Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News
Kalona, Iowa
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Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News

May 3, 2018 Fireworks light up the skies in Stumptown
Article Pages -- as published on the The Kalona News website.

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ARTICLE DESCRIPTION:

River Junction, credited by Irving Weber as the oldest still existing settlement in Johnson County, is home to the Stumptown Shooters. It’s a group known for its spectacular fireworks displays which it puts on at Trek Fest, Johnson County Fair, Lone Tree’s Fall Fest, the yearly Pyrotechnics Guild Convention and River Junction.

The Stumptown Shooters began as a hobby group with a Class C (consumer) permit in 1991. The group’s unofficial leaders were, and still are, Gene Zdrazil and Connie Waltz-Zdrazil. The name is Bohemian and, as Zdrazil is happy to point out, is “lizardz” spelled backwards.

The group acquired its name in 1997 when they decided to upgrade their certification to Class B (professional) and certification to teach fireworks use and safety classes. Zdrazil was at the Johnson County Administrative Building filling out the paperwork, and when the clerk asked him the name of his group, “Stumptown Shooters” it was.

“Stumptown” was River Junction back in the 1830s when it was just a landing off the Iowa River at the south end of what is now Sand Road. Trees growing on the site were cut down to allow for easier unloading of the flatboats commonly used for inland river transport during the first half of the nineteenth century. Many of the stumps were left in place, which gave the spot its name.

When the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway came through, built a depot and hired a station master in 1873, Stumptown became a town and was re-named River Junction. In its heyday it had a factory that made bricks and concrete blocks, a downtown across from the railway depot, a school, and a population of 250. When the railway shut down in the mid 1950s, the town began to die. Eventually it was designated a ghost town and taken off the map.

What remains of the town are the old grocery and post office, a house, and the cemetery. In 1990, the Zdrazils bought the commercial buildings, renovated and restored them. In 1997, he moved his chiropractic office from West Branch to River Junction. That put the town back on the map. River Junction, after years of not existing, met the minimum criteria to be a town again. It had a retail establishment, a cemetery and a population of 25.

This past Saturday was devoted to a certification class taught in Hills followed by a potluck supper, entertainment provided by the New Tribe Band, and, when it got dark, a fireworks show. Certification requires not just the class but also participation in five shows. That the class and the show were on the same day gave students a head start on that.

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