It’s that time of year again.
Altoona Palooza is back, celebrating its fourth year in the community. It takes place Aug. 24 from 8 a.m. to midnight at the Sam Wise Youth Complex, at Eighth Street S.E. and Eighth Avenue S.E. in Altoona. Admission is free.
The daylong celebration offers activities and entertainment for everyone in the family. Making its debut this year is a new event dubbed “Palooza Cross,” a cycling race that spectators and participants will get to enjoy.
Attendees will also be able to test their athletic prowess at the mud or kickball tournaments, check out the cool rides at the car and motorcycle show or have the kids hit the inflatables and other activities. Live music, food, a wine and craft beer garden, art and produce market and much more will be in store.
There have been a few changes this year, says Mattia Hansen, Altoona Palooza secretary. That includes moving the majority of the event to the south end of Sam Wise to be more visible to the community and passersby.
Mud volleyball, kickball (which will feature more teams this year because of its popularity) and Palooza Cross will be located at the north end of the complex, she says.
Get the most up-to-date information at www.altoonapalooza.com.
Veteran and new volunteers are excited for the festivities and are looking forward to not only this year’s Palooza but also to seeing it evolve and grow.
“I feel like it’s taking shape,” says Chairman Adam McRoberts, who has been involved since Altoona Palooza’s inception.
Since its debut in 2010, he’s seen the community begin to take ownership of it.
What he’d eventually like to see happen is that it becomes an annual tradition for families and individuals who mark it on their calendar year after year.
First-time volunteer Jeff Nolin has fond memories of growing up in Altoona and attending big July Fourth celebrations. Those types of family-friendly community gatherings had subsided before Altoona Palooza came along, which continues in that same spirit, the co-chairman of the volunteer committee says.
“That’s my hope — that old is new again,” Nolin says. “I hope we can build on this new tradition, and I encourage everyone to support Altoona Palooza by volunteering for a few hours, attending an event or both.”
New Palooza Cross event
If you’ve never heard of Cyclocross, you’ll have the chance to watch a race, or, if you’re up for it, participate in one, at this year’s new Palooza Cross event.
Spectators can watch for free, while racers will pay to compete and vie for awards and prizes.
So, what is Cyclocross?
“First, a Cyclocross bike is a mix between a road bike and a mountain bike and is ridden on- and off-road in a variety of weather and environmental conditions,” says Don Lund, a team member of the Palooza Cross committee.
Racers at Palooza Cross will be on a course that’s mainly on the grass and will require participants to jump on and off their bikes as they move through a variety of obstacles, trees and a creek, and over dirt mounds, Lund says. The course is one that will appeal to all skill levels, which hopefully will draw a broader range of riders and encourage people to return next year.
Lund and his wife, Karen, and daughter, Madison, have volunteered for Altoona Palooza in the past, Lund says. One of the event’s committee members knew he was into biking and asked if he had any ideas to complement the event.
Lund, who belongs to Sakari Race Team, approached team president Kurt Hantelmann for his input. The team’s Facebook page states that it’s a “cycling team made with a focus on family, friends and fun.”
“So this just made sense to provide five to six hours of racing entertainment running parallel to the many other events at Altoona Palooza,” Lund says. “Cyclocross’ appeal beyond racing is that it is a family- and fan-friendly event allowing spectators to sit and watch most, if not all, of the course from their seat or walk around the course to encourage the racers.”
Sakari Race Team will be managing the USA Cycling sanctioned event. A variety of individual men, women and junior races will span from the elite to “citizen,” or novice category, and everything in between. There will be five to eight separate races, and each race can last 30 minutes to more than an hour.
“We’d be pleased to see racers from Iowa and across the Midwest for our first year,” Lund says.
Racers will be able to preregister online at USA Cycling, www.usacycling.org, by clicking on “Events,” and doing an event search.
Cost will be $25 to $35 per race, and participants will need to purchase a 2013 USA Cycling license if they do not already have one. A one-day racing license is $10, Lund says, and can also be purchased at www.usacycling.org.
While people can register at the race, competitors are encouraged to preregister at a discounted rate online, which will help them manage the event better, Lund says.
“As this event grows each year, and it will, we hope to draw more and more riders from across Iowa and the upper Midwest while spreading the health benefits and enjoyment that cycling provides, which in the end is our goal,” he says.
How Altoona Palooza began
McRoberts, Altoona Palooza chairman, remembers as a kid going to Altoona Balloon Fest.
But several years ago, there wasn’t anything comparable in the city for his own two little girls to enjoy, no such childhood tradition that they could look back on.
He’d see neighbors from Altoona at festivals in Ankeny or Pleasant Hill and wondered why their own community couldn’t have something similar.
“I wanted to give something back to my daughters growing up,” he says.
McRoberts, then president of the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce, threw out the idea of a citywide celebration to some of his colleagues at the chamber. Hansen, Mary Simon and Julie West agreed to be part of the venture, he says. Hansen pulled in Jeremy Boka, who she had met through the Altoona Leadership Program.
The five formed a board, and the group applied for a nonprofit 501(c)(3) designation.
With the support of the City Council, countless volunteers and others, they made Altoona Palooza happen that first year in 2010, McRoberts says. It’s been a learning process since then, as they’ve tried to branch out each year, trying different things and activities to see what works.
High hopes for the future
But sustaining Altoona Palooza and establishing it as a community event for future generations to enjoy will require a lot of help.
No one, including the board, gets paid for their time, McRoberts says. So volunteers are necessary and much appreciated.
“This event doesn’t succeed without the community and the volunteers backing it,”
McRoberts says. “The idea only goes as far as people who carry it.”
It’s a sentiment that Jennifer and Ryan Timm wholeheartedly agree with.
“The only way they’re going to be successful and grow is to have volunteers,” Jennifer Timm says. “And it takes all of us to do that,” not just the same group of people.
“You can never have enough people,” Ryan Timm says.
The Timms, who volunteered the first two years of Altoona Palooza, got involved because they wanted to help create a community celebration in their town that families could attend.
“At the time, we had two younger children in the community and we just felt that the community needed a project like this,” Jennifer Timm says. “We found that we were traveling to Johnston and Waukee to go to family-friendly events, while in Altoona, we had enough families to support such events. We just wanted to be part of something that was great for the community.”
The two were in charge of the softball tournament, and enlisted the help of family and friends for everything from promoting the tournament and putting together teams to handing out fliers.
But because of their kids’ ages and many activities, the couple took a break after the first two years of volunteering. They’re hoping to get back to volunteering next year, Ryan says.
The two say their favorite part of the event has been the bands at night, and seeing people come out to listen and dance to music.
The bands are a fun wind down to the whole day, Ryan says.
“It just wraps everything up,” he says.
McRoberts’ favorite part is also in the evening, when people come up to him at the end of the night, telling him they’ve spent the entire day at Altoona Palooza and had a great time.
“The best payoff is at 11 or 12 o’clock,” he says. “The volunteers are cleaning up, and we’re standing back, and there’s that ‘a-ha’ moment, and we say, ‘We did it!’ ”