Maximum Ames Music Festival, Pridefest Canceled Over Coronavirus

The annual music festival was set to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, but organizers say they still plan to host alternative events

Maximum Ames/Facebook

Organizers of the annual Maximum Ames Music Festival announced in a Tuesday morning press release that the 2020 festival has been canceled in the interest of protecting the health of its participants, and because social distancing measures implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic have made fundraising and booking shows for this fall unrealistic. Update: Ames Pridefest, which partnered with the festival last year, has also been canceled but is exploring options for alternative programming.

The festival has traditionally taken place at venues across downtown Ames in September and showcases a wide variety of local and touring musicians and other performance artists. It’s similar to Iowa City’s Mission Creek Festival, whose 15th year was canceled in mid-March for similar reasons, although at the time, organizers of that festival said it might still be rescheduled. In early April, when the festival was initially scheduled, an alternative Mission Creek Underground project broadcast several shows online that were recorded inside an empty Englert Theatre, the venue that produces the festival.

Four days after the Mission Creek Festival was canceled, Maximum Ames organizers called off a party at The Angry Irishmen, a downtown bar that regularly features live music, where they had planned to announce the dates for this year’s festival. In today’s press release, they said they are exploring similar virtual alternatives that would focus on central Iowa artists and plan to announce updates at a future time on social media.

“We absolutely will not jeopardize the health and safety of our community, and the only responsible decision is to hold off this year,” said one of the organizers, Mara Spooner, in a statement. “Still, it breaks our hearts to make this decision. Rest assured, the Maximum Ames Music Festival isn’t going anywhere and will continue to showcase Iowa music, even if circumstances dictate we do so virtually.”

Spooner added: “To the Ames community, we want you to know that we love you and we’re not going anywhere. This year’s Maximum Ames events will look different than those of the past and may be entirely virtual. But none of that changes our mission to create an inclusive environment that fosters understanding through music and art. We can’t wait to see you there!”

London Underground, another downtown bar that hosts shows for the festival as well as performances by musicians and burlesque performers throughout the year, began live-streaming shows from inside its empty bar about a month ago.

In addition to the Maximum Ames and Mission Creek festivals, Des Moines’ 80/35 Music Festival, scheduled for July 10 and 11, was canceled in late March. Maximum Ames and 80/35 had yet to announce lineups, but Mission Creek did in December. It included Sound for Andy Warhol’s Kiss featuring Kim Gordon (of Sonic Youth fame); queer Indigenous artist Black Belt Eagle Scout out of Portland, Oregon; Kalamazoo, Michigan-based comedian Samantha Irby; and numerous other musicians and spoken-word artists.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.