OKOBOJI, Iowa (AP) — After a year of shutdowns, masks, social distancing and sickness, travelers are excited to get back to the lake for a little normalcy.
People are already headed to Okoboji to get an early start on summer at the lake with reduced restriction and COVID-19 vaccinations.
West Lake Okoboji City Administrator Derrick Miner expects this year to be busier than last year, even though the beaches had record numbers in 2020.
People from all over the Midwest travel to Okoboji for the summer to relax and enjoy the summer air. Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff of the summer, Miner said.
This year, many people are heading to their lake homes a little early.
“People are starting to float in,” Miner told the Sioux City Journal.
Okoboji City Administrator Michael Meyers agreed, saying he drove around this week and saw people filling their garages and doing yard work.
Dock installers are out working hard to prepare for the season, Meyers said. On Friday, Larsen’s Docking Company employees were working to install a dock beside Arnolds Park Amusement Park.
The lake isn’t the only draw to Okoboji. Parks, concerts, summer camps, shops and more attract people every week. Last year, many of the attractions had restrictions in place or canceled events, but are returning this year.
Arnolds Park Amusement Park is open and is already filled with kids enjoying the classic roller coaster. The free summer concerts are returning this year after being canceled last year. Starting June 5, people can bring blankets, chairs and snacks to see free concerts at the Preservation Plaza with fireworks following every Saturday, Peters said.
A new attraction is East Lake Park. The playground resembling the Queen II ship was a partnership between the City of Okoboji and Imagine Iowa Great Lakes.
“Minnie Queen” is located along Highway 71, south of Sanborn Avenue.
“There’s just so many things to do for all ages,” Meyers said.
“So many people have been eager to get out of the house,” said Okoboji Tourism Director Rebecca Peters. “They’re vaccinated and feel they can go somewhere.”
Already this year she believes there will be more people in town than last year. The hotels she has spoken with are expecting record numbers based on reservations thus far.
The restaurants and businesses “weathered the storm” last year and are excited to welcome the crowds back, Peters said.
Maxwell’s Beach Café opened on Friday. The restaurant normally opens Memorial Day weekend but co-owner Leah Jensen said they opened early because of how many people are already in town.
“Things went really well and we completely filled up,” she said.
Hearing from customers and people in the community Jensen said people are excited to get back out to visit their favorite businesses and restaurants.
Next weekend, hundreds of people will head to the lake to celebrate Memorial Day and the communities are preparing for another season, Meyers said.
“Lets cross our fingers for good weather,” he added.
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