Iowa’s summer music festival rundown

The Decemerists, the 80/35 music festival headliners, perform on July 9 on the Hyvee Main stage. According to the band, people have been trying to get them to come to the festival since 2003.


Imagine this: finals are over, its 75 degrees and not snowing outside, and you have nothing to do all summer. No matter where you live in Iowa, there is going to be a festival close by. Ranging from country to alternative to electronic, the Iowa festivals will feature many genres.  Introducing new events and bringing back some of the classics, our summer will be a busy one. Iowa might not have Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza, but here are the festivals that prove that Iowa is underrated (in chronological order). 

Tree Town Music Festival 

Only five years old, the Tree Town Festival is not one to miss. Averaging 20,000 attendees, it quickly became one of the top ten best country music festivals in the United States by Country Living Magazine in 2016.

“When you walk out to Winnebago Park Grounds, you know it is going to work,” said Lex Chamryk, the business development representative of Tree Town. Not originally from Iowa, Chamryk understands how Iowa feels like one big, small town.

Setting its heights for new additions, the fifth anniversary will feature a four-day festival with headlining acts like Keith Urban, Cole Swindell and Alabama. 

Tree Town always opens their first night with a “Rock-and-Roll” night. This year will feature Eddie Money. The rest of the artists are selected carefully, choosing current and classic artists.

“Keith Urban is undeniably one of the biggest country artists in the world right now” said Chamryk. Urban is currently pushing boundaries and growing, receiving the Vocal Event of the Year Award at the American Country Music Awards with Carrie Underwood this year.

Tree Town is well known for their campsite. The festival offers many features other festivals do not. Showers and restrooms are available at no charge for campers, as well as plug ins for RVs. But if you don’t have a RV, do not worry because you can rent one from Tree Town or bring a tent.

With the rental of an RV, you can be entered to win a meet and greet with one of the artists. Unable to buy a pass for a meet and greet, your only choice is to participate in the competitions.

Tree Town is currently revamping their site map. They will introduce a new section called “Platinum Suites” which will offer a raised area off to the side with a bar and restroom trailer.

Tree Town is looking to partner with vendors that specialize in beer, burgers, hot dogs, ice cream and other popular festival foods. They will offer a wide variety of retail as well.

“Each year we look for ways to be bigger and better than the previous,” said Chamryk. 

Keep an eye out for announcements and opportunities to win tickets on their social media pages.

Tickets are available at Tree Town’s website.

WHO: Tree Town Festival

WHAT: Country Music Festival

HEADLINERS: Keith Urban, Cole Swindell, Alabama and Eddie Money

WHEN: May 24-27

WHERE: Heritage Park in Forest City, Iowa

WHY: Celebrate Memorial Day Weekend with one of the top ten best country music festivals in the United States.

GA: $75

Kosmic Kingdom

As if 515 Alive was not enough EDM for Iowa, the same team has introduced the Kosmic Kingdom Festival. Hosting the fourth year in a new location, the Kosmic Kingdom will be brought to the Sleepy Hollow Renaissance Park.

Originally taking place in St. Charles, the festival decided to move to the 40-acre sports park where they could be immersed in a “unique, medieval setting.”

Featuring multiple castle stages, medieval buildings, camping grounds and on-site buildings for after parties, the Kosmic Kingdom Festival plans to book “top notch artists that push the limits of sound while providing a fresh festival experience to match”.

The lineup will include G Jones and CASPA as headliners. Over 50 other artists will be spread out over the two days.

Kosmic Kingdom is strictly open to those 18+, which differentiates from other festivals in Iowa. A full bar will be available at the festival, but Kosmic Kingdom has a zero-policy for underage drinking.

So, drink lots of water, rub on the body paint and head on out to Sleepy Hollow to dance.

You can buy tickets at Kosmic Kingdom’s website.


WHO: Kosmic Kingdom

WHAT: Originally the Kosmos Music Festival, the new location will provide electronic music on castle stages.

HEADLINERS: G Jones, CASPA, and Bleep Bloop

WHEN: June 1 and 2

WHERE: Sleepy Hollows Park, Des Moines

WHY: Have a chance to see electronic music on castle stages with a renaissance theme

2 Day Pass with Camping: $99.95

2 Day VIP with Camping: Sold out 

Big Country Bash

Moving its location more into the country side of Iowa, the Big Country Bash is expected to have its biggest year yet. Extending the festival another day, the Big Country Bash is the third country music festival here in Iowa alongside Guthrie’s River Ruckus and Tree Town Festival.

Planning their schedule around the other two country music festivals, curator Sam Summers took over management of the event last year in partnership with NASH FM radio. Summers is the First Fleet Productions owner and promotes for Hinterland and Nitefall on the River as well.

