Covering the Land of Lincoln

Things to do in the Des Moines area for Labor Day weekend 2022

Labor Day weekend means time to unwind and relax after a long, restless summer. Just as the weather starts to cool down and kids go back to school, the entertainment schedule in the Des Moines area heats up with country star Gary Allan, REO Speedwagon and Styx performing and funk and reggae band 311 closing out a long holiday weekend. For families, the Des Moines Symphony has two free concerts on the way, Norwalk has a weekend music festival and Valley Junction has a cultural fest, the Renaissance Faire returns and a Water Lantern Festival lights up downtown Des Moines. Here’s a look at 12 great events and activities — from concerts to cuisine — to enjoy before fall begins.

Gary Alan

When: Sept 1 at 7:30 pm

Where: Hoyt Sherman Place, 4051 Dean Ave., Des Moines

Contact: 515-244-0507 or

Cost: Tickets start at $56

Country music artist Gary Allan brings songs from his smooth new album “Ruthless” to Des Moines with a stop at Hoyt Sherman Place on Sept. 1. The “Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)” and “Right Where I Need To Be” hitmaker with a slew of 1990s and 2000s songs will perform his signature moody songs from his tour setlist.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

When: Sept 2, 8:30pm

Where: Wooly’s, 504 E. Locust St., Des Moines

Contact: 515-244-0550 or

Cost: Tickets start at $15 in advance, $20 at the door

Rock-and-roll cover band Dirty Rotten Scoundrels will take listeners on a nostalgic trip through hits from the ’50s and ’60s from artists such as Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry during their set that starts at 8:30 pm

Taste of the Junction Multicultural Festival

Get a taste of Valley Junction this holiday weekend.

When: Sept 2 from 5 to 8 pm, Sept 3 from 2 to 10 pm

Where: Friday at Raccoon River Nature Lodge, 2500 Grand Ave., West Des Moines. Saturday at Historic Valley Junction, Fifth Street and Railroad Avenue, West Des Moines.


Cost: Tickets start at $25 online

Historic Valley Junction’s annual Taste of the Junction two-day festival honoring multicultural traditions returns to West Des Moines on Labor Day weekend. Friday’s celebration will feature a pop-up history museum, storytelling slideshows, presentations, and live music. Saturday’s events include musical performances, live bands, face painting, and food trucks.


When: Sept. 3 from 6 to 10:30 pm

Where: Val Air Ballroom, 301 Ashworth Road, West Des Moines

Contact: 515-223-6152 or

Cost: Tickets start at $25 online

Florida-born singer-songwriter Seth Anthony, known for twangy independent country hip-hop hits, is bringing his home state heat and a signature gritty sound to the Val-Air stage on Sept. 3.

More:55 summer shows in central Iowa from Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani to ‘My Fair Lady’

Water Lantern Festival

When: Sept 3, gates open at 5 pm, water lanterns launch at 8 pm

Where: Water Works Park, 2201 George Flagg Pkwy., Des Moines.


Cost: Tickets are $45.99 online until Sept. 2 and $55.99 on Sept. 3.

Head to Water Works Park on Saturday for the Water Lantern Festival with Chinese lanterns made from rice paper and wood decorated by participants. Tickets include a floating lantern kit, LED candle, drawstring bag, and access to live music, food trucks, and more. Gates open at 5 pm with the lantern launch starting at 8 pm

Des Moines Symphony plays ‘The Music of Whitney Houston’

The Des Moines Symphony performs songs from Whitney Houston over Labor Day weekend in a free show.

When: Sept 3 at 7:30 pm

Where: Lauridsen Amphitheater at Water Works Park, 2201 George Flagg Pkwy., Des Moines.


Cost: Free

The Des Moines Symphony wants you to dance with somebody. The city’s premier orchestra will perform scores from Whitney Houston with Broadway standout Rashidra Scott singing “I Will Always Love You” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”

More:Des Moines Symphony plans free Whitney Houston, Hollywood-themed Labor Day performances

Renaissance Faire

Sir Daniel (left) and Sir Logan joust at the 15th Des Moines Renaissance Faire at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park in Des Moines.

