On the Town in 2021

Superstar Gladys Knight will perform May 23 at Hoyt Sherman Place.

If you’re like those of us at dsm—and we suspect you are—you’re eager to get out again to experience theater and concerts, galas and parties, festivals and markets. So we asked local arts, cultural and charitable organizations what their event plans are for this year.

Of course, as we were putting this issue together, COVID-19 was raging, with experts predicting it would continue throughout this winter and spring. Therefore, all events listed here are subject to change. The pandemic may cause some to be postponed, canceled, moved to a virtual format, or altered in some other way, so please check before going. But we all totally know that drill by now, right? Pivoting is indeed our new normal.

The information in this listing was what was available at press time in mid-November. It is not intended to be comprehensive. Please note:

  • Some local arts and cultural organizations weren’t ready to release details of their 2021 plans yet. Pyramid Theatre Company expects to announce its new season sometime in January, while Des Moines Community Playhouse is planning its schedule 30 to 60 days out. Des Moines Performing Arts will announce updated show dates and other engagements at a later date. Civic Music Association has moved some of its originally scheduled spring concerts to the fall, and Ballet Des Moines will air its shows on Iowa PBS. Iowa Stage Theatre Company and the Des Moines Symphony will stream their winter and spring performances.
  • The don’t-miss party of every year, the Bravo Gala, has been canceled for 2021. Held the first Saturday of February, the gala typically draws more than 1,000 people who gather to support the arts—and to have a grand time socializing, dining and dancing. We’ll miss you, Bravo! Also canceled is Des Moines Metro Opera’s popular Wine and Food Showcase, also usually held in February, a favorite event of foodies, oenophiles and beer enthusiasts.
  • Most nonprofit organizations we checked with plan to host their signature fundraisers, but many did not know details yet, including the date and whether the event would be in-person or virtual. You’ll find a list of these organizations and their events—along with virtual arts performances that didn’t have specific dates at press time—below.

As soon as it’s safe, we hope to see you in our concert halls, theaters, party venues and other places around town in 2021, enjoying the arts, meeting up with friends, and supporting our community.

Live from the Temple, Des Moines Symphony. Photographer: Minda Davison

January 21

Live From the Temple: Dance, Rhythm and Blues, Des Moines Symphony, livestreamed: Featuring dance music including Stravinsky’s “L’Historie du Soldat” and Scott Joplin’s ragtime riffs (dmsymphony.org).

January 30

Rally Against Cancer, UnityPoint Health Foundation-Des Moines, virtual: Fundraising event to help patients and families going through one of the hardest fights of their lives (unitypoint.org/desmoines/rallyagainst-cancer).

February 11

Live From the Temple: Past and Present, Des Moines Symphony, livestreamed: From Haydn to Jessie Montgomery’s multicultural tribute to “The Start-Spangled Banner” (dmsymphony.org).

February 11-14

Des Moines Home and Garden Show, Iowa Events Center: Featuring products that relate to home improvement and landscaping (desmoineshomeandgardenshow.com).

February 12

“Judith Schaechter: Path to Paradise,” Des Moines Art Center: Called the “post-punk stained-glass sorceress,” Judith Schaechter creates vibrant panels depicting a feminist sensibility. Exhibit runs through May 23 (desmoinesartcenter.org).

March 6

Variety Telethon, Variety—the Children’s Charity, Iowa Events Center: Entertainment showcase featuring a lineup of local, national and international personalities (varietyiowa.com/variety-telethon).

March 9

Home Design Awards, dsm magazine, virtual: Join us for our first annual home awards recognizing excellence in interior, exterior and landscape design (dsmhomedesignawards.com).

March 12

“Iowa Artists 2021: Olivia Valentine,” Des Moines Art Center: Two installations that spotlight overlooked elements of the Art Center’s iconic architecture. Exhibit runs through May 16 (desmoinesartcenter.org).

March 13

Robert Cray Band, Hoyt Sherman Place: Acclaimed musician has been bridging the lines between blues, soul, and rhythm and blues for 40 years (hoytsherman.org).

