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66th annual Rose Festival starts Thursday

T-R FILE PHOTO The 66th annual Rose Festival will return to State Center beginning Thursday with a full slate of activities planned for the weekend.

STATE CENTER — It’s not every small town that can say it’s held a community festival annually since 1958 (except in 2020 due to the pandemic). But a dedicated team of volunteers, local sponsors and businesses work to ensure the Rose Festival offers something for everyone as they “Raise a Toast to the Roses.”

“With State Center being the rose capital of Iowa, we want people to enjoy the hard work that the Rose Garden committee has done,” said board member Megan Willier. “We’ve hit 66 years consecutively of bringing fun to the community and supporting each other.”

The event begins Thursday night at 7 p.m. with the Rose Queen Pageant and Talent Show at the West Marshall High School Auditorium. The Rose “Glow” Fun Run for kids will follow this, starting at 8:30 p.m. at the State Center Fitness parking lot, ending there at 10 p.m.

Willier said when it comes to the Rose Festival, her heart belongs to the BBQ component, which has expanded in recent years. She coordinates the KCBS BBQ competition on Friday and Saturday, now in its 23rd year, which sees teams from all over the Midwest and Texas travel to State Center to wow the judges. Entry fee is $250.

“This is the longest lasting Kansas City Barbeque Society BBQ competition in the state of Iowa,” she said. “Judges’ tables have been filled and are eager to judge all the amazing BBQ that is turned in. We currently have 19 teams.”

New this year is the first annual KidsQ, which will run 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday. Two age groups will participate: 12 and under and 13 and up. A parent or guardian must supervise all participants. The entry fee is $40, with meat supplied by the Iowa Pork Producers. The 12 and under youth will cook ground pork while the older kids will work with boneless pork chops.

Participants will receive a turn-in box from the Rose Festival BBQ crew. Each team needs to submit six pieces of meat.

Cooks will meet at 5 p.m., with the ground pork turned in by 7 p.m. and the chops by 7:30 p.m. Awards will be announced at 8 p.m. in the Rose Garden. “My son Schuyler is coordinating the KidsQ,” she said. “He comes to most of the other BBQ contests with me to promote Rose Festival.”

While the kids are busy grilling, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., the public is invited to attend a BBQ rib dinner fundraiser at the northeast corner of Rose Garden/Third Street. She said the dinner came about because those who participate in the BBQ competition don’t sell their products at the festival for the public to sample.

“I tried to compensate for that, so I put on a rib dinner. A team called Smokin Grumps comes from Rockwell City,” she said. “They’ve been doing this for several years now. Then at seven o’clock at the Rose Garden is our Rose Queen coronation.”

Around 8 p.m., “Rockin the Rose Garden,” featuring Mike Moody & the Outlaws, will take place, BYOB.

“We try to keep people in a certain location of the town to enjoy all the amenities,” Willier noted.

At dusk, the fireworks will begin, shot from the southeast corner of town. Throughout Friday evening also enjoy the Uptown Friday Teen Night, Extreme Fun Zone set up at the West Marshall Elementary School, and the Gutekunst Kiddie Parade from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday will see a full day of activities, beginning at 7:30 a.m. with the Rose Festival 5K (starting at the police department). The historic Watson’s Grocery Store museum will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The grand parade will run from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and be livestreamed on KDAO.

“People work really hard on the parade,” she said. “They do a great job of getting people to sign up and work with the (festival) royalty.”

Throughout the Rose Festival, food vendors will be on hand in the food court plus other local food stands. Enjoy bingo, a bags tournament, softball, scavenger hunt, classic car show, and more. Saturday will wrap with the Road Hog’s Bar Street Dance, featuring Exit 185, from 9 p.m. to midnight.

On Sunday, the festival will come to a close with a Father’s Day Breakfast from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. by LVGC Ladies League at Lincoln Valley Golf Course. A community Rose Garden church service is set for 10 a.m. In the case of inclement weather, it will be held at the First Presbyterian Church.

Willier said while countless clubs, groups and organizations help make the event happen, Rose Festival Chairperson Buffi Honeck deserves much of the credit for the success year after year.

“The pride and joy and commitment Buffi shows to my hometown gives me goosebumps every time I talk about it. She is very self-less,” she added.

To learn more and to see a complete list of events, visit: statecenterrosefestival.org and Iowa’s Rose Festival on Facebook.

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