Students heard a familiar voice from above halfway through the Homecoming football game.
“Your attention, please,” the recurring message began, proceeding to warn of a nearby storm and instruct those on Chuck Noll field to evacuate the area.
After a downpour and a two-and-a-half-hour delay, the game resumed. The carnival began as well, an hour before it was scheduled to end, as well as the alumni social, which started about 30 minutes past schedule.
“I was pretty upset about the delay just because I know things like that can change the whole momentum of the game,” Samuel Elliott, senior history major and kicker for the football team, said. “Two and a half hours is a pretty long time to have to wait to go back out and play.”
Elliot said this was the longest delay he has had to go through in his playing career. During this time, he said he practiced the same strict routine he uses to warm up before games, with team members and coaches helping keep the players focused.
He added that he foresaw that the rain making the field conditions “pretty rough” to play on.
“I knew we all had to go back out there and try to get the job done,” he said. “It all came down to just staying focused and being mentally tough: not only myself, but [also] the team.”
The team had the lead when the evacuation sounded, which was maintained after the game resumed until the end, earning a 35-13 defeat over the Thiel Tomcats and the Bearcats’ first football win of the season.
The Fall Fest Carnival, scheduled from 3:30 to 6 p.m., started around when the game resumed, at about 5 p.m.
“I believe that many unpleasant situations can be made enjoyable with the right attitude, but this year's homecoming carnival was a difficult experience to look upon positively,” Rachel Keller, sophomore biology major, said.
Keller, who volunteered at the ALD booth, said the storm delay negatively impacted the carnival.
“This year's homecoming carnival was sad in comparison to the 2017 homecoming carnival,” she said.
While “more guests stuck it out” than she anticipated, Keller said the turnout was much smaller than last year.
“In addition to this, about a third of the clubs' booths remained empty for the duration of the carnival, and booths that were occupied seemed to have less student workers,” Keller said.
She also expressed that the alert system during the delay was lacking, saying she only assumed the carnival was postponed after hearing the lightning alarm and assumed it began when she received the automatic lightning-clear email.
“I would have appreciated an email from the appropriate school organization notifying myself and the rest of the student body of the delay and subsequent late start,” she said.
Keller believes “lack of consistency in communication between the school and the students” contributed to students not showing up to set up for the carnival, citing that one of the groups she volunteered for never received an email that the carnival was starting, while other groups she participates in did.
Another carnival volunteer, Paul Kengor, junior philosophy-theology major, said the carnival “went very well despite the conditions.”
“Many visitors had left by the time it began, but a good number still came down,” he said, estimating that there were “at least 100” carnival guests and that almost every booth was set up.
“I thought the day was very enjoyable. Everyone was really just happy it got to happen at all,” Kengor said.
Both Kengor and Keller indicated that the mud made by the storm possibly decreased turnout.
“[The carnival’s] location of the softball field had been rendered a temporary swamp by the storm, which made the experience much less pleasant for those guests preferring not to have waterlogged socks and shoes,” Keller said.
She noted she “did wonder many times that day why the carnival was not moved to an indoor location,” explaining that the experience would have been much more enjoyable and would have lasted longer had it been moved indoors.
Deana Wicks, director of campus life, and Kathleen Pantalone, director of events and conferences services, both serve on the homecoming committee, with Wicks’ team in charge of programming, staffing and running Fall Family Weekend and Pantalone’s office overseeing logistics, planning and registration.
Pantalone explained that there was a “plan B” to move the carnival indoors in case the forecast called for all-day or frequent storms, but the decision to follow this plan had to have been made by Wednesday. This is because Wednesday was the last day to cancel rentals for outdoor equipment, such as tents, booths and golf carts, with refunds, she explained.
“Because the forecast was calling for only a 40% chance of widely scattered rain and storms in the afternoon, the committee decided that we would deal with weather issues as needed on that day,” Pantalone said.
Wicks said all but eight clubs set up their booths for the carnival. Although no official count was taken, she said the turnout was “pretty great.”
“Considering the rain delay, we still had a lot of families attend and we got some great feedback about still having the event despite the rain,” she said.
During the delay, the APB leadership team and some Campus Life volunteers created a “mini carnival” in the Carey Center Lounge, Wicks said. This included cotton candy, sand candy and matte tattoo stations, along with caricature and balloon artists.
“Offering these events during the delay helped families to stay engaged in the activities,” she said.
When asked if decreased turnouts hurt profits from the event, both Pantalone and Wicks explained that Homecoming is not a revenue generating event. Registration fees and contributions from SGA, Campus Life and sponsors cover costs, Pantalone said, clarifying that the raffle at the carnival is not a fundraiser.
Pantalone noted that feedback has been very positive.
“We always do an assessment of a large event within a week or two of its conclusion, and we welcome any feedback that will help us to make decisions that will improve attendee experience,” she said.
The activities on Saturday were scheduled from 6:45 a.m. through 8:15 p.m. and included Masses; a sidewalk chalk competition; men’s lacrosse, women’s tennis and swim alumni competitions; a tailgate; planetarium shows; the homecoming parade; a juggler/comedian and trolley ghost tours.
Pantalone said no activities were impacted by the storm other than the football game, carnival and alumni social.