A view of Clear Lake, Iowa, which celebrates its namesake body of water this weekend
A view of Clear Lake, Iowa, which celebrates its namesake body of water this weekend

Celebrate art, storytelling, and Dixieland

If the heat has you hankering for a lakefront escape that doesn’t involve an urban skyline, consider the waterfront charms of Clear Lake, Iowa. This weekend, the small town celebrates its titular body of water with LakeFest, which is actually a triumvirate of fests. Unless otherwise noted, all events take place in City Park. Here, details on the weekend-long party.

  • The 34th annual Art Sail runs from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 23. The juried show will feature 75 artists and numerous media—including painting, sculpture, fiber arts, jewelry, and woodworking—will be represented. The show is sponsored by the Clear Lake Arts Center (clartscenter.com), where you can browse exhibits of Joleen Dentlinger’s pen and ink drawings and Kim Riner’s clay sculptures. For more information, go to call the Clear Lake Arts Center at 641-357-1998.
  • The Iowa Storytelling Festival kicks off at 9 p.m. on Friday, July 22, as the “Ghost Boat” (the paddlewheel boat Lady of the Lake) embarks on a cruise featuring performers sharing scary tales by moonlight. The literary shenanigans continue from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 23. Among those slated to spin yarns: Ann Arbor’s La’Ron Williams (who interweaves his stories with African drumming), Iowan JoAnne Lower (who specializes in tales of growing up as a farmer’s daughter), and Minnesota humorist Al Batt (who was once named Birder of the Year by WildBird magazine). Tickets for the boat are $15; storytelling in the park is free. For more info, call 641-357-6133 or e-mail clplib@netins.net.
  • Saturday evening and all day Sunday, the 19th Annual Lakeside DixieFest will feature traditional Dixieland jazz. This year’s lineup includes performances by the New Red Onion Jazz Babies (Kansas City), Rev. Al Townsend’s Wonderful World Jazz Band (LaCrosse), Party Gras Classic Jazz Band (Des Moines), and the Raiders of the Lost Art (Mason City). Free; for more info, call 800-285-5338 or email info@clearlakeiowa.com.

And while you’re in the neighborhood: This is closing weekend for the North Iowa Fair, which takes place at the North Iowa Fairgrounds about 12 miles from Clear Lake in Mason City. Weekend events include horse, sheep, calf and rabbit shows, and a weekend-long flea market. For more info, go to northiowafair.org, call 641-423-3811, or e-mail info@northiowafair.org.

GO LakeFest in Clear Lake, Iowa, City Park. For more info, go to clearlakeiowa.com or call 800-285-5338.

Where to stay: The Hilltop Motel (10 Allens Alley; 641-357-2127, hilltopclearlake.com) is right across the street from the fabled Surf Ballroom and has 21 rooms, each with a theme (flip flops, rock ‘n roll, and birdhouses among them); rates start at $80 a night. The Old Glory Inn (207 N. 3rd St.; 641-357-7951) is a renovated 1,200-square-foot Victorian-inspired home within walking distance of City Park; rates start at $150 a night.

Where to dine: The Half Moon Inn (701 Buddy Holly Pl.; 641-357-9339) is renowned locally for its hash browns and otherwise offers solid American steak and seafood. Ge-Jo’s By-the-Lake (12 N. 3rd St.; 641-357-8288) serves Italian standards with a view and great Margaritas.