By Devyn Young
A sea of black and gold.
Iowa sports fans are familiar with this image while at football games, tailgating with friends, and cheering on the Hawkeyes in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Fans who attend FryFest will be
treated to an early appearance of the black and gold waves.
FryFest will take place on Friday, beginning at 9 a.m. and ending with a concert starting at 7 p.m. The festivities will take in the Iowa River Landing in Coralville.
“[FryFest] is a celebration of all that’s Hawkeye,” said Allie Boenish, the director of special events for the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Vistors Bureau. “When you walk in, the atmosphere is electric.”
Herky may dance among little kids, cheerleaders might start a boisterous chorus of the “Iowa Fight Song,” shouts of “Go Hawks” could ring from the rafters; the only guarantee is that it’ll be all Iowa, all day.
“FryFest, to me, is a true sign that we’re in the realm of football season,” said Laurie Haman, the vice president of the Convention and Vistors Bureau. “It’s time to kick off, and get everyone excited, and celebrate everything that is Hawkeye.”
This gathering of passionate Iowa fans first took place in 2009. Looking for a way to mark the start of football season, the Convention and Vistors Bureau, the city of Coralville, and the Iowa Athletics Department came up with FryFest.
“It starts out with figuring out our partnerships, thinking about a theme, starting to think about a concert, and starting to book those concerts,” Boenish said. “We’ll start planning 2016 event the week after FryFest is over.”
FryFest consist of a smorgasbord of activities throughout the day, including a bean-bag tournament, a farmers’ market, and the world’s largest Hawkeye trade show.
Dale Arens, the program manager for the UI Karro Hall of Fame, helps put the show together.
“The trade show was a key vision as part of FryFest from its inception,” Arens said. “The premise would be to create an environment that was everything Hawkeye.”
Iowa fans have the opportunity to find anything they want decked out in black and gold, from T-shirts to pool tables to cozies.
“I go to some trade shows early in the year,” he said. “I’m looking for new licensees, but I also meet with and work with existing licensees. While I’m at the tradeshows, I’ll hand out information for licensees and perspective licensees about FryFest and the unique opportunity it presents for them.”
That is just one component of the festival. One of the largest aspects is the musical performances.
The outdoor concert this year will star Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, inducted to the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, as well as the Rumours, an all-female rock band from Iowa.
“We’re very thrilled to have to have this rock-and-roll-style concert,” Haman said. “We think it will fit in well with our fans in Hawkeye Nation, and they’ll enjoy this type of activity.”
Featured at FryFest this year will be the man who gave it its name, Hayden Fry, longtime Iowa football coach.
“I think the coolest thing is when Coach Fry is able to join us,” said Boenish, a 2011 graduate of the University of Iowa. “To see the love and connection that all of Hawkeye Nation has with him and for him. They really get excited to see him and honor him, and they love hearing from him each year.”
Arens is able to spend most of his day with Fry while at the event, as he is in charge of getting Fry where he needs to go throughout the day.
“It’s certainly something that I really enjoy,” Arens said. “I feel honored and privileged to call Hayden a friend.”
Fry will receive a proclamation from Gov. Terry Branstad at this year’s event.
“It’s unique, and it’s an honor for Coach Hayden Fry,” Haman said. “It’s something that I think the fans of him will truly love to see.”
Another exciting aspect for this year is the revealing of six new Herky on Parade statues, all painted and decorated by local artists, as requested by fans.
“There’s no other university, to our knowledge, that has an event that is entirely dedicated to celebrating a university team,” Boenish said. “We devote an entire day to celebrating all that this university is.”
When: 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Iowa River Landing, Coralville
Admission: Mostly free, Concert $20