Jul/Aug: Out and About

March Madness

If your ideal Friday night in the fall involves a marching band concert, tucked between some sort of sportsball thing, then mark your calendar for this summer’s Celebration in Brass on July 14. The annual drum and bugle corps showdown features six teams from Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin that will duke it out for glory as the sun sets over Ankeny Stadium. The event is sanctioned by Drum Corps International, which was founded more than 50 years ago to give young musicians (21 and under) a chance to tour the country and perform at a level most high school and even university bands can’t match. dci.org

Inflation Celebration

The same day the Olympics start in Paris, a French tradition is coming here. The National Balloon Classic, July 26 through Aug. 3 in and above Indianola, continues a legacy that brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier launched in 1783 at Versailles with the first human-piloted balloon. (On an earlier flight, the co-pilots were a sheep, a rooster and a duck.) Here in Warren County, the nine-day festival that started in 1970 draws balloon pilots and enthusiasts from around the world, who annually send 100-some balloons into the sky during morning competitions and late afternoon exhibitions. Fans gather at the balloon field in the evenings for live music, fireworks and the Nite Glow, when dozens of tethered balloons light up like giant lanterns. nationalballoonclassic.com

Photo: Ben Easter

Fanilows, Unite!

At 81, Barry Manilow could retire and spend the rest of his days counting his money at home in Palm Springs. He’s made a fortune on hits like “Mandy” and “Copacabana,” along with dozens of ad jingles that have been rattling around your head for decades, including “Stuck on Band-Aid” and State Farm’s “Like a Good Neighbor” (whose celebrity singers now include Caitlin Clark). Fortunately, though, he is still touring, a year after a big tribute at Carnegie Hall, five sold-out nights at Radio City Music Hall and a ceremony in Las Vegas, where he received a key to the Strip for surpassing Elvis Presley’s record for the most performances at the International Theatre (637). So yeah, Manilow could follow the advice he wrote for McDonald’s — “You Deserve a Break Today” — but he’s still going strong. Catch him at “The Last Des Moines Concert” on Aug. 1 at Wells Fargo Arena. iowaeventscenter.com

Photo: Varela Media 

Chappell of Love

The Hinterland 2024 lineup caused quite a stir earlier this year, with TikTok users buzzing about making cross-country trips to the usually quiet town of St. Charles for the Aug. 2-4 weekend. Headliners Hozier, Vampire Weekend and Noah Kahan fueled the excitement, as did the potential for various surprise collaborations, for which the festival is known. But amid all the big names, we’re especially stoked for the return of Chappell Roan, the “Midwest Princess” herself. The pop singer toured Iowa back in March, when she invited local drag queens as openers before she sang the house down to the first sold-out crowd at the newly remodeled Val Air Ballroom. For the uninitiated, her chart hit “Good Luck, Babe!” represents her music well; it’s a careful balance of ’80s synthesizers, soaring vocals and poignant lyrics about unrequited love that make you want to dance and cry all at the same time. Roan brings her glitter-covered glory to the Hinterland stage on Sunday, Aug. 4. hinterlandiowa.com

Photo: Ryan Clemens


Like most years, the upcoming Grandstand lineup at the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 8-18, offers something for fans of just about every kind of music. There are rockers like Foreigner with Melissa Etheridge (Aug. 9) and Motley Crue (Aug. 14), country balladeers Brett Young (Aug. 12) and Thomas Rhett (Aug. 13) and the R&B star Ne-Yo (Aug. 17). But we’re most eager to hear The Avett Brothers (Aug. 16), who blend bluegrass, folk, honky tonk, country and vintage rock ‘n’ roll into a catch-all Americana style that probably would have sounded familiar to fairgoers 100 years ago. Collectively, the North Carolina group’s namesake brothers, Scott and Seth, and their bandmates, Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon, strum, pick and pluck a whole barnyard of old-fashioned strings — guitar, banjo, fiddle, cello, double and electric bass — that still sound fresh and lively in the 2020s. iowastatefair.org

Photo: Crackerfarm

Vive L’Amour

Can you believe they wrote a musical about a scandalous Parisian dance hall? Well, yes, you probably can-can. The national tour of “Moulin Rouge!” kicks up its heels Aug. 20 through Sept. 1 at the Des Moines Civic Center, with all the gitchie-gitchie, ya-ya, razzle-dazzle that won 10 Tony Awards in 2020, including the prize for Best Musical. Like Baz Luhrmann’s gleefully over-the-top movie from 2001, the stage show tells the tale of a young bohemian composer who falls for a cabaret singer at the turn of the 20th century and learns a thing or two about l’amour. dmpa.org

Robert Petkoff as Harold Zidler and the cast of the North American tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Photo: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Global Grazing

Not so long ago, the idea of eating raw fish seemed pretty strange to most Iowans. But now if you Google “sushi in Des Moines,” dozens of options pop up across the metro. Remember when you first tried pupusas, Sriracha or boba tea? In the current world-is-flat era of globalization, you can find just about any kind of delicacy right here in town if you look hard enough — or you can nibble and nosh your way through the World Food and Music Festival Aug. 23-25 at Western Gateway Park. The Greater Des Moines Partnership’s annual street-food fair showcases local restaurants, cooks and musicians from every corner of the world who now call Iowa home. dsmpartnership.com

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