by Gigi Wood
CORALVILLE – Only someone like Hayden Fry can make a dance like “The Hokey Pokey” look cool.
The other 4,431 Hokey Pokey dancers will have to try their best to meet the coach’s expectations. The former University of Iowa football coach will be at the Coralville Marriott Sept. 3 for Fry Fest, a day-long event at the start of the football season celebrating UI athletics. This is the second year of the festival.
Last year, organizers unveiled the new honorary title for First Avenue in Coralville: Hayden Fry Way.
This year, Mr. Fry will lead an attempt to break the Guinness world record for most Hokey Pokey dancers at once, which is 4,431. The coach made a locker room tradition of the Hokey Pokey, performing the dance with players after a win.
A representative from Guinness World Records in New York City will be present to judge the event.
“This year we aim to break the world record for largest Hokey Pokey, and we need every member of Hawkeye nation in Eastern Iowa and Iowa to come to the Iowa River Landing and make Coach Hayden Fry happy,” said Josh Schamberger, director of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, at a press conference Aug. 17 at the Marriott. “How often do you get to break a Guinness world record? This is going to be a lot of fun.”
Although 20,000 people attended last year’s event, Mr. Schamberger said there is a lot of pressure to attract at least 4,432 people to the Hokey Pokey challenge, attended by one of the most well-known names in college football history.
“I don’t want to let him down,” Mr. Schamberger said.
To break the record, participants will need to dance the Hokey Pokey for at least five minutes. Members of the UI’s Dance Marathon will be on hand to keep dancers motivated, he said.
“The current (song) version we’re using is like 3:50 or 4 minutes, so we’re going to start it over and get it to 5:30 and wean it out,” he said.
There will be a number of promotions in place to draw people to the event, such as tickets to an anticipated Hawkeye bowl game at the season’s end.
“We’ll get a good crowd from the region, but we need locals there as well. We’re going to do some things like every 100th person is going to receive a pretty nice prize, some gifts, some swag from Fry Fest,” he said.
The Hokey Pokey event will be followed by concerts performed by The Nadas and Three Dog Night. Numerous activities and events will take place throughout the day. Fry Fest will begin at 9 a.m. with a ceremony honoring former football Coach Forest Evashevski. Hats bearing “S.U.I.” representing UI’s former moniker, State University of Iowa, will be sold at the event. The acronym was popular on UI attire during Mr. Evashevski’s era. He coached at the UI from 1952 to 1960, and was the school’s athletic director from 1960 to 1970. Bobbleheads with the coach’s likeness will be showcased at the festival.
More than 70 vendors will be on hand at a trade show at the Marriott’s exhibit hall, where a basketball court and wrestling mat will be set up. Attendees will be able to shoot hoops with the men’s and women’s UI basketball teams and watch a UI wrestling practice.
The Orange Bowl trophy will also be present for viewing. Meanwhile, well-known sportscaster Jim Zabel will be on hand to promote his new book. Members of the Big Ten Champion Hawkeye 1960 and 1985 football teams will be present and giving autographs.
Volunteers for the event are still needed. Those who help will receive a Victoria Secret pink Fry Fest T-shirt. Shuttle buses will be available to transport Fry Fest attendees to a UI commuter lot and the Old Capitol Town Center parking ramp. CBJ