The Burlington Steamboat Days ship is changing course this year, and not just musically. The addition of new activities and events focusing on family and seniors broadens a horizon historically dominated by the music festival's focus on music more than festivities.

In the past, folks who traveled from afar had limited opportunities for overnight accommodations — and that's critical to anyone, especially families, who drive hundreds of miles to see a favorite musical act or perhaps all of them.

Now long-distance Boatin' fans can camp outdoors and stay for the entire weekend without taking family heirlooms to the pawn shop. Steamboat Days has partnered with SCC and the Des Moines County Fairgrounds in West Burlington to offer vehicle-oriented camping.

“A lot of our music fans equate camping with summer, and as an outdoor festival, camping is a natural complement to our event,” BSD president Amy Burkhart said. “This gives them that option.”

Billboard magazine says over 32 million people attend at least one of the more than 140 music festivals in America each summer, and at most of those events, camping is a part of the experience.

BSD campers can rent a site for a single night or for the duration of the fest.

The fairgrounds opened to campers Wednesday and will remain open through Monday. Daily check-in is 2 to 5 p.m. Checkout is noon or before.

Camper trailers and RVs only; tent camping is not permitted. All sites come with electricity; water and sewer hookups are available on a limited basis.

Rates for basic campsites are $25 per night or $80 for the full festival. Campsites with water and sewer hookups are $30 per night or $100 for the full festival.

That's a bargain, compared to the Des Moines County Fair rates.

For festival and camping details and to buy tickets or reserve a campsite, visit

If you drive but aren't camping, this year BSD also introduces an off-site parking and shuttle service. Through a partnership with the Burlington YMCA, visitors can park in the north lot at SCC in West Burlington and ride a shuttle to and from the waterfront area.

“Most people know what it can be like to find a good parking place downtown that’s within a short walk,” explains Burkhart. “Now they can just park out at SCC and hop the shuttle.”

The shuttle will operate daily during the festival, 6 p.m. to midnight. The shuttle is free, but riders are encouraged to make a freewill donation. Youth must ride with an adult. Funds raised will support YMCA youth activities.

Saturday flea market

Steamboat Days is hosting The Market, an open-air flea market, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on the south side of the Memorial Auditorium.

The Market is free and open to the public. If you like cruising the booths at public markets, vendor blenders and craft shows, The Market is a great place to find yourself at the end of Saturday morning's Steamboat Days parade down Jefferson Street.

Lunch will be provided by Mann’s McDonalds and Sterzing's, with cookies by the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Iowa & Western Illinois.

Entertainment and activities will be provided by the BSD Sweethearts and popular karaoke deejay Rena Myers.

Items you won't find for sale at The Market include weapons, live animals, drug paraphernalia, and anything featuring explicit language or images inappropriate for children.