IOWA CITY — Kurt Friese dedicated much of his life to promoting local food and bringing people together over shared meals.
Now, almost a year after his unexpected death at age 54 on Oct. 26, 2018, friends and family have organized a memorial fundraiser in honor of the former Johnson County supervisor and longtime owner of Iowa City restaurant Devotay.
The event, set for Sept. 18 at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City, will raise money for two nonprofits Friese helped found, Field to Family and Slow Food Heartland.
The evening will include performances by local musicians, including the Awful Purdies, David Zollo, Greg Brown and Slewgrass.
Before the show, VIP ticket holders can attend a reception with locally sourced drinks and food prepared by former Devotay chef Daniel Knowles.
Mike Carberry, Friese’s longtime friend and former Johnson County supervisor, organized the fundraiser, inspired by the number of local musicians he saw at a memorial for Friese last year.
“This is a way to keep his legacy alive. I’m hoping this is a success and we raise a lot of money but also raise a lot of awareness about local food, and slow food,” Carberry said. “Those two local organizations wouldn’t exist without Kurt.”
If this event goes well, it could become an annual fundraiser, he said.
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The memorial fundraiser will be part of an annual festival held by one of those organizations, Field to Family. The Local Food Festival, held Sept. 16 to 22, will include a Culinary Walk, educational events and other celebrations of local food.
“Kurt had a vision for our community where people had a connection to their farmers and their food, and where cooking was a part of our culture,” said Field to Family Director Michelle Kenyon. “He was involved in first Field to Family Festival in 2000. At that time, it was just bringing chefs and farmers together to celebrate the season.”
She said the other nonprofit benefiting from the memorial, Slow Food of the Heartland, is still ramping up; it was one of the initiatives Friese was working on before his death.
Friese’s wife, Kim Friese, said she’s happy people want to keep her husband’s mission going.
“It’s so indicative of the work that he did,” she said. “Bringing community together around the table is what he was about.”
Added Carberry: “Kurt always said, ‘If you break bread with someone, that’s how you get to know them. This is a good time to celebrate the harvest, celebrate friends, and do that in honor of Kurt.”
Field to Family festival schedule
The memorial fundraiser in honor of Kurt Michael Friese is part of the annual Field to Family festival in Iowa City.
Kurt Friese Memorial Fundraiser concert • What: Concert featuring Greg Brown, Dave Zollo, Awful Purdies, Slewgrass • Where: Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City • When: 7 p.m. Sept. 18 • Cost: $15 to $30 concert, $75 VIP preshow reception • Details: englert.org/event/kurt-friese-memorial-fundraiser-for-local-food
Happy Harvest Party • Where: Vue Rooftop, Hilton Garden Inn, 328 S. Clinton St., Iowa City • When: 3 to 6 p.m. Sept. 16 • Details: Learn about the Johnson County Food Policy Council and how policies shape a community through the food we eat and how it gets to our plates, with free samples from Big Grove Brewery, light snacks.
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Establishing Pollinator Habitat • Where: Scattergood Friends School and Farm, 1951 Delta Ave., West Branch • When: 4 to 7 p.m. Sept. 17 • Details: Learn how to create pollinator habitat with Sarah Nizzi and Scattergood staff. Sign up for dinner afterward with Debra Boekholder at email@example.com or (515) 232-5661 or online at practicalfarmers.org/field-days, by Sept. 13.
Open house at The Field to Family Food Hub • Where: 840 S. Capitol St. Iowa City • When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 17 • Details: Learn about Field to Family’s nonprofit warehouse dedicated to helping schools, restaurants and institutions access local products in large quantities.
Lunch and Learn: We Love (Local) Eggs So Many Ways! • Where: Salt Fork Kitchen, 112 E. Main St., Solon • When: Noon to 1 p.m. Sept. 18 • Details: Chef Jay Schworn of Salt Fork Kitchen prepares local eggs a variety of ways. Lunch from the menu available for purchase.
Culinary Walk • Where: Check in at New Pioneer Food Co-op, 22 S. Van Buren St., Iowa City • When: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sept. 19 • Details: Sample dishes made from local ingredients at New Pioneer Food Co-op, Basta, Saint Burch Tavern, Local Burrito, Get Fresh, Pullman Diner and Trumpet Blossom. Tickets $15 to $30, on sale at New Pioneer Co-op stores and online via LittleVillageTickets.com.
Edible Classroom Garden Tour • Where: Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, 220 South Gilbert St., Iowa City • When: 4 to 5 p.m. Sept. 20 • Details: Backyard Abundance will provide a tour of the Edible Classroom, which features raised beds, vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, berry bushes and pollinator habitat. Learn about and sample cultured foods with Jean Donovan of Hue Hill Farm.
Local Food Fair at Iowa City Farmers Market • Where: Chauncey Swan ramp, 415 E. Washington St., Iowa City • When: 8 a.m. to noon Sept. 21 • Details: Learn about local food initiatives in Johnson County from advocates, farmers and local entrepreneurs with booths, educational materials and food samples. Chef’s Demo with Barry Greenberg, Iowa Memorial Union executive chef, featuring market produce.
Edible Forest Tour • Where: Wetherby Park, 2400 Taylor Dr., Iowa City • When: 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 22 • Details: Backyard Abundance will host a free tour of Wetherby Edible Forest, an orchard ecosystem featuring fruits, nuts and herbs. This “free for the eating” park increases soil health and creates habitat for wildlife. Learn about and sample cultured foods with Jean Donovan of Hue Hill Farm.
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