July 13, 2004
Here’s a trivia question: What does Zurich, Switzerland, have in common with Chicago and Iowa City? Answer: Successful and similar public art projects that have brought thousands to their communities.
Bet you didn’t know that Herky on Parade had Swiss ancestors, eh?
The popular Herky on Parade that has graced the Iowa City and Coralville areas since May was originally inspired by cows on parade, which started in Zurich in 1998 and then was picked up by Chicago in 1999 to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
And according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, at least 21 other cities (including Overalls All Over in Cedar Rapids in 2002) have jumped on board since 1999, making a parade one of the most popular forms of public art expressions in the country.
“People love to see public art,” Iowa City/Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau president Josh Schamberger said. “Although it’s not an innovate one, this is something that’s been such a successful project.”
The Convention and Visitors Bureau teamed with the UI Athletics Department last year to roll out the Herky creations, and the longest-running parade in the state has seen results “way beyond” what was expected, according to Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs Rick Klatt, a co-coordinator of the project.
“We continue to get 10-20 e-mails per day,” Klatt said. “People are planning trips to football games around it, and it’s generated a lot of fun and awareness for the renovation of Kinnick Stadium.”
“People are planning trips to football games around it, and it’s generated a lot of fun and awareness for the renovation of Kinnick Stadium.”
Associate Athletic Director Rick Klatt
Herky on Parade’s purpose has been to raise awareness of the 75th anniversary of Kinnick Stadium and the coming two-year renovation project on the historic site. For that aim, the project has teamed dozens of corporate sponsors and artists from across the state and even from other universities.
“We had an Iowa State student do three of these in her dorm,” Schamberger said. “And a professor at ISU saw all 74 in one weekend, but then called to find out where he could see the Rock ‘n Roll Herky, which is traveling to every Wal-Mart in the state.”
One of the most heartfelt stories surrounding the project came from a heart transplant patient at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics who will be a freshman at Iowa in the fall. While the high school senior convalesced he regretted that he could not see the Herkys, so the project came to him via pictures online (see above link) and through T-shirts and posters from the Convention Bureau and Athletic Department.
“His mother e-mailed to thank us,” Schamberger said. “But we haven’t been able to meet him, so when he gets out of the hospital we hope we can give him a first-class tour.”
“Right after we launched the original 75, a lot of businesses and organizations wanted to take part in the program but had missed their opportunity, so they jumped on board quickly when the Diamond Collection was announced.”
Iowa City/Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau President Josh Schamberger
The project has generated one million hits on its website, 40,000 maps have been distributed at local businesses, and hotel occupancy in the area last May was at the highest level in eight years, according to Schamberger.
Because of the success of the Parade, as many as 15 new Herkys will grace the area around Kinnick Stadium and will be known as “The Diamond Collection.” The addition will bring back some of the artists who have been a part of the project and bring in new businesses who were unable to participate in the project the first time.
“We just kind of realized a geographic void,” Klatt said. “There were not many Herkys in close proximity to Kinnick.”
The Diamond Collection will be unveiled in the week leading up to the Iowa-Kent State “Throwback Game” on Sept. 4.
“We thought it would be a good idea to bring in some more around the time of the first football game,” said Schamberger. “Right after we launched the original 75, a lot of businesses and organizations wanted to take part in the program but had missed their opportunity, so they jumped on board quickly when the Diamond Collection was announced.”
In addition to the Diamond Collection, three sets of 25 Herky on Parade trading cards will be available and so will a calendar. By September, miniature Herkys will be available starting with Herky the Ironman, in recognition of the Throwback Game.
The Herkys will be on parade until the end of November, following the final football game of the season. And in December, those statues that are not purchased by their sponsors will be available at public auction.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com