Iowa Brit Fest hits Ames

Katherine Klingseis

The British are coming.

The Iowa Brit Fest will be held Saturday in Bandshell Park. The event was created by Marcus Johnson, owner of Ames British Foods.

Johnson, originally from England, came to Ames in 1997 and worked at Iowa State for seven years. After departing, Johnson started his own business designing electromagnetic sensors and systems. The business went under and he decided to turn the business space into a British food store.

“The store started out as a sideline to service [expatriates], but it quickly grew,” Johnson said. “We have a wide demographic; much more than I expected.”

Although there are only a few hundred expatriates in the area, the store has many other customers. Johnson said many ISU students go to the United Kingdom to study abroad and come back to Ames looking for British products. However, curiosity is the factor causing most people to venture in.

“I really like my job,” Johnson said. “I just talk about food and meet interesting people all day.”

A short time ago, Johnson found out about a British festival taking place in Kansas. He believed that, if Kansas has a British festival, Iowa should have one too.

“I didn’t plan to set up [a festival]. I was just interested in it,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t a conscious decision; it just sort of happened.”

Iowa Brit Fest is loosely based on British summer fetes, events where families get together and play games. Music will be played by Reggie Greenlaw, folk singer; Orckes and Trolles, a band that specializes in Medieval, Renaissance, Celtic and pirate music; British Export, a Beatles tribute band; and Mercurial Rage, a ’80s synth pop band.

The festival will also have games for children to play. Vendors will be at the event to sell food and specialty items. Ames British Foods will be selling bangers and mash, a traditional English dish made with sausages and mash potatoes; bangers and mash on a stick, the traditional dish with a Iowan twist; tea and scones; and ploughman’s lunch, a typical farmer’s lunch that contains cheese, bread, salad, pork pie and a pickle.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Johnson said. “It will give people a glimpse of English culture, and I think a lot of people will identify with it.”