Jul. 22—Every July 4 since 2012, a group of volunteers has worked hard to put together a free Fourth of July Festival in the city of Clinton.
An afternoon filled with a parade, family-friendly games and entertainment, a LumberKings game at night and fireworks to conclude the holiday is a tradition that brings many residents out for a day of community-oriented fun.
And this year like each year before, the Herald has covered the event, from letting readers know beforehand what is scheduled and what will be offered throughout the festival to publishing photos and a story about the day's events in the next printed edition of the Herald.
But this year, we had an additional element in our edition printed after the Sunday festival — a story about the now-defunct Riverboat Days and what led to its demise. Riverboat Days, to let readers unfamiliar know, was a festival that started in the early 1960s along Clinton's riverfront and was described as the largest Fourth of July festival in Iowa. The last Riverboat Days festival was 10 years ago.
In the time since our coverage of the 2021 event and publication of our Riverboat Days piece, we've had some pushback from Fourth of July Festival organizers wondering why — and, in some cases, chastising us — for running that story on the same day we published coverage of the Fourth of July Festival.
The reason is simple — every year at the same time as the Fourth of July Festival, our Facebook page and other community social media platforms are abuzz with questions as to how come there is no longer a Riverboat Days festival in Clinton, and there are always questions as to how, and even whether, it can be brought back.
Those questions each year often overshadow the work done by the volunteers who donate their time to put the current festival together.
No doubt Riverboat Days had a good 50-year run, and has left many with great memories of time spent with family and friends. But there were problems that surfaced — decreasing funds, carnival concerns, changes to the layout of the grounds that prevented long-time events from occurring, and its direction of growth — was it in fact a family festival or was it turning into a multi-day music festival that was difficult to continue to fund?
Add to it residents' complaints about the cost of fun cards to get in, bad weather that knocked down attendance and restrictions on using the river for activities after Sept. 11, 2001 and the festival descended into a mere fragment of what it had been.
We have nothing but respect for the Land sisters who put together the very first Fourth of July Festival in 2012, and for the committee, led by David Helscher and supported by LumberKings GM Ted Tornow, that now oversees it from year to year.
Our hope is the hard work they put into it is acknowledged and not overlooked each year because of the same nagging RBD questions.
Another outcome we'd like to see is involvement. There is strength in numbers, and we would encourage those reminiscing about Riverboat Days to step up and boost the volunteer ranks now in place.
We're also encouraging everyone to break free from the mindset that romanticizes the "way things used to be."
Instead, let's work together to make the days that we are living now be the best they can be.