March 18

Live From the Temple: Spring Serenade, Des Moines Symphony, livestreamed: Highlights include the lyrical “Serenade in E-flat Major” by Strauss (dmsymphony.org).

April 10

Ricky Skaggs, Hoyt Sherman Place: Grammy Award-winning musician is renowned for exploring various genres, including country, bluegrass and roots revival (hoytsherman.org).

April 15

Live From the Temple: Fireworks and Fanfare, Des Moines Symphony, livestreamed: Brass and percussion program features works from Handel and Piazzolla (dmsymphony.org).

April 16

All-Star Evening, the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center, Ron Pearson Center, West Des Moines: Presentation of the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award (raycenter.wp.drake.edu/allstar).

April 17

YWRC Gala, Young Women’s Resource Center, in-person and virtual options: Silent auction, raffle and more (ywrc.org/events/gala).

April 26

Live United Awards, United Way of Central Iowa, Meadows Events Center, Altoona: Luncheon recognizing individuals and organizations that improve lives through giving, advocating and volunteering (unitedwaydm.org).

May 1

Downtown Farmers’ Market, Court Avenue: Opening day of vibrant outdoor market that features vendors offering produce, meat, eggs, cheese, artisan food items, baked goods, flowers/plants and more. Runs through October (dsmpartnership.com/desmoinesfarmersmarket).

May 1

May Day fundraiser, Iowa Stage Theatre Company, virtual: Featuring entertainment including improv sketches and more (iowastage.org).

Spring Garden Festival, Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Photographer: Kelly Norris

May 7-9

Spring Garden Festival, Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden: Pop-up retail event featuring limited-edition plant sale with more than 500 varieties (dmbotanicalgarden.com).

May 8

Bubble Ball, ChildServe, Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center: Themed runway show showcasing bubble wrap creations made by designers and artists (childserve.org/bubbleball).

May 12

Strands of Strength, Glen Oaks Country Club, West Des Moines: Luncheon raises funds to provide wigs to women undergoing cancer treatment (strandsofstrength.com).

May 13

Live From the Temple: Fantaisie En Francais, Des Moines Symphony, livestreamed: Flutist James Blanchard plays Faure’s expressive “Fantaisie” (dmsymphony.org).

May 23

Gladys Knight, Hoyt Sherman Place: Seven-time Grammy winner who has had No. 1 hits in pop, gospel, rhythm and blues, and adult contemporary, and has been acclaimed in film and television performances (hoytsherman.org).

June 1-6

Principal Charity Classic, Wakonda Club: Annual PGA Tour Champions event that benefits Iowa children’s charities (principalcharityclassic.com).

June 10

Admiral’s White Party, Easterseals Iowa: Gala with entertainment, a cocktail-style dining experience, and silent auction (easterseals.com).

June 1-12

Winefest Week, Winefest Des Moines, various locations: Variety of wine-related events, including classes, dinners, and the Grand Tasting (winefestdesmoines.com).

June 14

Great Futures Golf Tournament, Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Iowa, Des Moines Golf and Country Club, West Des Moines: One of the metro’s premier charitable golf tournaments, with fun hole contests, lunch and a tee gift package (bgcci.org).

June 24

MercyOne House of Mercy Game Show Gala, MercyOne Des Moines Foundation, Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center: Spirited game show-style fundraiser that includes cocktails and dinner (mercyone.org/desmoinesfoundation).

June 25-27

Des Moines Arts Festival, Western Gateway Park downtown: Browse and buy a variety of artworks—including paintings, mixed-media pieces, sculptures, hand-crafted jewelry and more—from some 180 of the nation’s top artists at this juried show. The event also includes entertainment on several stages, a film festival and more (desmoinesartsfestival.org).

July 2

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon of Barber Street,” Des Moines Metro Opera, Blank Performing Arts Center, Indianola: Stephen Sondheim’s musical thriller explores the dangers of revenge that, DMMO promises, “will leave spines tingling long after its dramatic conclusion.” Additional performances: July 4, 9, 17, 22, 25 (dmmo.org).

