Some have banana-shaped seats. Some are zebra print. Some look like they belong in a circus. Some display more patriotic themes. Some look like they simply shouldn’t be operational. All roll past on two wheels.
Lining the street outside of Mars Cafe, are over 20 custom, vintage and uniquely modified bicycles. The display is part of Dogtown Fest, an annual event held between the 2200 and 2500 blocks of University Avenue in Drake’s Dogtown neighborhood.
“It gets people to know one another. To celebrate where they live. To tear down barriers and intermingle, just come out and enjoy,” Dan Koenig, owner of Yankee Doodle Dandy Tattoo and chair of Dogtown Fest, said.
Defined by the event’s Facebook page as a “three-block neighborhood block party,” the festivities of Dogtown Fest, which took place on Saturday from 3 to 11 p.m., included a variety of craft and food vendors, such as mobile units from Mr. Bibb’s Barbeque, Woody’s Smoke Shack and Food in Motion. The event closed the street to traffic for the second year in a row, marking the fifth Dogtown festival after a one-year hiatus.
Koenig has been a member of the Drake Area Business Association for 12 years and sees his business’s involvement in the event as a necessary action in order to maintain neighborhood presence. Also the owner of Ichi Bike in Beaverdale, Koenig led the organization of the first bike show during Dogtown Fest this year.
Unfortunately, the damp, autumn weather of Iowa seemed to be a crowd deterrent, resulting in only a few dozen attendees to the festival over the course of the afternoon and evening.
“The weather was much better last year,” Shannon Enfield, a returning vendor said. “But when things get slow we chalk it up to getting to visit with a lot of new people and have a nice time anyways.”
Enfield is the owner and designer of Michaeleen, a small business specializing in beaded jewelry made of semiprecious stones and sterling silver. Along with her husband, Enfield returned to Dogtown Fest as a vendor for the second time.
Despite being small in number, the attendees of Dogtown Fest remained high in spirit and enthusiasm. As street performers sporting blue and purple hairpieces taught moms with toddlers in tow how to hula-hoop, kids and parents alike peddled up and down the street on customized bikes.
“I always think anything that brings people out is a good idea,” Enfield said. “Having neighbors and students in one area with a variety of activities like food, shopping and music is a positive community experience.”
David Rodriguez, the district manager and operator of the Dogtown H&R Block, never considered becoming involved in Dogtown Fest until one of his associates came to him with the possibility as a way to increase the business’s community visibility.
Although the branch is only operational from Jan. 1 to April 18, Rodriguez believes it is important for the business to remain a part of the community, even outside of the tax season.
“Any visibility and opportunity to bring people together and bring people from other parts of the city to see what there is to offer here is a good thing,” Rodriguez said.
As residents mingled with local business owners like Koenig and Rodriguez, a line-up of live artists peppered the crisp air with a variety of sounds, usually unbeknownst to the Dogtown area.
The program included appearances by musical groups Tyborn Jig, North Of Grand, Bob Tyler & the Restless Hearts, Final Mix, John O’Connell, Lesson 7 and D-Bess, as well as disc jockeys DJ Tucker and DJ Alex Brown.
From paying musicians to hawking T-shirts, consulting on tattoos and whirling up and down the 2300 block of University Avenue. on a myriad of colorful bicycles, it is clear that Koenig is involved in every aspect of Dogtown Fest.
When one of the event volunteers reports a snafu with a band in the live music booking, Koenig replies simply, “We’ve got to make it work.”
And based on the zeal of the residential crowd, he has.
Photos: Connor McCourtney