Sunday, December 8, 2013

U of I – Dad’s Day 2013

The first child to (sort of) leave roost headed off to lovely, flat, Champaign-Urbana, IL in August. After taking one trip down to move her into her dorm, and another to attend registration, our 3rd planned for the University wide “Dad’s Day” the last Saturday of September. And before you ask…yes there is a Mom’s Day (in the Spring.) They get a flower show. Us Dads, however get a football game!

This is a big event for the University, and the area hotels are booked solid up to a year in advance (so us freshman parents are S.O.L.) unless you’re, well…me. And have friends how book extra rooms a year in advance “just in case.” So we’re easily covered for Saturday night.

Caitlin is in the famed Marching Illini marching band (370 members) and, as other campus groups; they have some fun stuff planned for the visiting Dads. The game was scheduled for 11am, and although I had repeatedly asked for a suggested arrival time on Saturday (it’s about a 3 hour drive), the answers were a little vague. A couple days before we’re to leave, I get the call:

“Daddy…?”

“Yes Princess…?”

“You have to be here at 7am so you can learn the halftime dance with the other Dads, Okaaayyeee…?”

Dammit.

Scramble to find a Friday night hotel, arrange an extra night with the dog-sitters? No Problem! We stay at a sketchy Red Roof about 30 miles away to avoid an overnight drive, get up early and meet Caitlin in front of her dorm at 6:30. I meet up on the practice field with the other 300+ Marching Illini Dads and we spend an hour learning out dance moves for the halftime show.I don’t mean to brag but not only am I among the youngest of the Dads, I’ve also got the moves. Seriously, some of these guys need to get out more often and shake their thing. We get a special “Dad’s Day” sweatshirt, which will serve as our ticket onto the field. We join the Marching Illini in Memorial Stadium for a quick run through, and it’s off to join them for the Illini Walk. And where was Kelly during these 2+ hours? She heroes up and scores a sweet all-day parking spot with some tailgaters, makes some friends, and chills out until parade time.

In their casual uniforms, they line the street and play for the tailgaters and the arriving Illini football
team. Kelly finds us, and the band returns to the band building for a quick bite, they change into their dress uniforms. They split off by section, and go around campus to warm up for the public (imagine 27 Sousaphones on a street corner playing Sweet Caroline, and you get the idea. The entire band, color guard, cheerleaders, etc. all form up at the Armory and parade through town which takes them onto the field for the pregame show.

Kelly and I follow the band, and to the stadium, and our seats. As a Marching Illini, Caitlin has season tickets for us. Up. Way up. As in, we need to stop partway up ramps to acclimate to the altitude. But that’s where most of the other Dad’s are. We watch the Illini absolutely embarrass the visiting Miami University Redhawks, and have a great view of the end zone stands where the band entertains the crowd. The Dad’s all make their way to the field before halftime and join the ban on the field for a show saluting the University Dads (yes, there is a kick line, yes, there is booty shaking, yes there is video evidence.) After halftime, we decide to get out of the sun and wander the stadium a bit and immediately run into Caitlin and about 50 other band members.

“DAD! Follow us…it’s Mini-Band!” We do as told, and join the band as they assemble in random corridors, stairways, and stands. This isn’t just “band music” there’s all manner of singing, chanting, and dancing, and the crowds eat it up. After a 50-14 win, the band exits the stadium and parades to the steps of the Education Building, where they perform selections from their show and the director dismisses the band.

It’s been quite a long day, so Kelly and I head to our hotel (sketchy Red Roof #2) clean up, and meet Caitlin and her boyfriend to delivery care packages and head to for dinner. Having thought ahead to make a reservation at Biaggi’s we avoid the hour+ wait time and feed the hungry kids with enough leftovers for them to take home for another day.

A post dinner walk around campus leaves Kelly and I pretty beat, so we head back to the hotel as Caitlin and Seth go out for the after-game parties. We meet up with Caitlin for a nice breakfast out before we head home, a she’s off to go apple picking with her some of her band mates (at least, that’s the story she’s sticking to…)

Terrific weekend, so much fun and great to see Caitlin so happy and in her element. The Marching Illini gets as much attention, if not more, than the football team. They’re like rock stars around campus and at the games. We’re already looking forward to next year’s Dad’s Day – hopefully can better plan ahead for hotels and keep our energy levels up to join Caitlin for some late night trouble making.

For your convenience, here’s a link to the University Police Department. http://www.dps.uiuc.edu/universitypolice/index.html

Bail deposits are welcome…