July 2

Yankee Doodle Pops, Des Moines Symphony, Iowa State Capitol: Free family-friendly concert features patriotic music and concludes with a fireworks display over the downtown skyline (dmsymphony.org).

July 3

“The Queen of Spades,” Des Moines Metro Opera, Blank Performing Arts Center, Indianola: Set in the late 18th century, this Russian ghost story by Tchaikovsky explores obsession and psychosis. Additional performances: July 11, 13, 16, 24 (dmmo.org).

July 9

Johnny Lang, Hoyt Sherman Place: The Grammy Award-winning musician has built a reputation as one of his generation’s best live performers and guitarists (hoytsherman.org).

July 9-10

80/35, Western Gateway Park: Concerts from national headliners, regional up-and-comers, and local favorites on several stages, plus other activities (80-35.com).

July 10

“Platee,” Des Moines Metro Opera, Blank Performing Arts Center, Indianola: A fable involving an assortment of curious characters, including the titular character who is a marsh-nymph. Additional performances: July 18 and 23 (dmmo.org).

July 16

“Justin Favela: Central American,” Des Moines Art Center: The Las Vegas artist’s works focus on iconography from art history and Latino and pop culture, created with layers of paper, a technique that recalls piñatas and party decorations. Exhibit runs through Oct. 24 (desmoinesartcenter.org).

“Fellow Travelers,” Des Moines Metro Opera

July 17

“Fellow Travelers,” Des Moines Metro Opera, Hoyt Sherman Place: Focuses on the little-known “lavender scare” of the 1950s, which resulted in mass firings of gay people, and those believed to be gay, from the U.S. government (dmmo.org).

August 20-29

Restaurant Week, dsm magazine: Enjoy 10 days of feasting at dozens of Greater Des Moines’ top restaurants, which will offer sensational meals and great deals (dsmrestaurantweek.com).

August 27

SCI’s Big Blast, Science Center of Iowa: Entertainment, speakers and activities plus a silent auction supporting science education (sciowa.org/bigblast).

September 7

Robin Trower, Hoyt Sherman Place: Legendary British blues-rock guitarist known for his inspirational style of soloing (hoytsherman.org).

September 17

Jazz Jewels and Jeans, Oakridge Neighborhood, the Tea Room: Featuring live jazz, food, drinks, denim and bling to benefit Oakridge Neighborhood services (oakridgeneighborhood.org).

September 17-19

World Food & Music Festival, Western Gateway Park: Communitywide celebration of international cuisine, live music, performing arts, cooking demonstrations, wine and craft beers (dsmpartnership.com/worldfoodandmusicfestival).

September 18

Cocktails and Cabaret, Iowa Stage Theatre Company, location to be determined: Fundraiser with musical performances, cocktails, dinner, an auction and more (iowastage.org).

October 4

Celebrity Servers Night, Young Women’s Resource Center, Centro and Malo restaurants: Local celebrities team up with professional servers to provide diners with an entertaining three-course dinner (ywrc.org).

October 15

LGBTQ Legacy Leaders Awards, dsm magazine, virtual: Celebrating the civic achievements of Iowa’s LGBTQ community (dsmmagazine.com).

October 20

Yefim Bronfman, Civic Music Association, Hoyt Sherman Place: Internationally recognized and acclaimed pianist will perform Beethoven and Chopin (civicmusic.org).

November 4

Sages Over 70, dsm magazine, virtual: Join us to honor this year’s Sages Over 70, individuals who have contributed to the Greater Des Moines community in countless ways (dsmmagazine.com).

November 6

RMH Gala, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Iowa, Meadows Events Center, Altoona: Fundraiser includes live music, dinner, program and an auction (rmhdesmoines.org).

November 12

Georgia on My Mind: Celebrating the Music of Ray Charles, Civic Music Association, Hoyt Sherman Place: All-star vocalists Take 6, Nnenna Freelo and Clint Holmes perform the music of the legendary artist (civicmusic.org).

November 19

Champagne and Chocolate, Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden: Kick off the holiday season with champagne, chocolate and hors d’oeuvres against the backdrop of the Botanical Garden’s annual holiday exhibition (dmbotanicalgarden.com).

