By Michael Battista
The College’s Homecoming tailgate on Saturday, Oct. 29, gave students a chance to enjoy the beautiful weather and spend time with friends. With a temperature hovering around 70 degrees, hundreds of students, alumni and family descended upon Lot 4 to enjoy the day.
John Castaldo, the executive director for Alumni Affairs, said that more than 1,500 alumni pre-registered for the event, and the tailgate itself had around 3,000 people attend at any given time.
Grill smoke filled the air, along with the scent of burgers and hot dogs as people gathered around tents and tables to dance, eat and socialize with friends and strangers, awaiting new friendships and cherishing old ones.
The College’s lacrosse team, both men and women, gathered together for the event. Michael Kelly, a junior nursing major and president of the lacrosse team, was on grilling duty. He explained that every year, both guys and girls get together to enjoy the day as a Lions family.
“We have a tailgate every year… It’s tradition at TCNJ,” Kelly said. “We all try to get together and hang out.”
While some students just came to socialize with friends, others decided to take initiative and start their own tailgating groups.
Joe Salamone, a junior interdisciplinary business major, used this chance to set up a single grill and gather some of his friends, some of whom came down from William Paterson University for the football game. The event doubled as a chance for the Entrepreneurship Club to meet.
“It’s a good networking opportunity,” Salamone said. “For the Entrepreneurship Club we’re always looking for entrepreneurial speakers. Being able to mingle with other fraternities that are on campus and other alumni (is a) good (way) to create connections through the event.”
Alumni were allowed to pre-register for the event and set up a table for certain groups. These ranged from members of Greek Life reconnecting with their brothers and sisters, to teammates who used to represent the Lions blue and gold, to old floormates who remember living next door to one another.
One of these groups was Gamma Sigma sorority, who had members come in from across the country to attend the event. Alumna JoAnn Pagano Susko (’72), who came from Florida to see her sisters, said she didn’t regret the trip.
“Many of our sorority sisters who went to the College are still in New Jersey, which is great,” Pagano Susko said. “Getting together with all of the friends from New Jersey is really critical to me.”
For many of these Lions, their differing lives may have taken them away from friends they met at college, but Homecoming gives them a chance to reconnect or reminisce about past years. Castaldo said that is the reason he and Alumni Affairs try to get alumni to attend.
“Homecoming, in the sense of the word, means ‘coming home,’” Castaldo said. “So from an alumni perspective, we invite our alumni back home to reengage them back into the life of the College. To reminisce about their successes and accomplishments while they were students or undergraduates here and to live the spirit and enthusiasm, or feed off the spirit and enthusiasm of our undergrads that are here.”
While people created throughout Lot 4, there was also talk of the College’s new policy regarding alcoholic beverages. Earlier this semester, school officials released new rules and regulations for Homecoming that stated no outside alcohol could be brought into the event. A third-party vendor was on-site to sell alcohol.
Alumni and parents attending the event seemed most upset by the new policy. They appeared to see the restrictions as an inconvenience, since they could easily purchase alcohol elsewhere.
Alumna Kristen Foerg (’16) said she feels this negatively affected the number of people that came to the tailgate.
“I wish they didn’t change as much,” Foerg said. “I feel like there’s a lot less people here than there were previous years, so that sucks.”
The alcohol sold at the event ranged from $3 to $4 per cup, depending on the brand. Beer came in cups that held 12 oz., the volume of an average can of beer, and wine cups held 5 oz.
Foerg said that when it came to current students, she felt they might find cheaper ways to get alcohol before the event, while alumni may not come at all.
“I think a lot of people will probably either just drink a lot more before or they just won’t come at all,” Foerg said. “I don’t think it’s really being helpful at the tailgate… I know plenty of people who didn’t come here at all.”
Ed Corrigan, a father of two current students at the College, said that as a parent, he thinks the rule change is good for students, but hurts the parents and alumni. He thought he saw a difference in the crowd this year, compared to past years.
“It started a lot later (compared to past years) because the kids are drinking off campus or in their rooms and then they come in here already buzzed because they can’t bring their own stuff in,” Corrigan said. “I can see it.”
At the time of his interview with The Signal, Castaldo said that no issues had arisen from the new policy being enforced. The policy, which had been discussed and approved by the Homecoming Steering Committee, which comprises individuals across campus and College alumni, had used other institutions as benchmarks when making the policy changes.
“The decision was made by those groups of people by the Homecoming Steering Committee,” Castaldo said. “ (We’re) just trying to create an opportunity where it was a safe environment, it was a healthy environment. It was an opportunity where we promote wellness and so far, we think that’s going well.”