Almost Friday Fest: Bringing the Muscatine Community Together

Written by: Jessica Hubbard

When Chris Boar and Brenda Christensen dreamed up the idea of creating Almost Friday Fest, little did they know how big of an impact their event would have on the city of Muscatine. Keeping the idea of community in mind, Boar and Christensen set out to create a space where everyone would feel welcome, where residents, businesses, and organizations could gather in one place to share in a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

Born out of the Healthy Living Fest, Almost Friday Fest came to life in the summer of 2019.  Aiming to bring people together to connect with music, food, and friendly-family activities, the event encourages residents to partake in a festival celebrating connection and inclusivity. “Friday Fest brings out people you might not usually see out and about in the community”, said Christensen.

From 8 to 80 year olds, Almost Friday Fest’s goal is to create common ground for the residents of Muscatine. Scheduled for the fourth Thursday of each month from 5:00-8:00pm, May through September, individuals and families are encouraged to come out and enjoy a free night of fun. Located on the grassy area adjacent to the pedestrian trail along the Mississippi riverfront, attendees can bring chairs and blankets and enjoy the sounds of live music, partake in food from local vendors, and stop at local booths to see what’s happening in Muscatine and surrounding areas.

Boar and Christensen met some 20 years ago when they both worked at Bayer-Monsanto (formerly Monsanto). They’ve been friends ever since and their passion for supporting their community has grown right along with their friendship. Boar said, “Several years ago we were approached by Joni Axel to plan an event that would promote the trails in Muscatine. We came up with the Healthy Living Fest and it has been history since then.”

“Support for Almost Friday Fest has come from everywhere!”, exclaims Christensen. Not only have there been generous corporate sponsorships and donations from businesses in Muscatine, but also monetary donations from residents and individuals who want to help keep alive a thriving annual event that gets people out into the community. In-kind donations such as tents for vendors and non-profit booths, and trailers for live music acts have also been provided by the community in a show of support. There are even golf cart shuttles to and from the event for attendees.

One of the most incredible pieces of Almost Friday Fest is the number of volunteers and volunteer time that goes into the planning and preparation of the monthly event. Boar says hundreds of volunteer hours are poured into the Fest in order to keep it running. From planning meetings, to set up, to tearing down, the event is run by volunteer work alone. Even the graphics for marketing and fundraising of the event are done by volunteer, Mitch Zytnowski.

Boar and Christensen say that residents can expect to see live music every month; some local acts as well as bands out of the Quad Cities, Des Moines, and even as far away as Chicago. There will also be bouncy houses for the kids, and food and a beer tent are also on tap for this upcoming season. Last year, even Muscatine High School got in on the action. The girls’ dance team offered free face painting for kids who attended the event.

When the first Fest took place last year, the crowd size numbered between 300-400 attendees. As the event continued into the later summer months, Christensen says, “There were upwards of 1500-2000 people in attendance at the final fest of the season.” Word of mouth and the outpouring of local support are what keep Almost Friday Fest alive and growing. And, while the Fest has been a test of trial and error, Boar and Christensen couldn’t be happier with how the first year has turned out.

For more information on Almost Friday Fest, or to find out how to volunteer, please contact Chris Boar at 563-343-0359. You can also find information about the event on the Keep Muscatine Beautiful Facebook page.