Tiny dancer watch their older mentors during a routine performed on the south side of the town square.

KNOXVILLE — The plans for Knoxville’s Cy-Hawk party seemed simple enough: Food trucks on the east side of the town square, fun and games to the west and plenty of entertainment for the RVTV cameras to the south.

Just add water.

An epic downpour greeted WHO-TV’s iconic RV as it pulled into town Sept. 5, a few hours before Thrive Knoxville planned to greet throngs of Cyclone and Hawkeye fans. But after days of rain,  just before broadcasters Ed Wilson and Keith Murphy took to the air at 4 p.m., the skies cleared. Broadcasts at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. caught residents cheering, playing, eating and enjoying breaks in the weather.

“We got lucky here! It’s been great,” Mayor Brian Hatch said. “We couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Hatch’s luck ran hot and cold that day. First, he won a competition with former Mayor Mike Cunningham. The two tried kicking a football through uprights, holding the pigskin for one another. Only Hatch succeeded.

“I just got lucky. I think it was his hold,” Hatch said. “I gotta admit, I kinda yanked the ball out on him.

“You gotta cheat to win sometimes, but I did what I had to do.”

Hatch may have to dig deeper. Cunningham is ready for a rematch.

It could take a year for Hatch to dry off. He spent plenty of time in the dunk tank, several times after pitches by his own sons.

“They weren’t easy on me by any means,” he said. “They got me wet plenty of times. Both kids probably won’t eat for a week or so.”

Daniel Ramaeker came hungry for the Pork Pile Challenge, an eating contest in which he smoked several older men. The Knoxville High School senior won a $50 gift card to Hometown Meats but had no thoughts about losing his lunch.

Asked how victory felt, Ramaeker had but one word.


Kevin Wadle, who dreamed up the gluttonous contest, realized he had his work cut out for him after a live interview with Murphy. Thrive plans to make the Cy-Hawk party an annual event — with or without TV cameras. How will Wadle top the pork pile in 2019?

“Thankfully,” he said, “I’ve got a year to think about it.”

Pat Finan is the editor of the Knoxville Journal-Express and Pella Chronicle. He can be reached at 641-295-0624 or via email at or

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