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Iowa History Daily: October 14 - Dry Run Sewer Banquet

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Iowa History Daily: On October 14, 1903, 450 guests arrived for a black-tie event held in a Waterloo sewer. The Dry Run Sewer Banquet celebrated the newly-built $100,000 connecting a marsh and the Cedar River by inviting guests to dine in the underground chamber.

Seeking to provide better draining in the downtown area between Dry Run Creek and the Cedar River following floods in 1884, 1897, and 1902, Waterloo officials started construction on a large, underground conduit. As the project reached completion during 1903, jokes between local newspaper writers about hosting a banquet to celebrate the newly completed sewer reaching Mayor P.J. Martin’s office.

Martin decided to run with the idea, and a banquet setting fit for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle started to come together beneath Waterloo. Choosing the deepest section of the new sewer, workers hung lights and set up long tables and chairs. Crews worked on elegant place settings and hanging decorations while a menu including oysters, roast turkey, veal, lobster, and Waldorf salad came together.

With $3 tickets in hand, 450 guests arrived decked out in their best suits and evening gowns as music from the Beloit Orchestra sang against the sewer walls. Cigar smoke soon filled filled the air as Mayor Martin served as toastmaster at an event which drew worldwide coverage. In the aftermath, Waterloo booster Frank Pierce wrote in the paper, boasting of the feast: “no other municipality can hope to equal…no other city will be able to give us a banquet in a sewer.” #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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