And the corn.
Oh, that golden corn. Best in the world, I’d say. And I haven’t tasted it since 1998.
That is the year I left the comfy surroundings of Cedar Rapids for a new job in Wilmington, North Carolina. Let’s just call it Hurricane City. More on that later.
One week ago, I arrived back in Iowa as sports editor of The News. And not really as a first-time visitor to Kalona. I am sure I packed the family into the car and drove here for a visit more than 20 years ago. It was a Sunday afternoon ritual that took us to such places as the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Cedar Falls, Davenport, Iowa City and the Amana Colonies.
We never missed the Iowa State Fair.
It was there that I fell in love with the corn. One ear after another. Sometimes three of them in 20 minutes.
I remember one afternoon, I was off by myself and chomping down on my third or fourth ear of corn, when all of a sudden a white stretch limousine with darkened windows pulled up right next to me. After a minute or so, one of the doors opened up and out stepped a man in full Native American dress.
He looked at me and nodded.
I nodded back.
And then it hit me. The touring act of the Village People was performing that night at one of the stages on the fairgrounds. And here was one of the performers, wearing war paint on his face, acting quite neighborly and flashing a smile. I thought about offering him some of the corn, but I then realized what a golden, buttery mess it really was.
Two hours later, I held my baby girl on my shoulders as the Village People rocked the fair and thousands of dancing spectators with “YMCA” and their full repertoire of hits.
I first came to Iowa in 1996 as a newly appointed deputy sports editor at The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, right after completing my assignment as a national editor at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. My daughter was born three months premature that September at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. I started every day at the NICU unit at St. Luke’s and ended every night there, often at 2 or 3 in the morning.
It was a glorious, tear-filled day when we brought her home a few weeks before Christmas.
Alyssa graduated from Valparaiso University in Indiana just a few weeks ago. She did so without pomp and circumstance, just like every other 2020 graduate due to Covid-19, but she is a proud graduate who one day will be headed for med school.
My memories of Iowa are happy. That’s why I am proud to be back and grateful to be covering the athletes of Mid-Prairie, Hillcrest, Highland, Lone Tree and Pathway.
I have a long history as a sports editor and reporter. My memories include multiple World Series and NFL playoff games and the NBA Finals and college basketball and football. Those memories also include hundreds and hundreds of high school games, and the many personal connections I have had with coaches and athletes over the years. I am a soccer referee and a former soccer coach. I was a batboy in the Cape Cod Baseball League before I entered the press box and became an official scorer and writer.
I love Fenway and the Red Sox and a Fenway Frank on a summer day.
And I still cherish the day a few years ago when I met the Wrigley Field organist in person.
I can’t wait for Trekfest.
My first trip to Highland High School last week reminded me of the early scene in “Star Trek,” with a young James Tiberius Kirk speeding down a dirt road in Riverside a 1965 Corvette.
So, Iowa, I am back. I’m just not returning in such a dramatic way as James Kirk although I would love to have that ’65 Corvette.
Oh, but I promised you a hurricane story.
In two years while residing in Wilmington, I encountered four hurricanes. This was not fun. The last one, Hurricane Floyd, with its 25 inches of flooding rain, chased me away. Wilmington is home to several movie stars and movie production companies. The Battleship North Carolina is docked there. Its beaches are world class. But for two years, it seemed to be the staging point for the Weather Channel’s hurricane on-air reporters. When Jim Cantore showed up at the airport, word spread through town fast.
There won’t be any hurricanes coming to Iowa.
And, yes, James Tiberius Kirk, 213 years from now.
Paul Bowker is sports editor of The News. He can be reached at email@example.com.