Yankee Doodle Pops


Twenty years living in Iowa. Twenty-four years of Yankee Doodle Pops. And this is the FIRST TIME I’ve experienced this classic Des Moines Symphony concert.

I’ll be honest. I’ve avoided this event because I’ve heard how horrendous the traffic jam is after the concert ends. Isn’t that lame? I feel like a lazy loser. I’ve also had a number of other excuses: I’m in Alaska, I’m in Boston, I’m in Africa. True! I seem to travel a lot in early July. But 20 years? C’mon, I’ve had lots of opportunities to experience this iconic Iowa event.


So this was the year! No excuses! We plotted out our parking garage — 5th and Keo — so we’d have an easy getaway. We brought our ubiquitous bag chairs, our cameras, and a picnic dinner. We schlepped all our stuff the 12 or so blocks to the capitol grounds. And we waited. We may have arrived a little early. We people-watched. We (unsuccessfully) tried to avoid rowdy children. We listened to the concert prelude featuring the Turner Center Jazz Orchestra and Tina Haase Findlay (they were pretty great, by the way).

By 8:30 p.m., when the actual Pops concert began, you’d think everyone would be settled in, right? Nope. A gazillion people were still streaming in, walking between our expertly chosen spot and the stage (see a photo of my vantage spot below). Not that I was annoyed by this. Nor was I annoyed by the fact the everyone CONTINUED TO CHAT during the entire concert.


The symphony was excellent. With a theme of “An American Journey,” it played a number of patriotic songs, some marching band tunes, a few show tunes, a couple of John Williams pieces, some military tributes, a few Frank Sinatra numbers, and — during the fireworks show — the popular 1812 Overture and Stars and Stripes Forever.

We were told from the stage that Yankee Doodle Pops is the third-largest Fourth of July concert in the country — behind Boston and Washington, D.C. Is that true? I would question this, but maybe so. There were an estimated 100,000 people there.

I’m not a super patriotic person, and I’m even less so lately, but I do enjoy a good pops band. It may be genetic — my father was a marching band aficionado, and I tap my toes just like he did.

Happy Fourth of July!


1 comment so far

  1. Tim & Janice Coble on

    Carole — Great article and perspective on the Pops!! Janice & I have lived here for over 40 years and have made many many of the concerts. We did stop for a some when, as you said, the traffic got to be just too much. But we’d try when we could. This year we tried something different by staying in one of the new East Village hotels. Checked in the afternoon, Had a great meal and walked up near the capitol for a while. Still just too hot for us, so we went back to the hotel for the fireworks which we could see perfectly from our air-conditioned windows. Just as good a view and none of the distractions. Then we delighted in watching the traffic schlepping past our window for hours. Like you say, highly recommend seeing it, but come prepared as you were. It’s great and you described it perfectly. Look forward to your travels!

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