“Understanding the community down [in St. Charles], I think there’s a solid demand for this” said Summers, referencing the importance of moving from Des Moines to St. Charles.

Big Country Bash has had a bumpy road up until this point. Launched in 2006, the festival was canceled in 2011, only be resurrected last year in 2017. The festival has been all over Des Moines, playing in Water Works Park, the Blank Park Zoo and the Living History Farms in Urbandale.

This year will feature Kane Brown, Brett Eldredge and Dan+Shay. Last year, Eldredge pulled in over 7,000 people to the Iowa State Fair last year.   

With the addition of another festival day, the Big Country Bash will offer camping this year. Cheaper than many other festival’s camping options, the prices start only at $25.

You can buy tickets at Big Country Bash’s website.

WHO: Big Country Bash

WHAT: Country Music festival

HEADLINERS: Brett Eldredge, Kane Brown, Dan + Shay

WHEN: June 22 and 23

WHERE: St. Charles

WHY: The Big Country Bash will offer many new amenities this year including a new location in St. Charles, 2 days of music instead of one and camping at a reduced price.

2 Day GA: $79

2 Day VIP: $179

80/35 Music Festival

Returning this year on July 6 and 7 in the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, the 80/35 Music Festival will feature regional and local artists in the heart of Des Moines.

Hosted by the Des Moines Music Coalition, the group focuses on enhancing the music scene for all individuals. The coalition has created music education programs as well as a music fellowship program to help make bridges between struggling artists and possible resources.

“Des Moines is lucky to have an institution not only willing but focused on elevating our town’s music scene,” said Trevor Holt, a Des Moines Music Coalition music fellowship participant.

The two-day festival was created in 2008. Relying heavily on volunteers, they work to host over 33,000 attendees every summer.

“We want to showcase diversity across a board,” said Jarin Hart, the executive director of the Des Moines Music Coalition. The event is filled with organization’s booths, interactive art, food, beverages and more.

This year the festival will feature many new aspects. Hart and the rest of the coalition are looking to add more art installations. These installations will bring new artistic dynamics and enhance the festival experience.

“There is nothing wrong with making money,” said Amedeo Rossi, the project manager for the Des Moines Music Coalition. “But our objective is to invest in the music scene.”

The festival will feature two free stages that will be open to the public and one stage that is ticketed.

For the first time in its 11-year history, the 80/35 Music Festival will headline with a woman and mix-gendered group. Pop star Kesha will headline with electronic duo Phantogram.

“With Kesha’s Grammy moments and events like the #metoo movement last year, we are happy to bring a wide variety of talent,” said Rossi. “It seemed like a good year to break through and bring some quality acts.”

The self-proclaimed “mother f—–g woman” will perform at two locations in Iowa this summer. Fresh from the Battery Park outdoor concert in Sioux City, Kesha will head to the 80/35 Music Festival to feature new hits like “Rainbow” and “Praying.”  

The 80/35 Music Festival will offer an ambassador program. The program works where if you sell five tickets, you can receive one free, general admission ticket. Sell five more tickets, and you can receive a VIP pass.

The rest of the lineup will be released in May. You can buy tickets at 80/35’s website.

WHO: 80/35 Music Festival

WHAT: Indie music festival in the heart of Des Moines featuring diverse, local art

HEADLINERS: Kesha, Phantogram, Courtney Barnett, and Car Seat Headrest

WHEN: July 6 and 7

WHERE: Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Des Moines

WHY: This year will be the first year that will headline with a woman and a mix-gendered group.

Single Day Ticket: $49

2 Day Pass: $75

VIP: $195

Guthrie’s River Ruckus

Iowa State alumni Adam Faucher and his childhood friend Grant Sheeder created Guthrie’s River Ruckus music festival while attending Iowa State University. Based out of their hometown, Guthrie Center, the country music festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.

Faucher is an engineer by day and a country music promoter by night. Faucher has brought in huge names like Chris Young, Dustin Lynch and Lee Brice over the last 10 years.

“I could hardly believe we got artists from Nashville to come up to Guthrie Center,” said Faucher on his first-year act, Chris Young.

The artists featured this year will include 38 Special, Jake Owens and LANCO. The festival has averaged bringing in 20,000 people a year to Guthrie Center, a town that has a population of only 1,507.

If you can’t go without 4G cell reception, don’t fret. Guthrie’s River Ruckus will be inserting a cellular tower on the grounds for the 2018 festival.

Hesitant to spill the beans on the new additions this year, Faucher dropped hints like a breakfast addition and a new setup for daytime activities. You can find the new additions announced on Facebook leading up to the event.

