Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
KALONA — Many of this year’s Kalona Days traditions were the same as years prior: a parade, a fun run, pony rides, a farmers market. Other details were new, like a last-second parade route change, the return of a pie-making contest, and an expansion of activities into Friday.
Kalona Chamber of Commerce Director Tonia Poole said the event naturally evolved a little bit every year.
"I don’t know that it’s a lot of changes,“ she said. ”It’s bringing something back or starting something new to just to keep people interested so it’s not the same-old same-old. So you’ve got their favorites, but you want to change it up a little bit just to keep it fun … because the town is growing and has other changes, there’s a ripple effect.“
Those changes went over well, according to Poole.
“We added the night market, which we’ve never done before … and we ended up with a really good turnout,” she said. “(Saturday) we had lots of kids that came to the pedal pull, we had more participants in the fun run than last year, so we’re feeling really good about this year’s turnout.”
While she was technically the Chamber director by this time last year, Poole had just started, and the position was remote at that time. This year, Poole was much more involved, and visible around town throughout the festivities.
"It was a little more stressful just walking into it,“ she said. ”I’m a native, I’m from the area, born and raised, but I’d never been too involved with it behind the scenes. I wasn’t able to be here in-person to see it through last year, so this is my first year from start to finish.“
The entire event is hands-on for many in the community, even outside the Chamber. Poole said it took a village to keep everything running smoothly.
"There’s so much that’s free, the only thing that costs is the fun run, and that’s because we have such amazing sponsors and businesses that contribute to make that possible,“ she said. ”And there’s dozens of volunteers throughout the day that we need to keep people safe and do announcements and things like that.“
In fact, that collective effort is Poole’s favorite thing about the weekend.
“All of the different people come in together,” she said. “You have such a diverse group, that’s really one of Kalona’s strong points. It’s all hands on deck, they want what’s best. Nobody’s trying to get ahead to make their thoughts and their things happen. It’s just very good, well-balanced people coming together.”