Burlington’s riverfront was awash with activity Monday as workers with Boden Amusements set up rides, games and food stands ahead of the four-day carnival that begins Wednesday.
The Bushnell, Illinois-based carnival had been slated to come to Burlington Steamboat Days last year, but then came COVID-19.
“Last year was going to be our first year here,” said Daryl Boden, who first began working with the carnival, started by his grandfather, at the age of 9 and has stuck with it ever since. “I enjoy people and making kids happy.”
Boden now oversees the operation with the help of his son, Zach Boden.
“When I was 5, I wrote on my kindergarten paper that I was going to run the Octopus like my dad, so here I am,” Zach Boden said, noting the Octopus did not make the journey to Burlington due to the venue’s space restrictions.
Steamboat Days, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic and moved to the Westland Mall parking lot the year before due to flooding, has been replaced by Burlington Riverfront Entertainment‘s Summer Concert Series, but Burlington Steamboat Days Committee members now serve under BRE’s umbrella, BRE assistant director David Kroll explained.
“Steamboat Days has partnered with us on these events, and they are our presenting sponsor for the whole thing for our June series,” Kroll said.
That means the typical staples of Steamboat Days such as Special Guests Day, Senior Day, Kid’s Day and the carnival will continue, kicking off the first of four weekends of live music on the riverfront through September.
The return of the carnival has drawn excitement from Burlington residents, Kroll noted, explaining he had spent the better part of the day fielding calls and emails about it.
“They’re asking a lot of questions about it, which is good because that means they’re excited,” Kroll said. “I’m expecting a big turnout for the carnival for sure.”
The Bodens arrived in Burlington early Monday with 16 rides in tow. Among them are the Scrambler, Dizzy Dragons, the Frog Hopper, the Hustler, the ferris wheel and, Boden Amusements employee Cade Hughes’ personal favorite, the Paratrooper.
“It’s the most exhilarating, I’d say,” Hughes remarked while unloading train tracks from a semi trailer for a children’s ride as two inspectors with the Iowa Division of Labor milled about the site.
This is the carnival’s first time in Iowa, so Boden Amusements’ state inspection must be complete before opening day Wednesday.
“We have to do our own inspections daily, but all of our state permits have to come out, and they can show up at random,” Zach Boden explained. (The inspection) is pretty thorough. They’re going to look for any cracked weld, seatbelt, anything they can look for, they’re going to look for. We’ve never had any problems, but if they’d find something, they’d shut you down.”
There also will be numerous games, including balloon darts, cork guns, a duck pond, ball toss, baseball speed pitch and more.
“There’s a lot of them,” Zach Boden said.
Tickets are $3 apiece or $25 for 10 tickets. Daily armbands for unlimited rides are available for $20.
The carnival will open at 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, with armband access from 6 to 10 p.m., and at 1 p.m. Saturday, with armband access available through 4 p.m.
Special Guests Day
Special Guests Day, presented in partnership with Hope Haven and Through Joshua’s Eyes, will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.
Special guests — those with disabilities — will experience entertainment and the carnival, as well as a complimentary meal donated by McDonald’s.
Seniors will be treated to a free meal of maidrites, chips, potato salad and dessert at noon Friday inside the Burlington Memorial Auditorium, along with entertainment by pianist and former Disney Cruise Line entertainer Aaron Lotzow. Doors will open at 11 a.m., with the event continuing through 3 p.m.
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Beginning at noon Saturday, Burlington Steamboat Days will be offering a variety of free activities to children on the concert grounds and inside the Port of Burlington. Activities include:
- Crafting super hero masks with the Burlington Art Center;
- Super hero capes creation station with Big River Brawlers Roller Derby;
- Sensory activities with Through Joshua’s Eyes;
- A STEM project with the Girl Scouts of America;
- Woodworking projects with Weigert’s Handyman;
- Bike course with the Burlington Police Department’s bike patrol;
- Story time characters with the Optimist Club;
- Karaoke with Rena;
- Wiggle Time with the Burlington Public Library; and
- Huge Jenga and Kerplunk games.
Children also will be able to meet Buzz the Bee.
Live music will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday with Jive Radio in the north parking lot of the Memorial Auditorium.
“They are the most fun, high-energy party band around here,” Kroll said of Jive Radio.
Performing at 6 p.m. Friday for FridayFest will be Stumptown with special guest Jarrod Hogan and South 55.
The only ticketed event will be Saturday, when three-time Grammy nominee Ingred Andress will perform on the main stage. Gates open at 6 p.m., with the show starting at 7 p.m.
Andress is known best for her hit, “More Hearts Than Mine,” as well as “Lady Like,” a song Kroll said every young girl should listen to.
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“It’s kind of like just being OK with who you are and don’t worry about being ladylike and girly if that’s not you,” Kroll said. “They’re going to fall in love with Ingrid because she doesn’t put on a front for anybody.”
Opening for Andress will be Shy Carter, who wrote Keith Urban’s “God Whispered Your Name,” as well as Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue,” Rob Thomas’ single, “Someday,” and Billy Carrington’s “It Don’t Hurt Like it Used To.”
“People are going to be surprised in a good way that they’re going to know some of his songs,” Kroll said.
Kroll encouraged people to come to Saturday’s concert, even if country music is not their favorite.
“This will be the last time you ever get to see these two perform for just $35 because they are about to blow up and be huge,” Kroll said. “Ingrid and Shy are not going to be playing your cowboy, line-dancing country music. … Young people are really going to enjoy their music.”
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Tickets are available from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the Auditorium box office, as well as at a ticket booth that will open at the venue gates at 5 p.m. Thursday when gates open and online at burlingtonriverfront.org/box-office/.
Single tickets are $35 apiece. People also may buy VIP tickets, which get them closer to the stage, for $10. Tickets for all four Saturday concerts are available as a $100 four-pack until this Friday.
“We’re excited to have people and live music back on the riverfront. Our goal is to continue that tradition in Burlington, whether it’s called Burlington Steamboat Days or the BRE Summer Concert Series or whatever,” Kroll said. “Our goal is to carry on that tradition of bringing your family and friends down to the riverfront for a good time. We just want people to support us and help us grow. There have been people who want bigger acts and all that stuff, and you gotta help us get there.”
BRE Summer Series 2021 lineup
Thursday: Jive Radio
Friday: StumpTown with special guest Jarrod Hogan & South 55
Saturday: Ingrid Andress with special guest Shy Carter
Side stage band: Whiskey Bent.
Friday Fest, July 23: Decade of Decadence with special guest New TRICK
Saturday, July 24: Winger with special guest Blackfoot
Side stage band: LP33
Friday Fest, Aug. 27: Hello Dave with special guest Duke and the Band on the Fly
Saturday, Aug. 28: Phil Vassar with special guest Hailey Whitters
Side stage band: Sequoia Drive
Thursday, Sept. 16: Harper with special guest The Travis Ried Band
Friday Fest, Sept. 17: The Pork Tornadoes with special guest Stars In Toledo
Saturday, Sept. 18: Steelheart with special guest George Lynch
Side stage band: The Mixtape