
Sons of Svejk at Sykora Bakery Stage – 3 p.m.
Judging for Houby Contest at Lion Bridge Brewing — 3 p.m.
Mass at St. Wenceslaus Church — 4 p.m.
Eastern Iowa Arts Academy at Bandwagon Stage – 6 p.m.
Fun Drummin’ at Bandwagon Stage — 8 p.m.
Sunday, May 15 – Vendors open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fun Run sponsored by SOKO Outfitters, Lion Bridge Brewing and Hospoda – 9:30 a.m.
Sons of Svejk at Sykora Bakery Stage – 10 a.m.
Mass at St. Wenceslaus Church — 10:30 a.m.
Accordian group at the Kosek Bandstand – 11 a.m.
Craig Erickson at the Kosek Bandstand – noon
Cabbage Roll by Sykora Bakery – noon
Czech Plus Band at Lion Bridge Brewing – 2 p.m.
Find the complete schedule and updates on the Czech Village Association Facebook page.