Now in its sixth year, A-May-Zing Days continues to live up to its billing with multiple citywide events scheduled to celebrate West Des Moines in May.
From the return of popular events in Historic Valley Junction like the weekly Thursday night Farmers’ Market and Function in the Junction concert series, Festival Cinco de Mayo and the two-day barbecue contest Smokin’ in the Junction, to the YESS Duck Derby at Jordan Creek Town Center, Runzing walk-run event at city hall, the Tom Karpan Relays at Valley High School and Valley West Mall’s Family Fun Night, A-May-Zing Days promises to celebrate West Des Moines in a big way.
“A-May-Zing Days is a way to highlight and promote all of the exciting stuff going on in West Des Moines,” says Todd Seaman, superintendent of recreation for West Des Moines Parks and Recreation.
Jim Miller, executive director of the Valley Junction Foundation, says he likes how so many organizations and groups work together to promote A-May-Zing Days.
“We each do our own events, but we put it under an umbrella to help one another,” he says. “It’s a cool celebration of different things. It’s not just about one event.”
Several of the monthlong signature events can be found in Historic Valley Junction. Among them is the ninth annual Festival Cinco de Mayo, one of Miller’s personal favorites slated for May 4. It celebrates Valley Junction’s Mexican heritage with food, artwork, live music, dancing and family activities throughout the day and evening.
“I’m a history geek so I have a special interest in this event because Latinos have been in Valley Junction for a long time. It’s part of our city’s roots. It’s not uncommon to see three generations of families attend Cinco de Mayo. It’s a homecoming for many people,” he says.
Another favorite event of Miller’s is Smokin’ in the Junction, a two-day barbecue contest to be held May 25-26. The competition attracts about 20,000 visitors each year from at least six states as well as 60 barbecue teams competing for thousands of dollars in cash prizes. It has become the state’s second largest barbecue event, he says.
“The teams are very serious about their barbecue,” says Miller, “and it’s a popular attraction for those who enjoy eating barbecue. It’s the quintessential American food.”
Smokin’ in the Junction, now in its fifth year, will host free live music each day from noon to 10 p.m. and noon to 9 p.m. Local acts such as Sidney Lett, Randy Burk & The Prisoners, Danny Grause, Comfort Zone and Bonne Finken will perform.
“People come to this event for a variety of reasons, including barbecue and music,” Miller says. “It’s a very social event.”
A-May-Zing lineup of events
The following is an abbreviated list of events found throughout the month of May in West Des Moines. Visit www.amayzingdays.com for a complete and updated list of events.
Wednesday, May 1
Citizen of the Year Reception — The West Des Moines Citizen of the year distinction has been awarded to a deserving individual in the community every year since 1945. A cocktail reception for the honoree will be held in the City Council Chambers, 4200 Mills Civic Parkway, from 4 to 6 p.m. Free.
Thursday, May 2
Farmers’ Market/Music in the Junction — From 4 to 8 p.m. more than 100 vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods, plants and flowers, arts and crafts and prepared foods will line the first three blocks of Fifth Street in Valley Junction for the weekly Farmers’ Market held each Thursday until Sept. 26. Music in the Junction, a concert series featuring local bands, is held during the Farmers’ Market from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Both events are free and have become signature events in Historic Valley Junction. Free parking and free shuttle service are available from 4 to 9 p.m. during scheduled Thursday night events at Hillside Elementary School, 713 8th St. Visit www.valleyjunction.com for more details.
Saturday, May 4
Cinco de Mayo in the Garden — Hosted by Covenant Presbyterian Church and St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church on the north side of Ashworth Road between 24th and 28th streets, it will include music, dancing, cooking demonstrations and planting vegetables from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Historic Valley Junction Foundation’s Festival Cinco de Mayo — Travel south of the border as the Historic Valley Junction Foundation hosts its ninth annual, free Festival Cinco de Mayo celebration from noon to 10 p.m. Located in the 200 and 300 blocks of Fifth Street in Valley Junction, visitors are invited to enjoy Mexican food, artwork, live music, dancing and family activities while celebrating the Mexican heritage of many railroad workers who helped to establish Valley Junction in 1846 and helped James Jordan realize his vision of bringing the railroad to the area. A proclamation and announcement of the Cinco de Mayo King and Queen will be held.
