Siouxland River-Cade celebration, Sioux City

21 Jul

For the past 50 years, a celebration in Sioux City, Iowa, titled River-Cade, supposedly celebrates the community’s connection to the nearby Missouri River. The organization’s website states: “The Port of Sioux City has long been a crossroads for shipping, commerce and transportation. The first steamboat up the Missouri arrived in June 1856. Just one year later in 1857, seventy boats would travel “up river,” outnumbering those on the Mississippi.” plus “There has been a River-Cade Festival every year since 1964. In fact, Siouxland’s premier festival has become a tradition for generations of families and a “destination event” for visitors…..and finally, “Today, the mission of the Port of Sioux City River-Cade Association is preserved: To focus attention on the Port of Sioux City as a vital and growing river port in the heart of America’s vast agricultural region. Our most effective tool in fulfilling that mission, our annual summer festival, is still designed to celebrate the area’s history and culture, and to showcase our area’s potential for continued economic development. The festival also showcases the outstanding quality of life we enjoy in our regional community.”

I could easily just show photos of the annual parade and Merriam Midway Shows carnival and be done with it. But I am curious as to why over the years, there seems to be a disconnect from the stated goal to what actually transpires. The event used to happen down along the river, but that stopped a number of years ago. For the 10 plus years I have lived in the area, there has always been a strong turn out for this event. Even though it has struggled financially to continue. Kids and families line two streets to watch the parade wend its way while waiting to catch beads (think Madi Gras) and candy. It always occurs in July and inevitably is a hot and muggy day. There are then musical acts in the evenings and the carnival with rides and entertainment for the kids, of all ages.

This year while photographing the parade there were major breaks in the parade line. People would wait for 1-15 minutes for another entry to come by. And looking up the street, one could see 4-5 blocks of emptiness before seeing the next parade float. The city of Sioux City has one-way streets traversing its downtown. The parade travels on of these two one-way streets. Up one, down the other. This year, when the parade was done traveling up the one street, barricades were taken down and traffic started flowing over to the second street where the parade was still continuing. There was no police presence or parade representatives to flag the cars so they wouldn’t hit the people standing in the intersection still waiting for the parade to come by them.

Some people I talked with along the way mentioned this year’s parade was the most disorganized they had seen after having attended their entire lives, growing in the city and then settling down in it was well with their own families. Others have mentioned they don’t understand why more organizations are not involved as seemed to be the case in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. There are no more marching bands, local or out of town. This year the Shriners didn’t participate, and this organization is generally in all local parades. People also wonder why the event itself has drifted from its original intent and maybe like other facets of the city’s history, it too should be relegated to history books of what Sioux City used to be. I guess time will tell, but they seem to be fair questions. But will anyone  take a hard look and find an answer. More images here.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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