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Great weather for Van Buren Scenic Drive Festival

Warm weather delivers crowds for vendors who have done limited events this year

Bagging kettle corn fresh from the pot are, from left, Gary Lee, Mason Simmons and Jessica Sedore. They were among those working at Great Day Kettle Corn, which had set up a booth at the Fall Festival Saturday in Keosauqua. (Andy Hallman/The Union)
Bagging kettle corn fresh from the pot are, from left, Gary Lee, Mason Simmons and Jessica Sedore. They were among those working at Great Day Kettle Corn, which had set up a booth at the Fall Festival Saturday in Keosauqua. (Andy Hallman/The Union)
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KEOSAUQUA – The calendar might say October, but it felt like the middle of summer this past weekend during the Van Buren Scenic Drive Festival.

The annual event is a celebration of the towns in Van Buren County. It’s got something for everyone in every town, including a parade, car and tractor show, live music, antiques and more craft and food vendors than you can count. Vendors at the Fall Festival craft show in Keosauqua were thrilled with the attendance.

People took advantage of the nice weather to enjoy a fun outing in a year when so many activities have been canceled.

Scheduling the event in October is a roll of the dice. Recent scenic drive festivals have been marred by cold weather and rain. But not this time.

Jefferson County resident Tracy Diehl set up a booth along the riverfront in Keosauqua to sell her Tupperware. She said the atmosphere could not have been better, with the warm temperatures, the big crowd and the season’s changing colors. Diehl said the vendor fair always draws a good crowd, even in years when the weather is bad.

Diehl set up her booth the night before. She knew that it was going to be a busy weekend for her (and a profitable one, too), so she asked her mother to come from the town of Emmetsburg, a 4½-hour trek from northwest Iowa.

Billie Hunter and Janet Mitchell came from Edina, Mo., to work a lemonade booth in Keosauqua. Hunter started the business when she was 16 because she wanted money for a car. She said the festival was a hit this year.

“The business is going well, the weather is perfect, and the crowd is good,” Hunter said.

Hunter said she suspects the large crowd was attributable to people tired of people cooped up in their house. She said that so many of the events she normally sells at were canceled this year. She does 40 shows in a typical year, and this year she’s only done four.

Julie Schroer of Mt. Pleasant set up shop in Keosauqua selling dog treats through her business “Breezy’s Biscuits ‘n’ Barks,” named in honor of her dog Breezy, who died five years ago. Schroer started her business in May 2018, and she visits vendor fairs within a 90-minute radius of Mt. Pleasant.

The Old Threshers Reunion brings in a lot of sales but that was canceled this year. For the first two years of her business, she was gone most weekends, doing 20-25 shows a year, but this year she’s done only five.

She has been able to offset the loss in vendor fairs with farmers markets, which have been meeting despite the pandemic. This year, she started selling her dog treats online because of COVID, but she still likes getting to meet her customers in person. Many of them bring their dogs to her booth because they can smell the treats she has out.

John Lee Boyer of Douds was among the musical acts who performed in Bentonsport. Boyer sang and played guitar and showed off his lyrical skills, too. Boyer wrote new lyrics to the song “I’ve Been Everywhere,” first sung by Geoff Mack in 1959 about visiting dozens of towns across Australia. The song was later adapted to be about American towns and popularized by American artist Johnny Cash.

Boyer added his own twist to the classic, changing the lyrics once more to be about Iowa towns. Eighty-six towns are mentioned in all.

Boyer and his Iowa-themed songs are a fixture at the Iowa State Fair and Old Threshers Reunion, neither of which he was able to do this year. He’s been performing for about 50 years, normally doing 20-25 shows a year, but only 10 this year.

“I’ve settled on being a street performer,” he said. “I aspire to be a full-time musician.”