Winterfest Tailgate heats up cold night

Golden Grizzlies fans and freshmen Jacob Marczewski (center) and Michael Prestininzi (right) were interviewed at the tailgate. “We both just wanted to do something special because of Winterfest, and it was a bigger game,” Marczewski said. “We love going to the games and just wanted to express that. We figured the earlier we go, the bigger the impact we could have.”

Outside, it was cold, and snow was swirling. Inside, blaring music and the aroma of hot chocolate filled the air.

A heated tent set up in the middle of P16 was for the Winterfest Tailgate. Students, faculty and alumni were invited to BYOB and party before the men’s basketball game against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the men’s basketball program.

Domino’s pizza, DiBella’s subs, Buffalo Wild Wings, swag from Oakland University Student Congress and hot chocolate tempted tailgaters of all ages, while WXOU kept the party atmosphere going. Water pong was set up in a corner of the tent, which many students tried their hands at. Hardier visitors could try fowling, a classic tailgate game that involves throwing a football at bowling pins, set up outside the tent. This game was provided by the recently-opened HUB Stadium. If fowling was a little too much, they could try the more traditional game of cornhole.

Men’s basketball head coach Greg Kampe also made an appearance to give a pep talk and fire up the crowd before taking on Green Bay.

“Tonight is a very special night,” Kampe told those gathered inside the tent, explaining the ceremony that would occur at halftime to honor the men’s basketball program.

Kampe went on to say that representatives from ESPNU, the channel that often airs Oakland games, told him that Oakland had one of the “top game-day atmospheres,” which was met with loud cheers from the crowd.

Jean Ann Miller, director of the Center for Student Activities and Leadership Development, helped plan the tailgate with OUSC and explained that the Winterfest Tailgate came about after homecoming, which was originally in January, was moved to September for more temperate weather.

“It was created to generate excitement about something, particularly around the basketball season,” she said. “Especially since this is the main part of the basketball season.”

Leanne Schnurer, graduate assistant for the Golden Grizzlies’ marketing and promotions department, also closely helped plan the tailgate.

“Obviously students love it,” Schnurer said. “They come out for it, and they’re our biggest crowd. Alumni come back for it, and they really love it. A lot of our basketball fans usually stop by before they go into the game. Everyone is invited.”

Unity and pride were strong themes that ran through the evening of festivities. Miller said she believes that these types of events are important to boost morale and instill school pride.

“It’s a good time,” Miller said. “It’s a good feeling, and it makes you proud to go to Oakland University.”