Iowa Alumni Magazine | August 2014 | Features

Where's Herky?

By Shelbi Thomas

H e's everywhere.

This summer, Herky mastered the art of being in 84 places at once—from the Pentacrest lawn to the Eastern Iowa Airport. Decorated statues of the Iowa mascot can be spotted throughout Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty through the end of August as part of the second Herky on Parade public art exhibition.

Herky first hit area streets in 2004 to celebrate the renovation of Kinnick Stadium. "Ever since, we've been asked when we're going to bring Herky back," says Josh Schamberger, president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. "There's probably not a bigger celebrity in the state of Iowa."

Borrowing a triumphant pose from another Midwestern superstar (Superman), Herky appears as Hawkeye sports heroes such as Hayden Fry or the Ironmen, cultural icons like William Shakespeare and Jackson Pollock, and fun fictional characters including Batman, Big Foot, and Captain Kirk.

After the Iowa City/Coralville Area CVB handed out 20,000 maps this year with the statue locations, thousands of visitors posed with Herky and shared their photos on social media sites. Visitors have also accessed the Herky on Parade website (www.herkyonparade2.com) more than a million times in the past two months and downloaded the project's new cell phone app 4,000 times. Momentum for the project continued to build last month when organizers added the Golden Herky late to the parade—hiding him somewhere in the county, with prizes for the first people who discovered him at the Sutliff Bridge.

Schamberger says Herky on Parade has not only had a positive economic impact, but has also brought the community together. One family drove up from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to take their photo with each statue, while the newest class of Iowa alumni lined up on the Pentacrest after this spring's commencement ceremonies to wait their turn for a snapshot with Graduation Herky. Navy Petty Officer Anthony Stokes even held his reenlistment ceremony in front of the Cedar Rapids airport's Commander Herky. "We are a community proud of having the UI as our signature attraction," says Schamberger, "and there aren't many places around the country where something of this scale can happen."

The Herkys on Parade will say farewell at the annual FRYfest celebration this August, but it will leave a lasting impression on the community: the statues will be auctioned off to support the United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties.