April 24, 2024

Newton Fest draws hundreds to downtown

Local residents brave heat for competitions, demonstrations, shows

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When Iltud Dunsford had fresh-cooked barbecue placed in front of him, it was completely new experience.

Dunsford, a native of Wales, was sent to the U.S. on a scholarship to attend last week’s World Pork Expo in Des Moines, and also ended up in Newton over the weekend, helping judge the barbecue competition at Newton Fest. While many visitors to the second-annual event might not have seen all of Newton Fest’s activities in one place, Dunsford was learning about Iowa and U.S. culture all at once.

“We don’t have anything like this over there,” referring to American barbecue competitions, Dunsford said. “Fortunately, the owners of the company I’m here with (Charcutier, Ltd.) see value in travel and seeing how things are done elsewhere, and I’m glad to be a part of this.”

Dunsford was probably the Newton Fest visitor farthest from home — and many visitors were only blocks from their doorsteps. Despite unseasonably warm temperatures, the event definitely drew from outside the county, though many Newton residents brought themselves, and, in many cases, their families to Newton Fest events.

Hundreds of people visited the second-annual event despite high temperatures, enjoying food, events and music. The barbecue contest, along with the bulk of the other Newton Fest events, were held Saturday, spread across various downtown sites and a few in other parts of town. A handful of events were held Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

A few new events were added this year.

The barbecue contest drew seven teams willing to pony up the $30 entry fee. Larry Hurto’s tour of seven downtown churches included about 20 people, and Chalk the Walk seemed to have strong interest.

“The barbecue contest went as well as it possibly could have,” said Andrew Bassman, director of the Newton Main Street program. “We sold the maximum number of tickets, and heard nothing but positive feedback from contestants and consumers alike.”

The grand champion of the barbecue contest was BAM BQ from Cedar Rapids, with Matt Koon’s Newton “Koon BQ” team earning reserve champion honors. The Newton DMACC Culinary Arts program took first place in chicken wings from the certified judges, while BAM BQ took first place in ribs. Kyle Johnson’s Newton T-Rex BBQ took the People’s Choice Award for its chicken wings.

In the Chalk the Walk event, Discover Hope was honored for the best theme, Joanne Thomason and Ella Price were named most creative and the Newton Arboretum team earned “Best In Show.”

Among events that had been apart of last year’s list, the car show remained popular. Despite morning thunderstorms that occurred fairly close to the start time, there ended up being more than 85 entries.

The Ladies of the 80s, a traveling, multi-singer cover band from the Twin Cities area, put on a well-received free concert in the courthouse square Saturday evening. Children and others danced in front of the stage, sometimes alongside the interactive singers,rocking out to everything from the GoGos’ “We Got the Beat” to Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time.”

The band played three sets, and at the end of the first one, Newton Fest committee members gave a gift certificate to the winner of an informal, audience-noise 80s costume contest. Newton resident Dave Bonnett, dressed as Gene Simmons of Kiss, won the contest, though there were several other creative, historically accurate entries.

Dunsford said the sticky, 93-degree conditions were nothing like what he’s used to in Wales. After calculating a Celsius conversion in his head, Dunsford said summer temperatures in his part of Wales are typically in the 60s in Fahrenheit.

“It’s nothing like here, with heat for days at a time,” he said. “We might get a freak day, once a year, that spikes this high.”

Contact Jason W. Brooks at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or jbrooks@newtondailynews.com