In Cedar Rapids on Friday morning, most people will gather in groups to watch the Iowa-Nebraska football game and cheer for their beloved Cornhuskers.
It should probably be noted that we’re talking about the Cedar Rapids in Nebraska, population 400. It’s 122 miles northwest of Lincoln and 392 miles west of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
This Cedar Rapids has Tigers, not Tiger Hawks. The Cedar Rapids Tigers went 5-4 this season and qualified for the state’s high school Class D six-man football playoffs.
Joel Schalk owns Schalk Auto in Albion, the county seat of Boone County and 19 miles from Cedar Rapids. He is a Cedar Rapidian and assistant football coach of the Tigers. Next year, Cedar Rapids will have a co-op football team with longtime rival Greeley-Wolbach
“Declining numbers,” Schalk said. “We only had 13 kids out this year. To get to the playoffs this year was pretty special.”
Schalk, like nearly everyone else in Cedar Rapids, grew up a Nebraska fan and has remained one. Several people in town have Huskers season-tickets. Many others, like Schalk, try to get to Lincoln a time or two each season.
“It’s a really big deal here,” Schalk said. “We arrange our whole schedules to attend the games in Lincoln or to have a game party at somebody’s house. When Nebraska has an off-week, there will be a wedding in about every town and multiples in some. We had one. I think everyone in every town around attended a wedding on the off-week this year.
“And if you do have a wedding on the day of a Nebraska game, there will be TVs in the reception halls.”
Huskers football, said Brady Yosten of Cedar Rapids, “is probably on the next level below going to church.”
Yosten co-owns Cedar Valley Insurance Agency with his father. He is Cedar Rapids High’s head wrestling coach. He likes Cedar Rapids, and he likes the Cornhuskers.
“There’s a big group of alumni from the university around here,” Yosten said. “On Saturdays people will get together in somebody’s basement or in a local bar-restaurant for the games.”
You can go to either the Country Inn or Gringo Joes Cantina on Main Street in Cedar Rapids. Some locals will drive 20 miles south to Fullerton and Benchwarmers Bar, where Yosten said they have “tons of TVs.”
“It’s a great move for us,” he said. “There might have been some disappointing games, but I think overall we know we’re still a young team with a young offensive line. The defense has had a few injuries and is struggling a little bit. But we’re growing.
“I don’t know if the Iowa game is any bigger than any of our other games like Michigan-Nebraska or Penn State-Nebraska. But with this being our annual rivalry game now, it will be a fun game to watch. For the next 50 years, it will be a really good matchup.”
Cedar Rapids is on the banks of — what else — the Cedar River. Here’s the pitch for the town on the town’s website:
Imagine lying on your back in lush green grass on the banks of the Cedar River fishing for the elusive catfish in unpolluted water. An eagle soars overhead in a crystal clear blue sky as a turkey gobbles in the distance. A splash attracts your attention as a deer cautiously pauses for a drink. In the shadows of a sprawling Cottonwood tree, two fox pups playfully wrestle unconcerned, yet not too far from their den. Pheasants abound in the fall among an array of gorgeous colored trees and sumac bushes. Sandhill cranes, geese, ducks, and pelicans occasionally fly overhead and land in cornfields to feed and rest.
The Cedar Valley offers bluffs for hiking and the Cedar River for canoeing; Cedar Rapids offers all of this and much, much, more. We offer a feeling of safety and security. Cedar Rapids is a wonderful place to visit or live.
“It’s a real close-knit community, a friendly town,” said Schalk. “Everybody kind of watches out for everybody else.”
The eagles, turkeys and foxes will have the great outdoors to themselves for three hours on Friday. The Huskers are playing Iowa, and little else will matter in Cedar Rapids during that time.
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