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 boothes to sale crafts. The few bands they hired played on a flatbed trailer. There was a pageant to crown Miss Bunny who then traveled to other state 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 attend the festival every year. We have added a carnival, a actual bandstand, and a petite lapin pageant.
The festival has been held every year the 3rd weekend of March in Lawrence Toups Jr. Memorial Park in Iowa. In 2016, the festival moved to the Burton to better accommodate the crowds, especially during inclement weather. During the festival, attendees can sample a variety of local foods. The Cook-Off on saturday gives people a chance to taste rabbit cooked in a variety of 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 of music including Cajun, Zydeco, and variety bands.
We have recently added a rabbit show back into our weekend activities. The Tiny Town Rabbit Club is in charge of putting on the show. All registered breeds of rabbits are at this show. There have been in excess of 400 entries at the show. To encourage the participation of youth, 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 pavillion. Donations are also given to the youth and civic organizations assisting in the production of the festival. Each year, we also present scholarships to graduating seniors from Iowa High School. We work closely the Town of Iowa, merchants, and businessman 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.