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The Scarlet & Black

Chamber of commerce brings community together over summer

Jeff Phelps `73 grew up in Grinnell. After his graduation, he worked odd jobs around Grinnell, eventually founding Saints Rests coffeehouse.
Numerous events were held over the summer in downtown Grinnell. Contributed photo.

By Lily Siebert

When students pack their bags upon completing final exams and prepare to return home for vacation, much of the summer fun in Grinnell is just getting started. From food carts to festivals to sporting events, not a week went by without events held for the community’s enjoyment. Chamber of Commerce Director Rachael Kinnick said that the Chamber’s main objective in planning so many events for Grinnell was “creating a community where people want to get out, get involved, and get connected.”

Activities kicked off in May with the Grinnell Farmers Market, where farmers, craftspeople and more sold local produce and goods just outside of Central Park to townspeople. They continued with the Fourth of July Parade that spanned almost the entire town and received over 100 entries from businesses. Most recently, Grinnell hosted Fly Iowa, an event held yearly in different locations meant to showcase some of the best aerial acrobatics. Grinnell also regularly put on Friday Night Live, a night of free music in the park for people to come and socialize with their peers. The events generally received tremendous showing from the community, with over 2,000 people showing up for Fly Iowa.    

While Kinnick and her team had slightly different goals in mind for each event, they intended to bring the community together and continue to make Grinnell an enjoyable place to live. 

“We’re different from your normal Chamber of Commerce in that many of them plan events for their members to get to know each other, and we do that as well,” Kinnick said. “But on top of that, then we do a lot of community-facing events,” events that are designed for the community as a whole instead of just the Chamber.

Kinnick emphasized that students of the College have always been included in the conversation when it comes to community-facing events. While many activities occur during the summer months when students tend to be elsewhere, those who stay in Grinnell are more then welcome to participate. Additionally, certain events like the Farmer’s Market continue well into the fall for students to enjoy. 

“We saw a number of students out at various events,” Kinnick said. “I think the tough part for students is still always transportation and awareness of events, because if you’re not tuned in with the Chamber’s website or the calendar, you may miss some of those things. So I think we’re slowly but surely trying to tackle both of those things and hopefully we can get more students involved.”

However, community involvement does not seem to pose an issue in the planning and execution of the summer events. While some businesses participate to get exposure for their brand, the majority of volunteers donate their time for no reward other than the unity and enjoyment of the townspeople. 

“The folks who have helped support things like Friday Night Live, the Farmers Market, Fly Iowa — all of those bigger scale events — understand community involvement and philanthropy and just want to do it because it’s the right thing to do,” said Kinnick. “Sometimes they’re not the most glamorous jobs. The week prior at Fly Iowa, we needed people to help park cars, people to help pick up sanitation, those types of things. But without them and without their help these events couldn’t happen.” 

In terms of goals for the future, Kinnick would like to continue bridging the gap between the College students and townspeople, as well as raising awareness about the plethora of events happening regularly in Grinnell. With the tireless work of community members who care deeply about their town, the social scene in Grinnell seems to only be getting stronger.   

“Any time that we do community events it truly takes a village to pull it all together,” Kinnick said.

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