Faucher and the rest of the River Ruckus crew are excited to see Jake Owens and to hear LANCO’s new album, “Hallelujah Nights.” All artists playing this year will be new to the Guthrie’s River Ruckus family.

Already booking acts for the summer of 2019, we can look to see some hidden gems and familiar faces.

You can buy tickets at Guthrie’s River Ruckus’ website.

WHO: Guthrie’s River Ruckus

WHAT: Country music festival in a typical Iowan town.

HEADLINERS: Jake Owens, LANCO, and .38 Special

WHEN: July 27 and 28

WHERE: Guthrie Center Country Fairgrounds

WHY: Celebrate this two day festival’s 10th anniversary with country music and camping

General Admission: $75

Seated Tickets: $110

VIP: $175

Camping: $80


The fourth annual Hinterland Music Festival will premiere in St. Charles again this year. With a lineup including Sturgill Simpson, Band of Horses and CHVRCHES, Hinterland will have no problem upholding their reputation. 

Located about 30 miles south of Des Moines, the two-day festival will host over 18,000 people. Focusing on the outdoors and music, Hinterland hopes to be an escape for those looking to explore new music, craft, art, family engagements and more.

Hinterland is organized by one of Iowa State University’s very own, Sam Summers. Graduating from Iowa State with a double major in marketing and economics, Sam had no problem finding his way to the creator of Hinterland.

Summers spent his nights during school booking concerts and running them, evidently creating his first music promotion company, First Fleet Concerts. After Summers graduated, he launched Wooly’s Concert Venue in Des Moines in 2012 and partnered to produce Nitefall on the River. Looking to create an experience that followed his passion, Summers created Hinterland in 2015.

Taking the literal translation of Hinterland in German, “the land behind,” the festival has always looked to keep an outside festival overlooking Iowa’s beauty. 

Hinterland was originally set for Water Works Park in Des Moines, but due to a rain delay, it was moved out to St. Charles the first year. The festival has stayed out in the country because of the connection between Summers’ view and the Iowa’s beauty.

“If you’re in the middle of Water Works [Des Moines], you don’t feel like you’re in a metropolitan area. Once we moved it down [to St. Charles] it was magic and was a blessing in disguise,” said Summers.

Hinterland offers many unique aspects that distinguishes them from other Iowa festivals. For example, one of the perks of being a parent and wanting to go to Hinterland, you can bring your child with and have them explore Hinterkids.

Only hosting one stage, Hinterland manages to bring in a huge crowd. Last year Hinterland drew from 38 states and 5 countries around the world.

If you are looking for discounted or free passes, Hinterland offers rewards to volunteers and ambassadors. For the festival to efficiently run, they need the help of volunteers to park cars, set up and more.

Summers currently owns the Up-Down Arcade in Des Moines. He hopes to incorporate a “pop-up,” arcade in Hinterland, but is currently working on the logistics. As to expanding, Summers isn’t interested in volume and mass.

“I don’t want to make [Hinterland] bigger, but rather add to the experience,” said Summers. Hinterland looks to make everything relevant to the festival. Focusing on keeping the same vide throughout, they carefully select artists and vendors.  

“We try to find food and craft vendors that are complimentary and make sense to the festival, and keep it politically neutral,” said Summers.

You can buy tickets online at Hinterland’s website.

WHO: Hinterland

WHAT: Indie Alternative Festival

HEADLINERS: Sturgill Simpson, Band of Horses, CHVRCHES and Tash Sultana

WHEN: Aug. 3 and 4

WHERE: Avenue of the Saints Amphitheater, St. Charles

WHY: Iowa State Alum curates for those who love music and the outdoors. The festival features a blend of music, camping, art, craft vendors, family engagement and more. 

GA: $95 for 2 day

VIP: $259 for 2 day

Camping: $25-35 per person

newbo evolve

New to the Iowa music festival scene, Cedar Rapids will be kicking off the newbo evolve festival. Nine years ago, major floods damaged parts of Cedar Rapids and forced the city to rebuild and evolve. One of the up and coming neighborhoods, known as New Bohemia, or “NewBo” is being transformed into a creative center for the arts. 

“We’ve got this beautiful five-hour circle where it seems like every major city in the Midwest is just five hours away,” said Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart. “So hopefully our reach goes out that far. We’re going to be bringing some people in to show them how great Cedar Rapids really is.”

The festival curators have chosen Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson as the two headliners. Both these performers have a broad audience that will reach more people.

“These are acts that a 60-year-old to a 12-year-old and everyone in between will enjoy,” said Jennifer Pickar, a media representative for the festival.

The 3 day passes are totaling $375. Passes will be “worth it” according to the Des Moines Register. The pass will include guaranteed tickets to both headlining concerts, access to the keynote speakers, discounted tickets to the Cedar Screamer Zip Line, and more.

