Iowa Games kick off in Ames with jamboree, opening ceremonies

A torch is lit to officially begin the Iowa Games at the opening ceremony on July 18. Thousands of athletes from all across Iowa will compete in Olympic-style sports on the ISU campus.

Max Dible

The unofficial beginning of the Iowa Games was July 11 when frisbee enthusiasts and billiards players made their way to Ames for the first events of the competition.

Officially, the games began July 18 and were capped by an athlete jamboree, which took place on the east side of Jack Trice Stadium, and then the opening ceremonies, which were inside the stadium itself.

The jamboree offered games, an educational magic show and informational booths, each one dedicated to educating guests on the specifics of a certain type of food produced in Iowa.

“It is all about connecting people with where their food comes from,” said Haylee Henke, producer services regional coordinator for the Iowa Soybean Association. “We know that it is the face-to-face encounters that mean the most. The whole point is to create an open dialogue.”

There were also tickets for the opening ceremony being sold, all of the profits from which were donated to the Iowa Food Bank.

“We have eight food banks in Iowa and [the money donated] will be split among those food banks,” said Michelle Winkey, an employee of the Iowa Food Bank Association. “Every dollar donated provides four meals.”

The Iowa Games made a little more than $3,600 on the evening’s events, which should provide close to 14,500 meals for hungry people across the state.

The headliner of both the jamboree and the opening ceremonies was former Ames High School basketball player and current NBA player Harrison Barnes.

Barnes said he played in numerous Iowa Games and began as early at fourth grade. He talked about why he decided to come back and help promote the event.

“It is about having fun. This is a great opportunity,” Barnes said. “I think a lot of times kids at this age get too caught up in ‘Did I get a gold? Did I get a silver?’ Enjoy this process for what it is. You have a chance to showcase your talents on the biggest stage in Iowa for young athletics.”

Barnes signed autographs in a tent on the east side of Jack Trice before heading to the stadium to give his speech.

As the jamboree wound down, thousands of athletes, coaches and spectators dressed in a myriad of differently-colored uniforms made their way around and into the stadium for the parade of athletes, which kicked off the opening ceremonies.

Every participant in attendance walked out on the field, was introduced individually or by team over the loudspeaker and could turn their heads to the jumbo-tron to see their images projected in high definition on the screen towering dozens of feet above the audience.

Just as the introductions were finishing, a plane flew overhead dropping two skydivers who parachuted into the middle of the stadium, the second carrying an American flag.

Barnes then gave his keynote speech, in which he expressed pride at seeing all the athletes competing in his hometown in an event that was part of his athletic maturation. He stressed the importance of teamwork and learning from the experience.

Following Barnes’ speech, Champions Forever, a family unicycling unit, entertained the crowds with basketball tricks and stilt-cycling high above the track.

There was a presentation of a few awards for volunteer and coach of the year, and after the Iowa Games cauldron was lit, the lights dimmed and a brightly colored array of fireworks burst out loudly into the night sky over the southeast corner of Jack Trice Stadium.

Ben Dowrimple, an under-12 soccer player from Waterloo who has been a part of two gold-medal teams at the Iowa Games already in his young career, talked about why he and the rest of his teammates get so excited to come to the Iowa Games every year.

“We play five or six tournaments a year and this is our top one,” Dowrimple said. “The tournaments before are just warmups for [the Iowa Games] and it ends our season. The competition is better and winning here is basically our top priority of the year.”