Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Throwback Post: "Kicking" Off the New Year!

*Throwback Post #15*

As an avid college football fan, bowl season is always one of my favorite times of the year. I have always wanted to attend a bowl game and due to the fact that I attended a non-FBS school (still love my Panthers though!), that opportunity never presented itself during my college career. However, upon my move down to Florida, said chance came my way and I took full advantage of it...

Back in September, as I was heading down to Miami for the first time to help celebrate my friend Skeeter's birthday, the possibility of volunteering at the Orange Bowl and BCS National Championship Game was presented to me by another AmeriCorps member Kiara, who is currently interning with the Miami Dolphins. She was able to hook Skeeter and I up with the details for getting signed up.

After attending a few mandatory training's and walk through's, Skeeter and I were assigned to help out with the Fan Zone (a big tailgate party for the fans of both teams to partake in prior to the game) and the halftime performance. Unfortunately, Skeeter was unable to help out because he had some friends from Indiana come down to visit over the new year. Despite this, I still signed up and powered through.

Now the halftime show for the Orange Bowl (which featured the Florida State Seminoles and the Huskies from Northern Illinois) there is always a performance from a hit music star, not the bands from the participating schools. This year the performer was Jake Owen, an up-and-coming country star. Since there was equipment that needed to be moved, including a stage, we had a run through down at Sun Life Stadium on New Year's Eve. I was assigned to moving a speaker cluster onto the 35-yard line and then moving out of the way.

The run through went seamlessly and actually turned into a bit of a private show as Jake ran through his show set a couple of times. He even broke out some Lynyrd Skynyrd at the end of his set just for fun. It was really cool being able to be down on the field with no one else in the stadium, seeing a country star perform. Granted, I'm not the biggest country fan in the world, but I do know some of his songs. All in all, the rehearsal and private showing was pretty stellar.

The next day, New Year's Day, was filled with lots of fun and interesting experiences. I arrived back at the stadium (after a fun filled New Year's Eve in Fort Lauderdale with Skeeter and his friends) around 11:30, got checked in, and led over to the Fan Zone. I was deposited next to an inflatable with minimal (aka no) instructions about what I would be doing. Luckily, a couple of other ambassadors stopped by and told me that I would be checking for wristbands, which meant that the parents had signed a waiver so that their kids could utilize the bounce houses and other activities that could've put their lives in danger.

After about two hours of lounging on the entrance pad to the above inflatable, I was moved to another apparatus in which involved small children (and grown adults) being strapped into harnesses and bouncing around on trampolines, while doing flips and whatnot (see below picture). This was my post for the next four hours in which I was in charge of once again checking for wristbands. It. Was. Exciting.

For the last part of my Fan Zone shift, I was moved over to the inflatable field kicking station. Participants had two chances to try and kick a football through the field goal posts. Only problem was that many of the "kicker" ended up kicking the ball over the inflatable and the fence behind that divided the fan zone from the other tailgaters. Of course the gate to this area was nowhere NEAR the inflatable. So after making numerous trips to said gate to retrieve multiple over-kicked balls, we moved the tee closer to the goals and eliminated that problem all together.

As the Fan Zone came to an end, it was time to head into the stadium to take our places and get ready for halftime. Now we had been told that we would have seats on the field - the only thing was that no one mentioned that these seats were actually sold to other fans. We ended up standing in the corner of the end zone to take in the game. The Florida State mascot, Chief Osceloa and his horse, Renegade, were stationed right in front of us, which was pretty cool. Also, before the game even started, Warrick Dunn, a famous running back for the Seminoles who was being inducted into the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame, was down on the field and right in front of us as well. Needless to say, we had pretty good seats.

The halftime show went off without a hitch. I was actually moved from my speaker cluster on the 35 to the 35 on the other side of the field and was put in charge of pulling a cable out to the speaker cluster on that yard line. This means that I got to crouch/sit about 10 feet from the Florida State bench for the last 7-8 minutes of the first half. Pretty awesome experience.

At the end of the day, it was an awesome experience that I will NEVER forget. It has also spearheaded me to add another item to my bucket list - attend all 35 major college bowl games in my lifetime at least once!

1 down, 34 to go...

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