Candy, carnival and community

Kids scramble to pick up candy at the annual Lincoln Highway Bridge Festival parade. The festival was held Saturday, May 22 in downtown Tama. A carnival was set up in the background. Entertainment was held throughout the afternoon. There was also a bbq eating contest hosted by The Tama Pump. Allison Graham/News Chronicle

Despite a slightly abbreviated schedule, the Tama Lincoln Highway Bridge Festival returned with strong attendance after a year with no large community gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the original carnival vendor canceled on the festival a week prior to the event, the Tama Fire Department was able to locate a replacement who provided rides and concessions to festival-goers from Thursday through Saturday.

The primary festivities got going Saturday morning with the fire department’s pancake breakfast.

City organizers facilitated the annual parade at 10 a.m., which featured several entries both new and traditional and was well attended by spectators.

“I thought it was awesome,” Tama Mayor Doug Ray said. “I thought everybody came together and worked together well. After having a year off I think a lot of people needed to get out. We had a bit of a learning curve on some of the adjustments that were needed, but people stepped up in a lot of ways to make it enjoyable.”

After the parade was through, events at the Tama Eagles Club and the Tama Pump bar and grill invited attendees down the street for activities before the afternoon program got underway.

Owners of the Tama Pump organized a barbecue rib grilling contest that filled the soon-to-be renovated city pocket park across from their storefront with grills, tents and lawn chairs for several hours in the morning and afternoon.

First place in the barbecue rib contest went to a team from Tama Livestock Auction.

Proceeds of the event will be donated back to the city for future downtown revitalization projects.

The afternoon program, organized by the Tama-Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce and emceed by Cat Campbell Currier, featured entertainment from the South Tama High School Jazz Band and local rock band My Fellow Americans.

Ahead of the entertainment was a presentation of the Tama Citizen of the Year Award to Charlie Betz and a special memorial donation and recognition from festival organizer and Chamber of Commerce representative Sue Carnahan to the family of the late Ed Hardon who was a long-time organizer for the Tama festival.

“Planning this year’s Lincoln Highway Bridge Festival certainly had it share of challenges,” Carnahan said. “There were concerns about public health and safety paired with the desire to bring back something normal after all our community as been through. We know we will never make everyone happy, but through multiple obstacles I feel we still managed to provide an event that was enjoyed by those who attended.”