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The Week in Social 5/10 - 5/14

May 17, 2021

The Week in Social rounds up the best of Iowa’s uplifting stories, exciting initiatives and fun events from all 99 counties discovered through social media. In a time where every bit of good news is cherished, this series is devoted to being a fun, lighthearted way to stay informed about Iowa’s good news.


Willie Ray Fairley keeps giving us reasons to talk about him. The owner of Wille Ray’s Q Shack in Cedar Rapids, who served thousands of free meals in the Cedar Rapids area after last August’s derecho, was just named to Fortune’s list of the world’s 50 greatest leaders.

Fairley came in at #16 on the list, which included healthcare heroes, philanthropists, world leaders, athletes and entertainment icons. Though their industries varied, there was one common denominator – in one of the most turbulent years in recent history, each stepped up to make the world a better place, and inspired others to do the same.

This is the latest recognition Fairley has received. He was recognized by Discover, the credit card company, actor Will Smith and Gov. Kim Reynolds during her annual January address. There’s even a billboard in Cedar Rapids encouraging citizens to “Be a Willie.”


The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) named Iowa’s capital city one of the breakout cities on the forefront of America’s economic recovery.

Included alongside Des Moines were Greenville, South Carolina, and Provo, Utah. What do these cities have in common? “These rising stars … had been quietly building out vibrant economies in the shadow of bigger metropolises. During the pandemic, they have drawn workers and businesses with large and affordable homes, ample access to outdoor space and less congestion.”

“They also have a mix of high-tech jobs and old-line industries, including manufacturing and finance, that turned out to be more resistant to the downturn. They came through the year with fewer job losses and service cuts and made quicker recoveries,” wrote Justin Baer, WSJ writer.

If you need more proof that Des Moines is a rising star nationally, check out this perspective from Kelly Mackay, an advertising-sales executive originally from Des Moines who relocated back home from Chicago. “A lot has changed,” she said. “There are new bars, and a new food scene. Something’s happening here.”


Marketed as “one of the upper Midwest’s premiere music festivals,” Saturday in the Park is back for its 30th anniversary at Grandview Park in Sioux City. More lineup info is to come, but John Fogerty will be performing his Creedence Clearwater Revival tunes on Saturday, July 3 and AJR will take center stage on Friday, July 2. That’s not all — since the music festival ends one day before the Fourth of July, you can expect a grand fireworks show after Saturday’s final notes are played.


The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is set to open a gallery that will host high-engagement interactive exhibits that reinforce river innovation themes as well as artifacts from the museum’s collections. The gallery is part of a three-pronged innovation showcase, which includes the Iowa Marine Engine & Launch Works and the soon-to-be completed River of Innovation exhibit.

This has been a passion project of ours for the last eight years,” said Erin Dragotto, VP of Development and co-project lead for the exhibit. “It is exciting to see the final pieces fall into place as we prepare to open the space.”

River of Innovation will open at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 11 and will be included with a general admission ticket.


After a cancellation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of Des Moines’ most anticipated festivals is making a return in late June.

The Des Moines Art Festival is a three-day event that will include a juried art fair featuring works by 160 artists; musical performances on two stages; food and beverages, including craft beer; student art exhibits; interactive arts activities; art demonstrations; and the juried Interrobang Film Festival, with both public and streaming presentations.

The festival, which dates back more than 70 years, will require masks for event staff, artists, vendors and visitors.

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