When: Sept. 3-5 from 10 am to 6 pm

Where: Sleepy Hollow, 4051 Dean Ave., Des Moines

Contact: 515-262-4100 or

Cost: Tickets start at $19 online

Iowa’s only Renaissance village returns for another year with old-time fare and new fun for families and friends alike. The Labor Day weekend part of the event, which takes place over the course of three weeks in September, includes a Celtic Ceilidah theme and features a celebration of dance and culture.

REO Speedwagon and Styx with Loverboy

From left: Styx band members Chuck Panozzo, Ricky Phillips, Todd Sucherman, Tommy Shaw, James

When: Sept 4 at 7 pm

Where: Wells Fargo Arena, 730 Third St, Des Moines

Contact: 515-564-8000 or

Cost: Tickets start at $67

The ’70s come calling when iconic two bands head to Well Fargo Arena this weekend. Rock legends REO Speedwagon and Styx, alongside opener Loverboy, are bringing their “Live and UnZoomed” tour to Des Moines on Sept. 4.

Styx is famous for songs such as “Come Sail Away,” “Mr. Roboto,” “Lady,” “The Grand Illusion” and “Renegade.” The group won a Grammy Award in 1980.

REO Speedwagon formed in Champaign, Illinois, and went on to sing hits such as “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” “Take It on the Run,” “Keep on Loving You,” “Time for Me to Fly” and “Back on the road again.”

Des Moines Symphony plays ‘Hooray for Hollywood’

When: Sept 4 at 7:30 pm

Where: Lauridsen Amphitheater at Water Works Park, 2201 George Flagg Pkwy., Des Moines.


Cost: Free

The Des Moines Symphony performs songs from famous movie soundtracks including “Star Wars,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Jurassic Park.”

The Water Works Pops concert series, in its third year, is held annually by the Des Moines Symphony and led by the orchestra’s musical director and conductor Joseph Giunta. The concerts are free to the public and do not require tickets.

Norwalk Music Festival

When: Sept. 4 from noon to 4 pm

Where: Norwalk City Park, 907 North Ave., Norwalk


Cost: Free

Head to Norwalk City Park for an afternoon of music during Norwalk Music Fest. Local artists perform, and families and friends can participate in games and eat dishes from local food trucks.

Sean Kingston

When: Sept 5 at 4:30 pm

Where: Adventureland Park, Adventureland Drive, Altoona

Contact: 515-266-2121 or

Cost: Tickets start at $49.99

Adventureland Park is bringing pop star Sean Kingston of “Fire Burning” and “Beautiful Girls” fame to a Last Day at the Bay event on Sept. 5. The event featuring food and drink, DJs, a 21-year-old plus section, and cabanas for rent. Kingston performs at 4:30 pm


Omaha reggae rock group 311 performs at Hoyt Sherman Place to end a long Labor Day weekend in Des Moines.

When: Sept 6 at 7:30 pm

Where: Hoyt Sherman Place, 1501 Woodland Ave., Des Moines.

Contact: 515-244-0507 or

Cost: Tickets for the show are priced from $45 to $79.

The Omaha-based alt-rock band 311 will perform at Hoyt Sherman Place as part of its 27-show tour. Joining the band as a special guest for the performance will be Tropidelic, a reggae-rock band hailing from Ohio, scheduled to play 18 of the shows. c

Over the course of more than 30 years of performance, 311, named for the Omaha Police Department’s citation for indecent exposure, has been responsible for songs like “All Mixed Up,” “Amber,” “Come Original,” “Beautiful Disaster” and “You Wouldn’t Believe.”

Isaac Hamlet contributed to this article.

Jay Stahl is an entertainment reporter at The Des Moines Register. Follow him on Instagram, Twitter, or reach out at [email protected]

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