The Iowa Rabbit Festival was started in 1986. It began as a way to promote the only rabbit processing plant in the area. The first festival was held in 1987 with a small rabbit show, a parade, and booth to sale crafts. The few bands they hired played from the back of a flatbed trailer. There was a pageant to crown Miss Bunny who then traveled the state to other festivals promoting ours.
The festival has since grown from year to year. The processing plant is long gone, but the festival lives on. An average of 20,000 people attends the festival each year. We have added a carnival, an actual bandstand, and a Petite Lapin pageant for ages 0 – 17 years.
The festival has been held the 3rd weekend in March in the Lawrence Toups, Jr. Memorial Park (formally Iowa City Park). In 2016, the festival moved to the Burton Coliseum to better accommodate parking and crowds, especially during inclement weather. During the festival, attendees can sample a variety of local foods. The Cook-off on the Saturday morning gives people a chance to taste rabbit cooked many ways. There are also many arts and crafts vendors displaying and selling their wares. The main attraction is, of course, the bandstand. We have at least 13 different bands playing a variety local music, including Cajun, Zydeco, and variety bands.
We have recently added a rabbit show back into our weekend of activities. The Tiny Town Rabbit Club is in charge of putting on the rabbit show. All registered breeds of rabbits are shown at this show. There have been in excess of 400 entries at this show. To encourage the participation of the youth in our area, a 4-H show has been added in conjunction with the open show.
The Iowa Rabbit Festival Board consists of eleven board members who represent different areas in our community - Iowa City Council, rabbit breeders, and different civic organizations. Proceeds from the festival have been used to fence the City Park, construct an outdoor stage in the park, and fund the construction of a pavilion. Donations are also given to the youth and civic organizations of Iowa assisting in the production of the festival. Each year scholarships are presented to area graduating seniors. We work closely with the Town of Iowa and local merchants and businessmen to make our festival a success and for the betterment of the Town of Iowa.
We are currently a Top 20 Event for the Southeastern United States and work closely with our local tourist bureau to promote the festival.