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Published: September 18th 2010
I am Iowa
Proud people of the corn
It’s tough, but since I started in my new job earlier in the summer, there is a bit of travel to the US required on occasion. Of course I overcome this hardship with true grit and a British stiff upper lip, and generally muddle through as best I can.
But it’s not all work, work, work, there is time for a bit of a laugh as well, and as part of my career development plans, I have been introduced to the rather funny TV show, The Trailer Park Boys
(ok, it is actually Canadian, and don’t show the kids!). It is most amusing and has lead to a bit of an obsession with trailer park life over recent weeks ensuring my latest trip to the US was going to be a bit trailer park themed.
And to make the trip even better, my boss invited me to witness a true American cultural institution, an American football game and tailgate party down in Iowa City, in the land of the corn. According to the NY Times Iowa City is home to one of the best tailgate parties in the US, so I was sure not to be disappointed.
I caught a big
My first trailer park
Spotted as I came in to land in Iowa City, living the dream.
plane out to Detroit (and gave you a wave Miranda as I flew passed you in Canada) and changed on to the Iowan sized one and headed out to Cedar Rapids. As the plane crossed over Lake Michigan and Wisconsin, the flat lands of Iowa came in to view. Iowa isn’t that famous for many things but it is the home of a few well know people including Ashton Kutcher, Elijah Wood and Captain Kirk (the fictional character) to name a few. Its main claim to fame seems to be corn, and boy there is a lot of it there. Not to say all Iowans are particularly corny, but I did see some strange sites there. As the plane approached Cedar Rapids I caught a glimpse of my first trailer park of the trip by the airport, it was a good omen.
Exiting the airport didn’t take too long, since it was rather little and then it was straight to bar in a town called Tiffin (yeah, I thought it was just a name for an Indian meal too) which was prime redneck spotting territory, there was a bit of a hush as we walked in the door, they
Friday night in Iowa
There was as much binge drinking going on here as we have in the UK, we're not alone.
don’t like strangers in them parts…
Then on to Iowa City for the main event, University of Iowa (Hawkeyes) vs Iowa State University (Cyclones), it’s a little confusing I know, but this is the local derby in the collage football calendar. It seems the majority of people seem to support the Hawkeyes and this is also the team I was encouraged to cheer on, always being sensitive to local cultures and not wanting to upset my hosts, I made sure I purchased a fetching yellow and black number to wear to the game and dutifully learnt the required chants of ‘Go Hawks!’ and the classic ‘I.O.W.A’ chant which goes around the stadium, I was truly one of the children of the corn now.
The game was on the Saturday, so there was the Friday night in downtown Iowa City to contend with first. It is a big university town and there are a lot of students out there all wanting to do what students do best, drink. But being America they have that stupid law about not drinking until you are 21, hmm, I bet they are all sticking to that, not. Still, it was amusing to have
The Man Cave
Icing on the cake of my weekend to meet the real 'Mr Lahey', this was awesome.
to show ID to get in to every bar in town. I’m not quite past it yet, but it was a little bit excessive. At this point I’d been up quite a long time, but still managed to carry on for a few small beverages. It seems the UK doesn’t have exclusive rights on Friday night binge drinking, the US were putting up a good show with rather a lot of drunken people on the streets, nice to know we have still got plenty in common with our American cousins.
The next morning it was game day and most of Iowa seemed to have descended in to the city creating a sea of black and yellow. There was the odd Cyclones fan dotted around but they were few and far between. As the game didn’t start until early afternoon there was plenty of tailgating time to be enjoyed and an early start was in order, about 9am to be precise, I am the liquor.
One of the funniest characters in the Trailer Park boys is the park supervisor, one Mr Jim Lahey and I was about to meet a real life version of him as we left for
And so it begins...
10am at the Magic Bus, I had to drink beer, it was for charity you know.
the game. The apartment supervisor of the university flats where we were staying is very similar to the character on the show being a disgraced ex-cop and a bit of a drunk who tries to spoil the scams of the park residents. The real Mr Lahey has built himself a ‘Man Cave’ in the car park complete with flatscreen TV, fridge, carpet and covered patio. It’s amazing; he sits around drinking in his man cave all night and looks out for people to clamp in the car park. We came across him first thing in the morning riding around the parking lot on his scooter, complete with beer, he explained that he’d been very drunk the night before at the man cave, entertaining some young ladies which made him feel like a ‘rooster’, ahem, a true trailer park type if ever I met one.
