After months of renovation and construction, a massive new city park is opening today (Saturday) along the Missouri River in Council Bluffs. Larry Foster, the city’s park and recreation director, says big crowds are expected at River’s Edge Park for the start of a three-day festival called Loessfest, after the region’s rolling Loess Hills, along with another series of celebratory events that will run through June 8th. “Every day, there’s something new that’s being done to be completely ready for the big festivals,” Foster says. “For example, we sodded the entire north grove of trees, that’s all completed.”
The legendary music act, the Beach Boys will open the event tonight (Saturday) with the Omaha Symphony and fireworks Sunday. All events during the three-day Memorial Day weekend are free. There will be many events held in the 11-million-dollar park over the summer including outdoor movies, soccer tournaments and more. Foster says there are still a few finishing touches to be done before the 90-acre park officially opens. The Great Lawn alone covers five acres. “One thing going on is getting the Grand Light Show that is going to be displayed on the Great Lawn working and functional,” he says. “We’re obviously excited about the Beach Boys and the symphony and fireworks and Memorial Day weekend.”
The new River’s Edge Park is located at the base of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge which links Council Bluffs and Omaha. Foster expects many people attending the College World Series will take the short hike over the bridge to enjoy Iowa hospitality. “If you’ve got a break between games, a nice little walk over to River’s Edge Park, go down to the river and enjoy the park and the festivities,” Foster says. “It’s going to be a real asset to the entire metro area. That’s always how we’ve seen it as we’ve been putting it together in Council Bluffs.” A permanent display at the park, entitled Rays, is a half-million dollar installation, an eight-minute light show that repeats on the hour and half-hour.
Decades ago, the area was known at Playland Park. It held an amusement park and a race track that was a hub for activity from the late 1940s through 1970.