Rose Fest weekend brings variety of events

STATE CENTER – Visitors and residents came in droves to the 58th annual State Center Rose Festival, which wrapped up Saturday and Sunday after Friday night’s rose royalty coronation.

“The weather’s perfect, there’s a big crowd, everyone seems happy,” said Grand Marshal Jeff Merrill.

The Grand Parade meandered down the streets of State Center Saturday morning, with sirens, horns, revving motors and laughter filling the air. The general din was occasionally pierced by a train rolling though town.

“My favorite is the candy!” said State Center youngster Layla Satver, clutching her plastic grocery bag, waiting for the sweets to fly.

Her older brother, Grayson, said his favorite part of Rose Fest was the car show.

The Classic Car Show was one many post-parade events Saturday. One hotspot directly after the parade rolled through was the food-stand area in and around State Center Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

“On a nice day like this, we usually expect a full crowd to come through,” said Jim Streeter of the volunteer fire department. He and dozens of other firefighters and emergency medical technicians were serving up pork chops-on-a-stick, pork burgers, chips and pop to hungry visitors.

Many of those in the crowd Saturday had changed from their running outfits, having participated in the annual Rose Festival 5k Run/Walk earlier that morning.

“This is my second time running this (5k),” said first-place overall finisher Caleb Benzing upon crossing the finish line outside West Marshall Middle School. “I like the connection between the run and the events around town.”

Festival-goers were also able to enjoy a lip-sync contest, bicycle races, slow-pitch softball, a BBQ competition, the Extreme Fun Zone, BINGO, and a movie in the Rose Garden, among other events.

Sunday morning brought breakfast at the Lincoln Valley Clubhouse, town garden tours and a church service at the Rose Garden.

As the morning wore on, the temperatures climbed above 90 degrees. Despite the heat, one outdoor event helped many cool off.

“We’ve had the waterball fights for at least 40 years,” said firefighter Hunter Wilkening. “We’re expecting at least 20 teams to compete today.”

In a waterball fight, two teams line up with a fire hose aimed at a barrel on a wire above. They then try to push the barrel to the opposite team’s side. Fire departments all over Iowa were invited to State Center to compete.

Before adult competition, youth teams took turns battling back and forth over a smaller barrel.

“I’d say the waterball fight is my favorite thing at Rose Fest,” said State Center resident Brenda Etzen. “It’s getting bigger and bigger every year.”

Merrill said he couldn’t narrow down a single favorite event, and said that he enjoys the entire celebration. He also said many work hours were put in to making the festival a reality.

“A lot of people put in a huge amount of effort to make all this happen, dozens and dozens of people” he said, watching the parade roll down Main Street. “My favorite thing is walking through the streets and seeing all the people enjoying themselves, and this year was a success.”


Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or