Cedar Rapids and Marion will celebrate recovery efforts one year after the derecho

Cedar Rapids in the aftermath of the Aug. 10 derecho. — Jason Smith/Little Village

Nearly a year ago, the word “derecho” became a regular part of the vocabulary of Linn County residents.

The powerful wind storm wrecked havoc through Iowa on Aug. 10, 2020, severely damaging Cedar Rapids and other parts of Linn County.

Three days after the storm, Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz expressed how “every area of our city has seen destruction and the impact goes well beyond the city of Cedar Rapids.” The derecho destroyed more than 65 percent of the city’s tree canopy. Statewide, about a quarter of trees in Iowa’s forests were destroyed.

But Cedar Rapids and Linn County residents are no strangers to summoning the strength necessary to be resilient, and they did it again during the recovery from the derecho. Among the recovery efforts, residents donated food and supplies, business owners prepared free meals and the city launched an effort to begin replanting the city’s tree canopy.

Now, a year later, that recovery and progress are being celebrated.

Saturday, Aug. 7:

Together We Achieve’s Derecho Anniversary Festival

Begins at 4 p.m. at Greene Square Park, 400 4th Ave SE in Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids nonprofit Together We Achieve, along with a number of sponsors, is hosting a free festival on Saturday at Greene Square Park.

The organization started as a Facebook group created by Raymond Siddell, who is now the president of Together We Achieve. The Facebook group is still active and has more than 60,000 members.

Together We Achieve also launched the Iowa Derecho Storm Resource Center, 1150 27th Ave SW, which provides hot meals, food items, household supplies and personal care items to people in the community.

The three-hour community event will begin at 4 p.m. and feature a variety of activities. There will be food, face painting, balloons, yard games, a bounce house and splash pad. Cedar Rapids musician Barbie Johnson will perform live.

“Our goal with this event is just to celebrate Cedar Rapidians as a whole,” Siddell said. “We as neighbors came together in ways that I don’t think any of us could have ever thought was possible. Some of us don’t even know our neighbors and for people to show up who you didn’t know to help you clean up and get onto the road to recovery, we want to celebrate that.”

A Cedar Rapids homeowner stands in front of the massive damage left to their property by the Aug. 10 derecho. — courtesy of Steve Shriver

Tuesday, Aug. 10:

City of Cedar Rapids Derecho Anniversary

Begins at 10:30 a.m. at Bever Park, 2700 Bever Ave SE in Cedar Rapids

The City of Cedar Rapids is hosting an event to “commemorate the impact the derecho had on our city and residents, and celebrate coming together to support each other during a disaster.”

Residents are invited to join city leaders, staff and first responders at Bever Park Pavilion for a tree planting ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Following the ceremony, there will be a free lunch from local food truck vendors and interactive activities.

City staff will also be available to provide information about disaster preparedness, tree planting efforts and answer questions.

City of Marion’s Derecho Anniversary

Begins at noon at City Square Park, 1101 Grant Wood Trail in Marion

The City of Marion will be hosting a variety of events throughout the day “intended to honor the anniversary and reflect on the progress that has been made.”

“The 2020 derecho will be etched in our collective memory not only as the greatest natural disaster in Marion’s history, but also one of its finest moments,” Mayor Nicolas AbouAssaly said in a news release. “At a time of great hardship, we set aside our differences and did what needed to be done to help our neighbors. We united around a common purpose and our shared humanity, and in turn, we experienced the true power of commUNITY.”

The celebration will kick off at noon with a “commUNITY lunch” grilled by Marion Hy-Vee at City Square Park. A canned food drive will also take place to benefit the Churches of Marion Food pantry, as well as the reading of a proclamation and unveiling of a new tree carving by Carve-R-Way artist Clint Henik.

At 2 p.m. there will be a ceremonial tree planting at Thomas Park, 343 Marion Blvd. Information on Marion’s tree replanting efforts and future plans to continue restoring the city’s tree canopy will be shared.

Following the tree planting, there will be a dedication of a derecho-inspired art installation at the atrium of Marion City Hall, 1225 6th Ave, by local artist Cara Briggs Farmer.

The day will conclude with a two-hour event hosted by the Marion Economic Development Corporation, Chamber of Commerce and Uptown Marion. The event will reflect on the anniversary and look ahead at the recovery and development that is continuing in the community. The event, which begins at 4 p.m., is free to attend but reservations are required.

Aftermath of the Aug. 10 derecho in Cedar Rapids. — courtesy of Steve Shriver
Derecho Oral History Readers Theatre

6 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Giving Tree Theater, 752 10th St in Marion

The Marion Public Library, in partnership with Giving Tree Theater, will present real stories of how residents were impacted by the derecho.

The library conducted interviews with residents and collected photographs to preserve the stories and memories of those who were impacted, as well as provide an outlet for community healing.

Selected stories will be read aloud during the event. The event is free but limited seating is available, so attendees are asked to register online.

There will be two hour-long presentations. One will begin at 6 p.m. and the other at 8 p.m.

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