Celebrate Iowa Culture With Upcoming Gala

The Brazilian 2wins at the American Gothic House in Eldon. The duo will perform at the Celebrate Iowa Gala virtual event. Photo: Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

It would be hard to pack more “Iowa” into the Celebrate Iowa Gala. This year’s event will be online Dec. 11 and hosted by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs with a program that includes musical performances at the Surf Ballroom, Art Church and American Gothic House; a peek inside Sioux City’s recently reopened Warrior Hotel; virtual visits to museums and the Maytag Dairy Farms; plus pop-in appearances from Gov. Kim Reynolds, opera singer Simon Estes and actor Tom Arnold.

All that’s missing is a partridge in a pear tree—or maybe a goldfinch in a wild rosebush.

“We can’t wait to show off some of the many, many reasons Iowa is such a special place,” Iowa Department of Affairs Director Chris Kramer says. “This year especially, we’re eager to offer Iowans a can’t-miss occasion for celebration.”

The ninth annual gala, like so many other holiday traditions, is shifting to a virtual format to avoid the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The benefit event for the State Historical Society of Iowa usually takes place at the society’s flagship museum near the state Capitol.

But with this year’s challenges come opportunities to feature art, history and culture from across the state —for guests from even beyond the state’s borders.

This year’s VIP reception will honor the memory of the Oscar-winning actress Donna Reed, who was born almost 100 years ago on Jan. 27, 1921. Her daughter, Mary Owen, will kick off a yearlong centennial celebration with a special Broadway guest joining in from New York.

“Donna Reed’s legacy lives on, not only in western Iowa but across the world,” says Liz Gilman, who leads Produce Iowa, the film and media division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “She’s a Hollywood icon. But even more than that, it’s been amazing to research all the people who have benefited from the Donna Reed Foundation in Denison. Donna had such great respect for education and the performing arts, and her legacy is still relevant today.”

The VIP reception starts at 6 p.m. on Dec. 11, followed by a 7 p.m. showcase of Iowa culture and an 8 p.m. cultural mixer, when guests can enjoy live music, answer trivia questions about Iowa history and draw self-portraits with tips from artists from the Portrait Studio in Des Moines.

Tickets range from $25 to $250 and are available online at iowaculture.gov.

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