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Educational, Fun and Free Events Await Iowa Tourists

Cedar Rapids' "Overalls All Over," celebrating Grant Wood's famous painting "American Gothic," is expected to help boost Iowa's $8 billion tourism industry this year. (croveralls.com)
Cedar Rapids' "Overalls All Over," celebrating Grant Wood's famous painting "American Gothic," is expected to help boost Iowa's $8 billion tourism industry this year. (croveralls.com)
May 27, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - Families have plenty of things to do and see across the state of Iowa as summer arrives without breaking the bank.

Tourism is an $8 billion industry, said Jessica O'Riley, tourism communications manager at Travel Iowa, and this year's numbers are expected to surpass last year's because costs for travelers have been going down.

"Admission fees and hotel lodging, and gas prices. Gas prices are pretty low this year, compared to where we were a few years ago," she said. "So, I think all of that -- and there are a lot of attractions that are free."

One of them is "Overalls All Over," celebrating painter Grant Wood's famous "American Gothic." O'Riley said there now are statues of the iconic Midwest farmer and his wife from the painting on display throughout Cedar Rapids, reinterpreted by local artists.

"The perfect way to sort of explore the area and see all these different unique statues, take your selfie or take group shots," she said. "So, it's a fun project that runs through Labor Day."

The website TravelIowa.com has a calendar feature where you can enter the type of attraction or event you might like to see - for instance, arts and culture, family fun, or food.

One of the most unusual in the "food" category is the Sac City Museum Village, where O'Riley said the "World's Largest Popcorn Ball" will be unveiled next month. It'll surpass the previous record-holder, which weighed in at 5,000 pounds.

"They're aiming for an 8,000-pound ball - so when it's done, it'll be encased in plastic and on display, so you can stop by and see that anytime," she said. "But if you want to get in on it, you're certainly welcome to join them June 18."

There's also Adventureland in Altoona, which debuts its first new ride in more than 20 years. O'Riley said "The Monster" promises more than its share of thrills.

"You start straight up -- like a vertical hill, 90 degrees straight up - and then, when you come back down, it's a 101-degree drop," she said. "And there's these moments where you feel like you're falling out of the roller-coaster car."

The Monster will make its debut next month at Adventureland.

Bob Kessler, Public News Service - IA