Iowa City — More than a year in the making, Saturday’s Back Porch Revival country music show is designed as a fundraiser to jump-start The Native Fund — an Iowans-helping-Iowans initiative that grew out of a chance meeting in 2008 between Hawkeye All-American standout and former NFL player Dallas Clark and actor Ashton Kutcher.
The two met at a studio where Clark, who played 11 seasons for the Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens — had just wrapped up an interview.
During the meeting, the two men discussed their shared frustration over not being able to do more to help during the devastating Parkersburg tornado in May and the Eastern Iowa flooding in June that year.
Clark was thrilled that Kutcher liked his idea of starting a fund to aid in disaster relief on their home turf. The goal is to eventually expand the initiative to help Iowa children facing life-threatening illnesses and Iowa’s post-9/11 veterans.
“God had already put this idea in my head and in my heart,” Clark said by phone from his home in Humboldt County, northwest of Des Moines. Now 37, Clark retired from the NFL in 2014 and is involved in his family’s Century Farm operations, which includes vineyards and Train Wreck Winery.
A veteran of invitations to numerous fundraising events during his professional football career, he zeroed in on staging a concert.
“I love music, and the Lord played a horrible trick of giving me the passion for music but zero talent to sing or play it,” Clark said. “I felt like this was my in to the music industry a little bit. And just the special place that Kinnick is to me, and the great memories of calling it home, having a concert in Kinnick would be amazing, and even better, having it as a fundraiser.”
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He ran the idea by Gary Barta, director of athletics at the University of Iowa “a few years ago,” but after tossing ideas around, Clark and Kutcher put it on hold when career obligations got in the way.
“When I retired and moved back to Iowa, it’s one of those things that just never left,” Clark said. “It was always on my heart, and I wanted to open it back up and see where everything stood.”
Kutcher, Barta and university officials were still onboard when Clark met Gary DeWaard, founder of Forest City’s Tree Town music festival, who agreed to join in.
“That was the perfect storm of having all these people on board,” Clark said, adding it enabling organizers “to take it to the next level.”
Planning kicked into high gear in 2010, when Clark and Kutcher incorporated and “started the formalization of the vision,” said Kyle McCann, a lawyer who now serves as executive director for The Native Fund, based in Des Moines. In spring 2015, Clark and his team went to Nashville to sell the concert idea to the country division of the William Morris talent agency.
“They loved it,” Clark said. “They pitched it to their big boys — the ones that can fill out stadiums, to their handful of artists who can do that. And fortunately for us, Blake stepped up. That’s when it became real.”
Clark said it took many pieces falling into place to make the show a reality.
“Gary Barta could have said, ‘Aah, sorry.’ That would have squashed it. Gary DeWaard could have said, ‘Aah, I don’t have time; I don’t want to do that.’ The William Morris people could have said, ‘You’re in over your head. You guys don’t know what you’re doing.’ That could have squashed it. These artists that can fill stadiums could have said, ‘This is a joke; there’s no way.’”
But, that’s not what happened. Instead, it all came together.
“As we’ve picked up steam, as this thing became real last October when it was all announced, I really believed that we’re going to do some amazing things, because the way doors have opened, and the way people have just gone above and beyond to make sure this is a success. It’s exciting.”
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Organizers have not said how much money they hope to raise for The Native Fund once the bills are paid. They’ve also declined to say how much it is costing to stage the show.