The second annual Pizza Pie Looza festival, a growing celebration of music, pizza, and pie, is set to kick off Saturday in downtown Nevada.
Festival planner Dane Nealson spoke with StoryCounty.News in advance of the busy weekend, which has slowly evolved into a diverse annual event for people of all ages.
Nealson, who is also the Runners United Nevada (RUN) Board of Directors President, noted the growth that the event’s preceding 5K run has experienced. This year, the 5K will enjoy an earlier start time, which should ensure cooler weather for runners and an opportunity for patrons to regroup for the rest of the day’s festivities following the race. The 5K is the first in a series of races that are held throughout the summer. It is sponsored by RUN Nevada, a local organization that was formed in 2018 and supports fundraising for the community.
Saturday’s 5K event, which starts at 9:00 a.m., will commence at Billy Sunday Field. Check-in for the race is at 8:00 a.m.
Nealson believes the Pizza Pie Looza event is an important opportunity for the community to show off its ever-changing downtown district. A variety of local vendors will be set up downtown and serve a wide array of menu items, including at least one pizza or pie option at each stand. This year, the vendors will open at 1:00 p.m., giving locals time to enjoy both lunch and dinner before the main concert begins.
The Pizza Pie Looza is offering more attractions this year than last, according to Nealson. “We’ve added some spots for contests, including a pizza crust stuffing contest and a pizza decorating contest,” he said. “Those will be going on between the free musical acts.” Throughout the afternoon, there will also be team pizza making and box balancing, plus a dough toss.
Families can also participate in kid-friendly events between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., including caricature drawing, temporary tattoos, and chef hat coloring. A variety of local businesses are supporting the activities.
A dunk tank will also be a part of the afternoon fun, with Story County Assessor Wayne Schwickerath one of several who have volunteered to be ‘dunked’.
Nealson has seen firsthand how the Pizza Pie Looza festival came to be such an attractive community event. “In 2020, we had the idea to bring Bryan White [to Nevada], with him running the 5K and then hosting his concert,” he stated. “Obviously, COVID happened and derailed that. So, in 2021, we added Wade Hayes to the afternoon. It was a great day and had a lot of people excited about a new, different kind of event. It was well-attended, and everyone had a great time.”
The 2021 Run Country Fest & 5K ended up being a big stepping-stone to the format of the current Pizza Pie Looza. “It was a natural jumping point to the concept of bringing in national acts,” Nealson explained. “Pizza Pie Looza, as we saw it last year, became a ‘thing’ with Jo Dee Messina. We had a great crowd all afternoon.”
This year, visitors can enjoy six hours of live music from local artists on a downtown free stage. Performances will come from the likes of Jesse Wilson, The Boys, Ashley Holloway, Luke Fox, Monica Austin, and Goat Feathers. Each act begins at the top of the hour, from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., right up until the music starts on the main stage. “They’re all very talented,” Nealson continued. “We added more diversity of sound this year, with folk and Americana acts mixed in with the country.” Austin, who will play at 5:00 p.m., was just named ‘Entertainer of the Year’ by the Midwest Country Music Organization.
The main stage concert will feature the “Roots and Boots Tour”, a collaboration of classic music from the likes of country icons Aaron Tippin, Sammy Kershaw, and Collin Raye. Nealson, who saw the group perform together in 2020, believes the three musicians will impress everyone in attendance on Saturday. “That trio is a party on stage,” he stated. “They put on a great show, with lots of energy. They will do some songs together, they will each come out and do a few of their own hits, and then they will bring it all back together at the end. It’s a free-rolling party.”
The main stage concert gates will open at 6:00 p.m. near the City Hall parking lot, and the show will begin at 7:00 p.m. with guest star Chase McDaniels, another up-and-coming country act who recently had a single debut at Number One on the iTunes Streaming Chart.
General admission tickets to the main acts can be purchased up until showtime, both online and on-site. Tickets are $40.
Nealson hopes folks from around the county and state flock to this year’s event and support the people who have made the event possible. “I look forward to helping our local businesses,” Nealson concluded. “After it’s over, Sports Bowl, which has been under new ownership since last year, is going to have a post-party at their place. They will also be providing breakfast pizza for the finishing participants of the race.”
For more information about Pizza Pie Looza, including activity start times, the event map, a list of vendors and sponsoring businesses, or to purchase tickets to the show, visit www.PizzaPieLooza.com or search “Pizaa Pie Looza” on Facebook.
StoryCounty.News will be streaming live from the event during cut-ins throughout the afternoon and evening. To follow our coverage online, visit our Facebook page.