Burlington was founded as a fur trading outpost during the early 1830’s. Today, it’s an activity-packed destination of more than 25,000 residents offering something for everyone. The city’s location on the banks of the Mississippi River gives visitors fantastic views of the river valley, and plenty of access to outdoor activities like fishing, boating, sunbathing, sailing, and more. All visitors should stop by Snake Alley, which is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most crooked street in the world”.
Burlington Steamboat Days has been one of Iowa’s top summer kick-off events for more than five decades, and will take place June 15-18 right on the banks of the Mississippi River in Downtown Burlington. The event will feature music on two stages with a different main act each day: Skillet (Thursday), Brantley Gilbert (Friday), Gary Allen (Saturday), and LOCASH (Sunday). Missi Sippin’ Landing is the event’s new beer garden that will offer craft beer, wine, games, and food from local vendors. Don’t miss the Burlington Steamboat Days Parade (June 17 beginning at 10:00 am) which features vibrant floats, marching bands, live entertainment, and more. A portion of the event's proceeds go towards a local scholarship fund that helps support students looking to study music in college. We got the opportunity to interview Chelsea Tolle, Executive Director Convention & Visitors Bureau, to learn more about this can't miss family experience.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
CT: The event began in 1963, and we’ve been making memories along the banks of the Mississippi for 55 years.
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
CT: Approximately 15,000 people attend the event each year. Participants come from all over the Midwest for the event.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract?
CT: Burlington Steamboat Days is very popular with couples and friend groups. Many class reunions take place during this time, or people that have moved away will come back for the event.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
CT: Burlington Steamboat Days is unique from other outdoor music festivals because of our home on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. Many big names have made their way to Burlington to perform at the festival.
RAL: Take me through the activities of a day at the event.
CT: Brand new for 2017 is the Missi Sippin' Landing. This unique beer garden setup allows you to enjoy a craft beer, glass of wine, bar games, and music. Burlington Steamboat Days is known for having a carnival each summer. All the traditional fun carnival games and rides are available.
RAL: What dining options will attendees encounter?
CT: The festival grounds have 12 different food vendors featuring traditional fair foods such as corn dogs and lemonade shake-ups, along with items you wouldn’t expect to find at a festival.
RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?
CT: PZAZZ! Entertainment Complex is a popular lodging property for anyone staying in Greater Burlington. The complex is home to two properties (and one new one under construction) – PZAZZ! Resort Hotel is the “family side”, and Catfish Bend Inn & Spa is the “adult side” for ages 21 and up. You’ll also find an outdoor water park, indoor water park, arcadium, go-carts, bowling, laser tag, a casino, spa, four restaurants, and one ice cream shop.
Smaller lodging options in Downtown Burlington include three Bed & Breakfast
locations. The Countess of Burlington Bed & Breakfast is located one block from Snake Alley and claims that Abraham Lincoln once spent the night in 1858.
RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?
CT: Burlington Steamboat Days is the premier event in Burlington each summer. A study from 2013 showed that the event has an estimated $1.7M impact to the economy. Approximately 43% of attendees are from outside Iowa. Non-locals are spending the night in a hotel, shopping, dining, and experiencing Greater Burlington along with Burlington Steamboat Days activities.
RAL: Does the event support a special cause in the community?
CT: Proceeds collected from youth ticket sales go towards a scholarship fund. Five scholarships are distributed to high school seniors pursuing a degree in music at the area Community College each year.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
CT: There aren’t many music festivals in the Midwest that offer so much for so little. One ticket gets you access to three stages of entertainment over four nights. It’s a party under the stars with 15,000 of your closest friends. Burlington Steamboat Days has always been about delivering a quality, affordable experience for all ages.
For more information about the Burlington Steamboat Days, please visit the event website.