Festival of Trees and Lights Gala, UnityPoint Health-Des Moines Foundation

November 23

Festival of Trees and Lights Gala, UnityPoint Health-Des Moines Foundation, Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center: Event supporting programs at Blank Children’s Hospital. The gala will be followed by the Festival of Trees and Lights Nov. 24-28, a public event showcasing elaborately decorated trees, entertainment and more (festivaloftrees.com).

November 26

Jolly Holiday Lights, Make-A-Wish Iowa, Adventureland: Bundle up the family and enjoy a 2.5-mile ride through more than 100 magical light displays. Continues through Dec. 30 (jollyholidaylights.org).

December 3-4

Holly and Ivy, Salisbury House & Gardens: Includes tours of decorated private homes as well as the Salisbury House (salisburyhouse.org).

December 7

Canadian Brass: Making Spirits Bright, Civic Music Association, Franklin Auditorium: Brass quintet performs holiday favorites, often with spontaneity and fun (civicmusic.org).


Stay Tuned

As of press time in mid-November, the following events and performances were planned for 2021; however, specific dates and other details were still being determined.

“Triple Bill,” Ballet Des Moines. Photographer: Jami Milne

“Triple Bill,” Ballet Des Moines, airing on Iowa PBS: Program features three works, including a world premiere by choreographer Ryan Nye; excerpts from “Don Quixote” and other classical pieces; and “Andante Con Moto” alongside the Roseman String Quartet (balletdesmoines.org).

“Triple Bill,” Ballet Des Moines, airing on Iowa PBS: Program includes “Fly Me to the Moon,” a collaboration with Max Wellman and the Des Moines Big Band featuring the music of Frank Sinatra; “In Formation” by guest choreographer Ma Cong; and “Padam Padam,” with choreography by Serkan Usta (balletdesmoines.org).

“The Cake,” Iowa Stage Theatre Company, streaming February: Tells the story of Jen, whose request for a wedding cake is refused because she’s marrying a woman (iowastage.org).

“The Agitators,” Iowa Stage Theatre Company, streaming March: Explores the enduring yet tempestuous friendship of groundbreakers Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony (iowastage.org).

Heart Ball, American Heart Association: Includes cocktail reception, silent auction, dinner and live music (heart.org).

Bowl for Kids’ Sake, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa, multiple bowling centers: Event will allow for social distancing by having bowling teams in every other lane and by offering more sessions with smaller groups. Expected to take place in April (bbbsia.org).

Celebration Luncheon, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines: Event celebrates charitable giving in the community (desmoinesfoundation.org).

Central Iowa Heroes of the Heartland, American Red Cross, virtual: Event honoring community leaders who have made a difference in the lives of others (redcross.org/local/iowa).

Couture for a Cause, Children’s Cancer Connection: Includes brunch and a fashion show spotlighting children and their families who are facing childhood cancer (childrenscancerconnection.org).

“Exit Strategy,” Iowa Stage Theatre Company, streaming May: Chronicles the story of how teachers battle to save a crumbling Chicago public school on the brink of closure (iowastage.org).

Women Helping Women, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center: Annual luncheon supports mental health counseling, education, training and other services that affect women, children and families who are underinsured or from low-income households (dmpcc.org/whw).

Gala Celebration, One Iowa: Celebrating marriage equality in Iowa and recognizing work from the past year (oneiowa.org).

Smoke Out Hunger, Food Bank of Iowa: Featuring barbecue and craft beers, plus family-friendly activities (foodbankiowa.org).

Tango Gala, Children and Families of Iowa: With hors d’oeuvres, live music, and live and silent auction items (cfiowa.org).

Variety Black Tie, Variety—the Children’s Charity: Fundraising gala with social hour, dinner and dancing (varietyiowa.com).

YESS Duck Derby, Youth Emergency Services & Shelter: Free family-friendly entertainment including live performances, activity booths, inflatables, games and other outdoor activities (duckrace.com/desmoines).

Annual Art Center Gala, Des Moines Art Center: Cocktails, dinner and dancing to raise money for outreach, education and free admission programs (desmoinesartcenter.org).

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