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Charles City’s downtown Party in the Park returns for 20th anniversary

Charles City’s downtown Party in the Park returns for 20th anniversary
Oaklyn Hewitt, 19 months old, of Charles City, reaches out to touch a goat at the Hovick Family Farm Petting Zoo, set up at a 2022 Party in the Park n Charles City. (Press file photo by Bob Steenson)
To The Press

There was an idea back in 2003 of bringing people together for a little relaxation, fellowship and fun to wind down the work week and enjoy what downtown Charles City has to offer. It was called “Party in the Park ‘til Dark,” with the inaugural event taking place June 13, 2003, in Central Park.

There were food and beverages, live musical entertainment, kids games and more. Admission was free. That first year there were a total of six parties, each with its own theme night.

“To say that the idea caught on would be an understatement,” said Mark Wicks, Charles City community development director.

Friday, June 9, Party in the Park kicks off its 20th anniversary year. The “‘til Dark” part was removed years ago, with set hours now 5-9 p.m., but the overall format of the summer series remains, Wicks said.

“‘PIP,’ as it is often referred to, has become a Charles City summertime tradition and attracts residents and visitors alike from around the region,” Wicks said. “It has been recognized by Main Street Iowa as a statewide Event of the Year, and other communities have come to see how the Charles City event is done so they can try something similar themselves.”

Party in the Park events have drawn as many as 3,000 attendees, and even after all this time continue to average more than 1,500 participants a night.

Community Revitalization volunteers Jeff Sisson and Pam Popelka were co-organizers of that first Party in the Park, along with core committee members Wendy Wandro, Dean Andrews and Larry Pump.

Community Revitalization is now Main Street Charles City, but the volunteer-run event continues to bring the community together, while also serving as both a fundraiser for the non-profit program, as well as financially benefiting local vendors and businesses.

“Central parks in rural communities are under-utilized and we have a beautiful one here that we need to take advantage of,” Sisson was quoted in the June 9, 2003, Charles City Press. “When the town square was established, it was for gatherings and communication purposes. That’s exactly what we are doing – getting people together to talk, relax and enjoy themselves.”

The first PIP event of this season on Friday will feature Karaoke music, with DJ Kenyatta’s Sound, as well as food and beverage vendors, activities in the park and special 20th anniversary celebration surprises.

The presenting sponsor is Trelleborg Wheel Systems/Yokohama, while event co-sponsors are Floyd County Medical Center, CUSB Bank, Cambrex, Fareway, Central Park Dentistry and Perry Novak Electric.

As in the past, special tokens will be utilized to pay for everything in the park that night, and they will be available at the Main Street Charles City booth and from token browsers walking around, The new eco-friendly tokens are replacing the old “Chuck Chips,” and will now be used exclusively at Party in the Park events moving forward. Past year’s Chuck Chips will not be accepted.

Other Party in the Park dates this summer are June 30th, July 14th and Aug. 4th.

For more information, contact the Main Street Charles City Office at (641) 228-2335 or email

Main Street Charles City is part of the Main Street Iowa network and was established to preserve and enhance the downtown district.



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