Leaving Mr Lahey to his car parking scams, we headed up to the ‘Magic bus’ for a pre-match bit of entertainment. Basically it is an old school bus with a stage on the top, but it is somewhat part of the Iowan tailgating tradition and I think there is a bit of a story behind
155 to Balham?
No, it's the magic bus in all it's glory, somewhat a legend in Iowan tailgating parties.
why there is a magic bus, but I’m not sure what, but its return this year is big news in Iowa
and it is for charity, so it was good to know my drinking was for a good cause. There were certainly some sites to see at the Magic bus, lots of fans sporting some natty outfits, I was especially fond of the rather fetching stripy dungarees worn by many fans, but I did resist getting a pair, I don’t think London is quite ready for them yet. The event was being sponsored by Kraft and we had to sign wavers since they were filming, no doubt I’ll be starring in their next commercial, seems I’ve made it big in America already, keep buying their Mac and cheese kids!
Well, we couldn’t keep drinking all day at the Magic bus, we had to move on to another tailgate party by the stadium, this one hosted by the big boss of our group, better be on my best behaviour! Still, I wasn’t to worry as I was handed a beer immediately on arrival, now that is my idea of networking. The streets around Kinnick stadium were packed with fans and people partying, I
This season I will mostly be wearing yellow and black.
can’t imagine this happening in the UK, or even being allowed to happen, but they do this at all the home games.
Finally it was time to enter the stadium and take our seats, and with over 70,000 in the crowd, the atmosphere was incredible as well as the noise. These days my usual sporting preference is a bit of cricket and the fans down at the Oval aren’t quite as enthusiastic as their American counterparts, so it was an amazing experience to be in the crowd. Each team has a band of about 50 people, then flag wavers and of course the cheerleaders which take up half the pitch, that isn’t even including the teams which are about 55 players. Typically for America, everything was on the grand scale. And as the Hawkeyes ran on to the pitch, the crowd waved their pompoms and went crazy and the game began. The rules of the game had been explained to me and I think I sort of understood what was going on, but with a touchdown early on in the game, the Hawkeyes were on for an easy victory, go Hawks!
I was a little distracted at one
Ozzy rocks the Magic Bus
Make some noise Iowa!!! (It's not the really Ozzy, or was it?)
point by Ashton and Demi in front of us on the sidelines, he’s a big Iowa fan and so is often seen at the game, one likes to hang out with celebrities dontcha know. Then even more excitement when the ball got kicked in to the crowd only a couple of rows behind us and was caught by one fan who then decided he’d try and keep the ball. This it seems is a Federal offence and the cops were sent in to nab the offending fan, you would think they can spare the odd ball, but clearly not and he was threatened with arrest and dutifully gave the ball back. Finally the Hawkeyes blew away the Cyclones by 35 - 7 and the game was done and the party was over, with most of Iowa leaving the game very happy but the streets needing a bit of a clean, and to think this happens at every home game, quite amazing really.
The next day it was time to head up to Minnesota and work, the drive up through Iowa to Eagan was mainly taken up by cornfields, pretty much like Lincolnshire but a bit bigger really, so I
Dancing on the streets
Just one of the many parties we passed on the way to Kinnick Stadium
felt quite at home, ah well, time for work in the end. Still there were a couple of trips in to St Paul to enjoy and even a tornado warning one evening as well to add to the excitement, and I was even given a quick tour of a real life Trailer park near the office in Eagan. I think when I retire to one, I’ll pick one in the south as the weather is a bit better than Minnesota, so who’s with me?
So armed with a few cans of Mary Kitchen corned beef hash and a multitude of free yellow t-shirts from Iowa, time to head back to London, a big thank you to Rachelle, Roger, Jayna and Gwen for looking after me so well on my trip, you’ll be welcome in my trailer for some liquor and chicken fingers (the $8 kind) any time!
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