The outdoor concert main stage venue is expected to accommodate over 16,000 people.

The Cedar Screamer Zip Line will be open for the public from the beginning of May to early August.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is currently booked for one of the keynote speakers. Screenwriter and film director, John Waters, will perform one man, spoken word lectures. 

There will be many panel sessions over the course of the three days. Currently there will be sessions on dance, fashion, gardening, cooking and many more. Each session will last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes.

The budget for newbo evolve is to be “in the neighborhood” of $4 million or $5 million according to the chief executive officer of GO Cedar Rapids, Aaron McCreight. Cedar Rapids has been receiving money annually from hotel tax grants.

Anticipating reaching college students, newbo evolve is currently hiring for summer positions including internships in marketing and assignments the week of the festival. Check out the website for more information.

You can buy tickets at newbo evolve’s website.

WHO: newbo evolve

WHAT: The festival will showcase aspects of the development on new neighborgoods in Cedar Rapids.  

HEADLIENRS: Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5

WHEN: Aug. 3-5

WHERE: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

WHY: Celebrates the creative Bohemian spirit through music, fashion, dance, food, art and technology

GA: $375 3 Day Pass

Maroon 5: $70

Kelly Clarkson: $54.50

515 Alive 

Beginning as a block party in Des Moines, the 515 Alive Festival has grown into one of Iowa’s largest electronic music scenes.

The festival is breaking barriers between musical styles while showcasing urban artist and music in the new location of Water Works Park in downtown Des Moines.  

This year will feature the largest lineup in the 16-year history. 515 Alive will be supported this year by bigger stages and sound systems with more lighting and laser shows.

Fresh off Bonnaroo, the headliners this year will include Future and Bassnectar. 515 Alive has had no problem bringing in bigger names. In previous years, they have featured artists like Machine Gun Kelly, Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane.  

Last year the festival brought in over 27,000 people in just two days.  

“We have lots of music festivals, and this one is actually the longest running, it’s the 15-year anniversary and it’s the largest musical festival,” said Tom Zmolek, the 515 Alive event manager, on last year’s festival.

Focusing on expanding the festival and making it more than a Midwest event, co-owner and director Dan Green, an Iowa State University alum, wants the event to buzz from coast to coast.

Green attended and performed at 515 Alive after graduating, before making connections to co-own the festival.

You can find tickets at 515 Alive’s website.

WHO: 515 Alive

WHAT: Electronic Music

HEADLINERS: Future, Bassnectar and RL Grime

WHEN: Aug. 17 and 18

WHERE: Water Works Parks, Des Moines

WHY: Iowa State Alum will continue the longest running festival in Iowa

GA: $79

VIP: $129

Camping: $39, Age 18+ Only

Iowa State Fair Grandstand

The Iowa State Fair is one of the biggest and most visited state fairs in the United States. And one of the main parts of our fair is the Grandstand.

Currently under a $7.5 million-dollar construction project, the Grandstand is looking to create more space for seating and a larger stage. With the larger Grandstand, the Iowa State Fair is hoping to bring in bigger acts with the increase in revenue.

“We had a lot of pushback from artists because they didn’t want to play our stage because it was too small and they had to figure out how to downsize their production,” said Gary Slater, the CEO and manager for the Iowa State Fair Grandstand.

2017’s Grandstand acts included sold out shows from Pentatonix and Kid Rock, along with Paramore and Nickelback. But this year will feature many familiar faces including Reba, Casting Crows and Florida Georgia Line.

“When you have eleven nights to fill, you have to hit diversity [in music] and enhance the Iowa State Fair,” said Slater.

The fair focuses on keeping the ticket prices down for fairgoers. With cheaper ticket prices, the fair can’t afford to bring in bigger acts like Luke Bryan, so with the seating addition to the grandstand, they hope to bring in more revenue in the future for bigger acts.

“When you have 10,500 seats, those ticket prices need to be higher to pay for the artist. If we brought in someone who charged a million dollars [like Luke Bryan], we couldn’t do that because we don’t expect [fairgoers] to pay the prices you would pay for a show at Wells Fargo,” said Slater.

Acts are already being booked for the summer of 2019.

You can find tickets for this year’s concert events at

WHO: Iowa State Fair Grandstand

WHAT: 10 nights of diverse artists 

HEADLINERS: Reba McEntire, Casting Crowns, Old Dominion, Florida Georgia Line and Sugarland

WHEN: Aug. 9-18

WHERE: Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines

WHY: Opening this year will be the newly constructed grandstand. Holding more seats and showcasing a larger stage, the grandstand hopes to bring larger artists to the fair in the future.

Reba: $50

Casting Crowns: $30

Florida Georgia Line: $70