YESS Duck Derby — The Sixth Annual YESS Duck Derby, a springtime fundraiser that benefits Youth Emergency Services and Shelter (YESS), returns to Jordan Creek Town Center from noon to 3 p.m. Thousands of people are expected to flock to the shopping mall to cheer on more than 35,000 rubber ducks as they race to the finish line. The public is welcome to adopt a duck for $5. The first 10 lucky ducks to cross the finish line will win prizes. One winner will walk away with the top prize of $10,000 and every participant has a shot at the Million Dollar Duck. The event also includes other family-friendly activities, entertainment, food and more.
Raccoon River Cache Bash — Families or individuals can use GPS devices to scavenge Raccoon River Park for treasures from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Register to participate in this free, geo-cache event at the Nature Lodge. Call 222-3435 for details.
Wednesday, May 8
Lego Club — What can’t you build with Legos? Find out for yourself as local youth, ages 5 to 12, are invited to test their Lego building skills for free at the West Des Moines Library from 3:45 to 4:45 p.m. Registration is required and begins May 6 at 9 a.m. Call 222-3405 or visit www.wdmlibrary.org.
Monday, May 13
Tae Kwon Do demonstration Class — Visit the West Des Moines Library for this free event from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. hosted by Breese Family Taw Kwon Do and learn about self defense. Designed for children ages 5 to 12, registration is required. Call 222-3405 or visit www.wdmlibrary.org.
Thursday, May 16
Family Fun Night — Held during the weekly Farmers’ Market in Historic Valley Junction from 4 to 7 p.m., this event will include inflatables, face painting and information about the Parks and Recreation programs offered throughout the year. Members from the West Des Moines Bike Safety Commission will be on hand to host a bicycle rodeo for children and to hand out free bicycle helmets.
Saturday, May 18
Runzing 5K and 10K Fun Run — Hosted by the West Des Moines Chamber and West Des Moines Parks and Recreation, the sixth annual 5K and 10K fun run timed event is open to runners and walkers of all ages and abilities. Age group prizes will be awarded and the first 200 people to register will receive a free water bottle and T-shirt. Registration is at 7 a.m. and the race starts at 8 a.m. at 4200 Mills Civic Parkway and follows the West Des Moines trail system. Cost is $15-$55. Contact Todd Seaman at 222-3444.
Des Moines Menace Soccer Games — Valley Stadium will host the season’s first home games for the Menace when the women’s team plays at 4:30 p.m. and the men’s team competes at 7:30 p.m. against WSA Winnipeg. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for youth and free for kids 4 and under.
Sunday, May 19
Spring Art Market — Historic Valley Junction will host its annual juried art show that also includes live music and art activities for children from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fifth Street. Admission is free.
Thursday, May 23
Tom Karpan Relays — Free open track and field event for youth ages 5 to 14 at Valley High School’s track. Registration starts at 4:15 p.m., and the meet begins at 4:45 p.m.
Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26
Smokin’ in the Junction — The Fifth Annual Smokin’ in the Junction BBQ Contest sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society is the second largest barbecue event in Iowa and will award thousands of dollars in prizes, including $1,500 to the Grand Champion. Sixty BBQ teams are expected to compete again this year. Food and drinks maybe purchased from food vendors during the competition which in previous years has drawn about 20,000 visitors. The two-day event also includes free live music (Randy Burk and the Prisoners, Danny Grause, Bonne Finken, Comfort Zone), activities for children, inflatables and a beer garden on the south end of Fifth Street. The two-day event will be held May 25 from noon to 10 p.m. and May 26 from noon to 9 p.m. Free admission.
Tuesday, May 28
Valley West Mall’s Family Fun Night — Free inflatable rides, crafts, balloon animals and special guests Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Free, from 6 to 8 p.m.