The sounds of candy skidding across the street and cheers of young children running to retrieve the sugar-filled packages downtown Kalona Saturday as rain clouds held off long enough not to disrupt the beach party taking place during the annual Kalona Days.
“The parade is starting,” a young girl cried out a few minutes after 10 a.m. as the sound of a drum reverberated off the downtown businesses and down the crowded streets.
Rosie Nisly and her children — Jennica, 2, and Ethan, 5, sat on a curb, waiting for the parade to start. Kalona Days are a time-honored tradition for the Wellman family as they had family members in the parade. For Ethan, the only thing more exciting than getting candy was seeing “Daddy, Grandpa and Natasha riding horses at the end of the parade.” And someday, Ethan plans to be riding alongside his family.
Dale and Ann Britton, of Kalona, sat back from the street in lawn chairs under the shade of business. The longtime residents weren’t sure how long they’d been coming to the Kalona Days events, but Dale knew they’d only missed a few. Over the years, Ann said the changes she’s noticed is the renovation of the downtown area. “They’ve done a good job of keeping the town up,” he husband added.
Kalona Days have brought in more and more people from out of town, the couple observed.
“There’s more and more strangers,” said Dale.
“We feel like the strangers, and we live here,” Ann remarked.
But the couple also felt a sense of pride in there town, knowing families were traveling to the small town just for the annual celebration. Families like the Vyns from Coralville.
Kalona Days have been a part of the Vyn household before the youngest, Silas, 2, was even born.
“Our chiropractor is here and we knew he was going to be in the parade so we decided to come and watch,” said Amanda Vyn.
That was three years ago and each June, she and her kids drive down for the festivities. “It’s so great for the kids so we keep coming,” she said.
While five-year-old Jonah was ready to pounce on the next piece of candy to come his way, Amanda said he was also really excited for the pony rides, as long as the rain continued to hold off.
The Vyns were spending most of the day in Kalona, as they arrived early enough for Amanda to participate in the 5K fun run.
“We had a great turnout for the fun run,” said Ben Curtis, with the Kalona Area Chamber of Commerce. “It was encouraging to see so many runners and the turnout for the parade, well,” Curtis said taking a step and looking down B Avenue and the crowded sidewalks, “they’ve lined up throughout downtown.”
Curtis said the weather forecast had created some concern. “We had to cancel the inflatables, there was too high of a risk with the wind and rain.”
The rain did show up. As the final runners crossed the finish line of the 5K, held immediately after the one-mile run, large raindrops began to fall, cooling runners off from their race. However, by parade time, the clouds had cleared and it was only candy that seemed to fall from the sky.
Following the parade, kids could take a pony ride and play games. One of the new additions, Curtis said, were the dunk tanks. The school principals would each take a turn in the tanks. And for those looking forward to the inflatables, Curtis said not to fear, they would return at some point this summer. He said the kids’ inflatables would be featured during an August back-to-school event.