IFC plans free on-campus benefit concert featuring up-and-coming country artist

Julie Sisler

After months of undercover planning, the Interfraternity Council is unveiling its plans for its Nov. 2 tailgate and concert event that will benefit Hope Harbor.

The event will feature a free concert by up-and-coming country music artist John King and will take place at 1 p.m. on South Lawn, leading up to the home game against Florida Atlantic.

King, a rising star on the country music scene, has multiple chart topping hits and has worked with acts such as Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean and Hootie and the Blowfish. King has toured 48 states in the last three years and is excited to play at WKU and get a feel for the community here.

“I’m drawn to college campuses and the listeners there because they’re the ones that are hungry for new music and something different,” King said. “I knew that was the kind of fanbase that I want to build my core audience with. I just love how passionate that fanbase is.”

IFC also chose to turn the event into a community event with philanthropic outreach. Kody Okert, IFC’s vice president of recruitment, said this is in an effort to give back not only to the WKU community but to the Bowling Green community as a whole.

A portion of the proceeds from the food trucks will benefit Hope Harbor, a local sexual trauma recovery center that provides counseling and advocacy.

“Hope Harbor is an incredible organization that we’ve been lucky to work very closely with for the last five or six years,” Okert said. “We’re also given the ability to raise all this money to give back to the community that does so much for us.”

Planning began in August, when John King and Will Harris, IFC’s vice president of judicial affairs and WKU’s student body president, made contact.

“I knew it was something that IFC would love to pursue,” Harris, who led the planning, said. “I realized that this could become a reality.”

The event started as a concept, one that IFC had been hoping to implement since last November.

“This is something that we promised in our election speeches last November,” Okert said. “We wanted this as a way to bring inter-fraternalism to our campus. We just wanted to do this all together as the fraternities and the Bowling Green community together.”

Harris said the planning process was long and filled with a variety of unforseen lessons. He learned about looking at contracts, how long legal matters take and about how to work with people to make sure everything fits together.

Okert said the process was about learning how to handle the little things and all the details that go into putting on an event of this size.

“It’s humbling because when you sit down it’s so much more than just getting a stage and some speakers,” Okert said. “Will has been swamped with paperwork for everything from liability to needing three hotel rooms and healthy snacks. If one thing doesn’t work, it could all fall through.”

The precariousness of the situation is exactly why IFC chose to keep the event a secret.

“The big thing about keeping it a secret is that with contracts, there’s always the possibility that something won’t work out,” Harris said. “With this being the first concert that anyone on the council had tried to put together, there was this fear that something might not work out.”

Harris believes WKU is a unique institution because it offers so many resources to students, along with the fact that it is supported by a “close-knit” community in Bowling Green.

“Those ties go really deep,” Harris said. “This is something that other people can start to plan now. We’ve got large scale campus events that started with little to nothing and have culminated into huge events that we have here on campus. It goes to show that with a little bit of help from campus and the effort from students, you can accomplish these big scale events.” Harris drew inspiration from WKU’s Cage the Elephant concert in 2018 and is looking to expand the event.

The event will feature tailgating on South Lawn, food trucks around the Guthrie Bell Tower and of course King’s headlining performance.

WKU President Timothy Caboni, who has been working closely with Harris and IFC on the event, views the event as something for the whole community.

“WKU is pleased to partner with IFC to bring such a talented entertainer to our campus,” Caboni said in an email. “This adds another dimension to the tailgating and football experience for our students and entire WKU community.”

Harris said he hopes this event will be a way to give back to the WKU community and show how much WKU and its student organizations care for the student body and its college experience.

“We’re here for the students, we’re not the suitcase campus that we once were,” Harris said. “That’s not the case anymore. We’ve got events lined up virtually every weekend, and students have the ability to come to the campus from anywhere in the world and will find things to do. We’re all about opportunity for our WKU students.”

Harris hopes this event will lay the foundation for future events put on student organizations. He believes this is the type of event that can show the WKU and Bowling Green community what an amazing atmosphere WKU has, especially on game day.

Features reporter Julie Sisler can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow Julie on social media at @julie_sisler.