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Gameday in Iowa City

By John J. Thompson

Iowa may be just 1-1 and coming off a loss to in-state rival Iowa State, but fans will still pack Kinnick Stadium to support the Hawkeyes this weekend.  The Hawks face another team from Iowa for the second weekend in a row, the University of Northern Iowa Panthers, ranked sixth in the Football Championship Subdivision. Northern Iowa opened the season by traveling to Madison and giving Wisconsin all they could handle, but eventually fell to the Badgers, 26-21.  There is no question the Panthers will be ready to play at Kinnick on Saturday, and give Iowa a battle.

Iowa fans will flood Melrose Avenue, despite last weekend’s loss.  Hawkeye fans are as dedicated to their team as any other fans in the country, and one reason is Iowa has such great traditions on game days.

It all starts Friday night, when the Beer Band hits the bars near the University of Iowa Campus.  The Beer Band is unaffiliated with the University of Iowa, but many members of the band are also members of the Iowa Pep Band on game days.  The Beer Band plays the Iowa fight song, “In Heaven There Is No Beer”, and other Iowa themed songs at the bars to entertain football fans the night before the game.

This tailgating scene in Iowa City has been described as the best in the Big Ten.  On Saturday,  fans will pack Melrose Avenue, Hawkins Drive, and every parking lot, structure or alley in the surrounding area.  Tailgating in Iowa City consists of: playing bags, lawn golf, or beer pong, grilling, and of course, doing shots and beer bongs.  Fans load their trucks or cars with tables and chairs and anything else they can fit in order to enjoy their pregame parties. It starts early and it goes until kickoff.

“My favorite thing about tailgating is waking all of my roommates up at 6 a.m. by pounding on their doors and yelling ‘It’s game day, Go Hawks!’”, said Paul Klean, a recent graduate from the University of Iowa.  “I love waking up and chugging beer in the morning, and then making the long walk to Kinnick for the game. Only cheaters take cabs.”

When tailgating on Melrose Avenue, it is an obligation of every Iowa fan to buy a Big Ass Turkey Leg at least once.  Even though local celebrity Chuck Ford is no longer heckling fans across the street from Kinnick Stadium, Big Ass Turkey legs are still an Iowa pre-game favorite.

An Iowa tradition is to touch the statue of Niles Kinnick on the way into the stadium.

Before the game starts, Nile Kinnick’s Heisman acceptance speech is always played on the video board.  When the team swarms hand-in-hand out of the locker room to take the field, the video board shows the team walking down the tunnel onto the field while ACDC’s “Back In Black” plays full-blast.  Every time Iowa scores a touchdown, everyone at the stadium spells out I-O-W-A, with each corner of the stadium chanting one letter.After the games that Iowa wins, all the fans sing “In Heaven There Is No Beer” as they walk back to their tailgates to finish off the day.

More about Niles Kinnick

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