Iowans Line Up

Attendees line up for corn at the 2016 Iowa by the sea picnic on the Battleship Iowa pier.

For more than a century, Long Beach has been dubbed the Iowa by the sea, and this marks 119 years Southern California Iowans will gather for the annual Iowa by the sea picnic.

The party will take over the Battleship Iowa in San Pedro this year from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 17. Festivities planned include a silent auction, door prizes, freebies from Iowa and California and many other activities celebrating Iowa’s history. The picnic strives to bring together Iowans from different walks of life, ranging from ages 2 to 92, said event coordinator Don Swenson.

“I met a guy in the Inland Empire and he told me about the Iowan community there and it’s huge,” he said. “I moved here from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, six years ago and I became involved after attending a picnic.”

Swenson is retired Navy and had followed the Battleship Iowa. He even owns a plank aboard the ship.

The picnic used to be held at various parks throughout Southern California, but a few years ago the official picnic began hosting the annual event on the pier of the Battleship Iowa.

“We moved it there and the event was really great,” he said, “and then they said they wanted us on the ship, so we’re excited about that. It’s a different venue. The breeze, the harbor view. It doesn’t get better than that.”

The picnic has drawn tens of thousands of attendees over its existence, and some continue to attend after all these years.

“I met a guy who moved to New Mexico and his mom is almost 102 years old,” Swenson said. “She and her two sons have been involved over the years. It’s not just connecting to the state’s history but it’s largely an intergenerational experience.”

The event is fully funded by ticket sales, at $25 per ticket. It’s marketed as a social, non-alcoholic event for Iowans to connect through their history and the general public to learn more about the state known for corn.

Tickets and event information can be found by logging onto the Iowa by the sea picnic event webpage, www.iowabytheseapicnic.com/picnic-information.html.

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