By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
Many events at the Keizer Iris Festival were well-attended despite cool temperatures and the rain that intermittently drenched the crowd.
Others just plain got rained out.
Considering the curveballs Mother Nature threw at them, festival organizers are pleased with the turnout and enthusiasm. Overall attendance was down, but Iris Festival chair Teresa Walsh said the festival “went surprisingly well given the monsoons.”
“It was one of the record downpours that we’ve ever experienced,” said Christine Dieker, executive director of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce.
Carnival attendance was down by about half, but the festival also set a record for Sunday’s crowd in the Big Tent, with the Keizerfest Poker Run that brought about 45 motorcyclists to the festival. The Ty Curtis Band, and a Christian music show, also contributed to the record-setting day.
“We had quite a variety of people in there on Sunday,” Dieker said.
The 5K run had more than 500 participants – and only 500 bid numbers, Dieker said, with some runners going bandit-style without a number. The kids’ 3K run got between 90 and 100 participants, Dieker said.
They were putting out fires all week long. On Wednesday, a huge gust of wind blew down the Big Tent, where the larger concerts are held. The National Weather Service reported gusts as high as 45 miles
per hour that day.
“It crumpled a whole corner of the tent,” Walsh said.
Then on Friday, May 21, the area got nearly an inch of rain, setting a record for the day. “Tons and tons” of sawdust were used to keep the Big Tent from turning into a mudpit, Walsh said.
“We had to trench around it in certain areas to bring the water out,” Walsh said.
The sawdust was also turned over and raked nightly to minimize water within the tent, Dieker said.
Some events – like Tournament Town basketball – never took off in part due to inclement weather, Dieker said.
“With more notice and planning, that might be an event that will grow in the future,” she added.
But two key events – the Iris Festival Parade and the Iris Golf Tournament – saw mostly sunny weather. Or, at least, not rainy.
New events like a helicopter ride and Civil War re-enactment were reportedly successes, and organizers were almost giddy about the turnout for the poker run.
“To have that turnout with the bikers was really neat,” Dieker said.