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Sturgis Falls Celebration History & Background

The Sturgis Falls Celebration grew out of the 1976 Cedar Falls, Iowa Bicentennial Celebration. It is named after William Sturgis, who founded the community of Sturgis Falls in 1845 when he settled here with his family. (William’s claim encompassed most of what is now downtown Cedar Falls.) In 1850, the name was changed to Cedar Falls. When searching for an appropriate name for an annual Cedar Falls Celebration, it seemed fitting to once more honor the man who first settled this great community.

The United States Bicentennial was the impetus for planning that first Citywide celebration. To celebrate the United States Bicentennial, each State established a committee to organize the cities in their state. The State of Iowa’s Bicentennial Committee appointed a person from each of the 99 counties. The Committee chair from Black Hawk County requested the Junior League in Black Hawk County organize the Black Hawk County cities. The Black Hawk County Co-Chairs were Wilma Paup and Jean Dobson. The Cedar Falls Bicentennial Committee consisted of many people, including Tom Klemuk, Chairman; Judith Cutler, Vice Chairman; Rosemary Rasmussen Beach, Secretary; and Trenna King, Treasurer. This committee organized the Bicentennial Celebration for Cedar Falls, the plans for which began in 1975. This Celebration became what is now known as the Sturgis Falls Celebration.

The organizers of the 1976 Celebration enlisted the support of individuals, local organizations, city government, the Chamber of Commerce, the University of Northern Iowa, and the State of Iowa. Working together, they planned a one-time event, an event that made such an enormous impact and received such positive support from the community that they did it every year since.

The Sturgis Falls Celebration incorporated in 1985, acquired non-profit status and created an all-volunteer board of directors. Each board member has specific responsibilities which he or she oversees during the course of the year as well as during the Sturgis Falls Celebration weekend, i.e. entertainment, parade, publicity, street fair, memorabilia, food and beverage, etc. Since its beginning, 95 community members have served on the board with over 340 years of Sturgis volunteer experience.

The board works with due diligence to coordinate the best and most varied entertainment possible, while keeping a close eye on expenditures. An important aspect of the Sturgis Falls Celebration is its role as a fund-raiser for local groups. Many service groups depend on Sturgis Falls as their largest fund-raiser of the year. In addition, profits from the Celebration are funneled back into the community as donations, large and small, to civic groups, police and fire organizations, senior citizens groups, scholarships for college-bound area students, Cedar Falls Parks Department improvements, Community Main Street causes, Recreation Department needs, etc. Since its inception, the Sturgis Falls Celebration has donated over $500,000 to a variety of local community projects, causes and scholarships.

Perhaps the most unbelievable aspect of this entire weekend is that it is TOTALLY FREE! There is no admission charge to any of the concerts or stage shows. Visitors can meander through four parks enjoying a wide variety of music and entertainment and not have to spend one penny. The Board of Directors focuses year round on safeguarding this traditional free weekend.

The Board wishes to express its gratitude to the countless individuals and community service groups who give their time and talent to help make the Sturgis Falls Celebration a success each year. With their support and the support of the City of Cedar Falls, the Celebration continues to flourish. You are very much appreciated and are the reason for its continued success!