Benefit concert to support local food movement will celebrate the memory of Kurt Michael Friese

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Kurt Michael Friese Memorial Benefit Reception and Concert

The Englert Theatre — Wednesday, Sept. 18, 7 p.m.

Kurt Michael Friese — photo courtesy of the Friese family

Field to Family’s 2019 Local Food Festival will feature a celebration of the memory of one of the nonprofit’s founders with the Kurt Michael Friese Memorial Benefit Reception and Concert on Wednesday.

Friese died unexpectedly in October 2018, at the age of 54. He was a renowned local chef and restaurateur, who along with his wife, Kim McWane Friese, owned and operated Devotay in downtown Iowa City for more than two decades. A pioneer in eastern Iowa’s slow food movement, Friese worked to develop local food systems both as a leader on the food scene and as a member of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors. He was first elected to the board in 2016, running on a platform of “preserv[ing] farmland in the North Corridor from residential development and remov[ing] barriers to local food production,” and served until his death.

Mike Carberry, who served on the Board of Supervisors with Friese, took the lead in organizing the benefit concert. The two had been friends since 2003, when they both worked on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign.

“He and I just clicked,” Carberry told Little Village.

The idea for the benefit concert began at last November’s memorial service for Friese at the Englert Theatre, Carberry recalled. “I started working with Michelle Kenyon of Field to Family and Kim Friese on it,” he said.

The event will raise money for Field to Family and Slow Food Heartland, both of which Friese helped found. Field to Family describes its work as building “a more local, healthy and sustainable food system in the Iowa City/ Cedar Rapids region.” “Preserving, Protecting & Defending the Flavors of the Heartland” is how Slow Food Heartland summarizes its mission.

“It not just about raising money, it’s about raising awareness,” Carberry explained. “To raise the awareness about local foods, its importance to our local economy, to our health and to the environment. If people can become localvores, it’s good for everybody.”

The concert will feature music by Slewgrass, Awful Purdies, Dave Zollo and Greg Brown.

“They are incredible artists, whose music Kurt liked,” Carberry said.

The three-hour concert at the Englert kicks off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Tickets start at $25 in advance ($15 for students), and $30 on the day of the event. VIP tickets are also available for $75. Those tickets include a 5:30 p.m. reception featuring a variety of appetizers.

“We started hearing from farmers that Kurt worked with that they wanted to be part of this,” Carberry said. “What would a local food fundraiser be without local food?”

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The preparation of the appetizers will be supervised by Daniel Knowles, who worked with the Frieses as the executive chef at Devotay. Kim Friese is overseeing a selection of local beers and wines for the reception.

There are also several free events during Field to Family’s week-long Local Food Festival, including the first event — the Happy Harvest Party at the Vue Rooftop Restaurant of the Hilton Garden Inn (Monday at 3-6 p.m.) — and the final one, the Edible Forest Tour at Wetherby Park (Sunday at 4:30 p.m.).

More information about Local Food Festival events can be found on Field to Family’s Facebook page.

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