Music, games

by Stacy Jo

The first day of the University’s summer session looked a bit like a circus.
Clowns, music, games and free ice cream on Northrop Mall welcomed students, staff and faculty to the summer session opener Tuesday. The University Summer Session and the Department of Concerts and Lectures co-sponsored the event.
More than 300 people joined in the festivities, which kicked off the annual Northrop At Noon concert series. A contemporary jazz ensemble treated listeners to the first of 25 summer concerts.
This summer’s free outdoor concerts cater to a wide variety of musical tastes, from Ecuadorian folk music to French gypsy waltzes. Each week, Northrop Mall will host two to three events through the end of the second summer session.
School of Dentistry staff members Charlene Peterson and Shelley Grimes said they try to attend every one of the summer concerts.
“I like just being able to sit out here in the nice weather and enjoy good music,” Peterson said.
“It’s one of the nicest things about the University,” Grimes added.
Other crowd pleasers included a water balloon toss, a ring toss, a magician and a dart throw at a picture of Northrop Auditorium. After a drawing, several winners walked away with free meals.
Throughout the hour-long celebration, 14-year-old Mike Owens displayed his unicycling talents for onlookers. Owens, a unicyclist for five years, is the junior expert national champion.
He said participating in the kick-off event was a fun experience that left him with a positive impression of the University.
“I get attention here,” Owens said.
Staff and faculty bring their children to the concerts, acquainting them to the campus. This early introduction is one of the benefits of the concert series, said Dale Schatzlein, director of Northrop Auditorium.
“This is a good introduction for kids to be at the University. It’s a welcome place, a friendly place,” Schatzlein said.
With the numerous forms of entertainment available, planners said the event took on a grander scale than has been typical in the past.
According to Schatzlein, the summer session student advisory committee, which allocates summer session funds, had not received a fund increase for the last three years. As a result, the summer concerts became more infrequent.
In response, the committee adjusted the allocation to devote more money to the concert series.
Department of summer session surveys encouraged the expansion of the series. The department annually questions students about their summer experience; students consistently rank the concert series as their favorite event.
Jack Johnson, summer session director, said the 43-year-old series is one of the long-standing University traditions.
“It is something that cements the campus together. It adds that extra touch of community that oftentimes is lost in the summer,” Johnson said.
For the first time, University Food Services took part in the kick-off event. The organization sponsored a contest in which participants were given two minutes to form plastic champagne glasses into a pyramid. It also sponsored the water balloon and ring toss.
Participation in the event allowed the organization to make their presence more visible on campus.
“We want to work with as many partnerships as we can,” said Kathy Weissman, marketing manager for University Food Service.
Music coming from the Northrop Plaza attracted University College senior Nicole Marcy to the occasion. She said the concerts make for a nice gathering place for students.
“You want to hang out where the people are,” Marcy said.