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Penn Athletics will host four "Fan Fest" events, starting with the football game against Columbia on Oct. 15.

Credit: Alex Fisher , Alex Fisher

When you look at other schools and other models, the one thing that unifies a lot of people is sports,” said College senior and Class Board SAS Chair Werner Glass.

Following the success of last season’s pre-Yale fan fest, Penn Athletics has decided to renew and enlarge the program for 2016, bringing the pregame festivities to two football games and two basketball games.

Beginning with the Columbia football game on Oct. 15, Shoemaker Green and Rockwell Gymnasium will play host to students, alumni and family as the Quakers seek to drive up interest and attendance around the University’s marquee programs.

At these events there will not only be food and drink but also live entertainment and interactive games. In short, the Quaker Fan Fests represent the next step in Athletic Director Grace Calhoun’s attempt to extend Penn Athletics’ reach to the entire University community.

“When the football team won the game against Cornell, there was a moment there when the team and the students who rushed the field sang ‘The Red and the Blue’ together — it was a really cool moment for me as a an alum and former coach here, I was like, ‘Wow. Final football game. A lot of these people seniors. Everybody almost missed this,’” explained Roger Reina, senior associate athletic director for external affairs. That moment, he said, spurred the decision to build on that sense of shared experience.

Led by Glass, the fan fests represent an offshoot of a class board initiative that was not brought to fruition last year.

In Fall 2015, the class board had wanted to hold a junior night at Hutchinson Gymnasium for that spring. But they ran into logistical issues with Penn’s Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives — more than anything, there wasn’t enough time for approval.

So members of Penn Athletics, led by Josh Craggs — director of marketing and new media — challenged Glass to help make another event happen.

Glass responded, taking charge of a mission to bring together the different sects of campus. Out of that effort was borne the Quaker Fan Fests.

“If you look at Penn, there is not a single thing that draws people together across class years, across social groups, across whatever,” Glass said. “Houston Hall is that. Houston Hall is our student center, but Houston Hall — and every other space on campus — is associated with studying.”

A significant force behind these fan fests has been a reinvigorated Red and Blue Crew, of which Glass is a part of. Run by a committee of 14 individuals, the Red and Blue Crew forms a cross-section of University Life — from Greek life to performing arts to athletics — with the idea of getting key communities to participate.

In addition to the Columbia game, the fan fests will occur before the Harvard football game as well as the Villanova and Princeton men’s basketball games.

“We want to do what we can do to our part to build community,” Reina said. “It’s a campus-wide effort. Building community is a shared responsibility, it’s not one person’s job. It’s everybody’s job.”

Glass has come to see it as part of his duty. While he acknowledges the problems in student interest will not be resolved in his remaining months in University City, he still wants to leave behind the foundation for something better.

“At many school, sports culture drives school culture, and we have the opportunity to do that here at Penn.”

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