At a Glance

What: An exuberant riverside celebration of joy and wonder

Who: FREE family event for the entire community! Presented in collaboration with Hancher Auditorium, IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, the City of Iowa City, and the University of Iowa College of Engineering, as well as many others. See more details here.

When: August 14–16, 2020

Where: On the banks of the Iowa River by Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City, Iowa

Why: In celebration of the 100th birthday of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering

What is IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering?

The year 2020 marks the 100th birthday of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering (IIHR), a renowned research laboratory just downstream from Hancher Auditorium on the Iowa River. Visionary University of Iowa scientist Floyd Nagler founded IIHR in 1920. Even at its inception, IIHR was already well ahead of its time.

Among IIHR’s many achievements: the institute’s research has helped preserve the salmon population in the Pacific Northwest, led to improved ship design for the U.S. Navy, increased community resilience to flooding, and helped re-engineer the antiquated sewer systems of historic cities such as St. Louis and London. And from the beginning, IIHR has engaged in fundamental large-river research—a shared connection to The Big Splash! and its focus on the Iowa River.

See more of what we do at

The Droplets That Became The Big Splash!

The story of The Big Splash! is a tale of ideas coming together to create something ambitious and delightful. In 2013, Hancher worked with the UI’s College of Engineering (and many other UI partners) to produce a series of events called Living With Floods. Three years later, the then-director of IIHR, Larry Weber and Hancher’s executive director, Chuck Swanson, began talking about a new collaboration. They were inspired by the annual Bosch Parade in the Netherlands.

In November of 2016, longtime Hancher friend Tomáš Kubínek was in Iowa City to present his new Hancher-commissioned work Pomp, Brass, and Lunacy. He and Swanson got to talking about the potential collaboration with IIHR. Kubínek was on board with the idea in a flash–and was soon named artistic director of the festival that would come to be known as The Big Splash!




Anonymous Family Foundation
Leonard and Marlene Hadley
Jeffrey and Kristine Nielsen
Sue Strauss
Herbert A. and Janice A. Wilson


Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, GreatAmerica Financial Services Corporation Donor-Advised Fund
Think Iowa City

Pirate King

Robert F. and Judith C. Boyd
James and Loretta Clark
Ralph H. and Marcia A. Congdon
Donald W. Heineking
Hills Bank and Trust Company
Nancy Kennedy and Family
Arthur and Ginger Nowak
Alan and Liz Swanson
Chuck and Kim Swanson
Green State Credit Union
Rhoda Vernon
Sara Wolfson