Iowa Games kicks off at Jack Trice

Athletes give high fives during the Parade of Athletes at the 2012 Iowa Games opening ceremonies. The Iowa Games Opening Ceremony was Friday, July 13, in the parking lots east of Jack Trice Stadium.

Alex Halsted

It sounds familiar: thousands of Iowans filling the parking lot at Jack Trice Stadium to kick off a big event. This time however instead of tailgating for an ISU football game, people filled the parking lot for the 2012 Iowa Games opening ceremonies.

More than 14,000 people of all ages will take part in the Iowa Games, an event boasting 58 sports that take place throughout the month of July. Many of those events take place in Ames.

After hosting the opening ceremonies inside Jack Trice Stadium in previous years, the nine members of the Iowa Games committee decided to make a change during this 26th year.

“We felt that people wanted more entertainment and less talking during the opening ceremony,” said Kim Abels, Iowa Games special events director. “We decided to make the change and go outside of Jack Trice, and it’s been awesome to see the response from the athletes.”

The opening ceremony kicked off with the “Parade of Athletes,” as many of the participating members of this year’s games walked across the stage to the applause of those in attendance.

Abels said the committee has heard positive thoughts regarding the changes to this year’s event.

“The feedback has been great,” Abels said. “The one thing people really appreciate about the Opening Ceremony is having the ‘Parade of Athletes’ and seeing their athlete walk across stage.”

The big moment of the night came with the lighting of the Iowa Games torch. After passing along the flame, one athlete lit the torch to the eruption of the crowd and the explosion of fireworks.

Iowa Games brings thousands of visitors to Ames during the month, and Ames at-large city councilman Matthew Goodman, who was in attendance with his family, said the event is great for the city.

“Anytime you can take a lot of people and bring them to Ames, it’s good for anybody living in Ames,” Goodman said. “The more opportunities you have to bring your family out to see different kinds events and mingle with different kinds of people, the more diverse your community is going to be.”

And there was no lack of people Friday evening. Thousands of people flocked the stage for performances by country artists The Lost Trailers and Sunny Sweeney.

“The turnout has been great; it’s wonderful to see all of the athletes come out and support this event,” Abels said. “That’s what sets Iowa Games separate aside from other sporting events — that we do offer the Opening Ceremony and the athlete jamboree.”

While the upcoming weekend will be plenty busy for the committee and athletes, the lighting of the torch provided some relief after countless hours and months of preparation.

“We have people ask us all the time, ‘Why do you do your job,'” Abels said. “Just seeing how happy the athletes are; it’s a nice feeling knowing we’re putting on this event for all the athletes.”