A Field of Dreams: Peden Stadium

When I first came to Ohio University in 2008, I was just taking a weekend trip with my family to visit my parent’s alma mater for the first time. The brick roads, the smell of the Burrito Buggy, the exhausting hills, the trees. Everything in Athens to me was picture perfect.

But then I stepped foot inside a football stadium, but this was not just a football field with some bleachers. This football stadium had a spirit like I have never seen at any sporting venue. There was a hill that stretched behind one of the endzones, there was a view of the rolling hills just over the Hocking River, but there also was history written since 1929 stored inside every brick.

My first trip to OU in 2008 included my first trip to Peden Stadium.
My first trip to OU in 2008 included my first trip to Peden Stadium.

This was Peden Stadium.

I stepped foot on the field (though I was not supposed to), and felt a chill down my spine. If that chill was the spirit of Athens hitting me like a ton of bricks or just a cool breeze I will never know. But I realized at that moment that I too will become a Bobcat, just like my parents were 20 years earlier.

This may be considered the moment when I realized that I would become a Bobcat,
This may be considered the moment when I realized that I would become a Bobcat.

Fast forward five years, and it was my first week on campus as a student at Ohio University. I was overwhelmed by all the activity on campus, and I had a hard time becoming friends with my roommate. I decided to go to a football game with my learning community to celebrate my first week surviving college. Was it awkward? At first, yes, but as the night went on I bonded with my new friends about football, art, Billy Joel, Stephen Colbert and Big Mamma’s. By the end of the night, we all decided to go to games on a weekly basis and maybe hang out a time or two at James Hall.

 

This was during my first OU football game, where I met most of my best friends that I've kept at OU.
This was during my first OU football game, where I met most of my best friends that I’ve kept at OU.

Today, two of those guys are my roommates in our apartment on Court Street, and a few others from that night are still some of my best friends.

I still go to games on a weekly basis, even if it means sitting in freezing temperatures just to get a two-second cameo on ESPN. I have sang the national anthem with the Singing Men of Ohio on homecoming, and watched my friends play with the Marching 110. Every week in the fall is a new chance to make another memory at Peden Stadium.

I don’t love Peden because our football team plays well enough to go to a bowl game or because the Marching 110 is the most exciting band in the land when they play halftime (which is true). I love Peden because I felt that chill almost eight years ago to join OU, and because I met some people that would change my life all inside the brick walls of Peden Stadium.

Once I graduate from OU, I hope I can go back on the field and feel that chill one more time.

How to Homecoming like an OU alumnus

Late afternoon on Thursday, October 8, a holiday of sorts began for students and alumni of Ohio University. Traffic started to thicken around 5 p.m. on Court Street and continued through the weekend while the alumni made their way hOUme and current Bobcats welcomed back their favorite alumni. With only a few days to enjoy things they’ve missed most about Athens, alumni planned out their time accordingly and most don’t sleep.

Daniella Vaccari, a 2014 Ohio University graduate who lives in Chicago, celebrated her second Homecoming as an alum this past weekend. “I love coming back to Athens because it’s one of the most special places in the world. It’s where I found out who I was, and made memories with the most important people in my life,” she said.

Like most alumni, Vaccari had specific “go to” stops when she arrived in Athens. First, she made sure to swing by her old sorority house because during her time here she experienced some of her greatest memories there. “During college my sorority sisters and friends were like family,” she said.

Additionally, she spent a large portion of time at the Crystal, her favorite bar, that opened at 6 a.m. Saturday morning to serve mimosas and host a warm place for partiers to gather after an early morning of Kegs and Eggs. Unique to this weekend visit, Vaccari didn’t sleep. “I have to make sure I see everyone and do everything possible in such a short visit,” she said. Big Mamma’s Burritos, another important stop, is the food that fueled Vaccari’s sleepless weekend.

Robert Etherington, a 1989 graduate, is a bit more seasoned than Vaccari in his Homecoming visits. This weekend was his 16th back on the bricks to celebrate. “As soon as I see the campus I feel like I’m home again. There is no place on earth I feel more a part of,” Etherington said.

His experience has changed over the years. He used to pull the relentless all nighters like Vaccari and although he gets less sleep than usual, Etherington makes sure to get a few hours of rest. No matter what, he makes his vital stops at Paw Purrs, The Pub and JackieO’s with his old college buddies. “When I see friends from college and we are in Athens, it’s like we never left,” he said. Tailgating in Tailgate Park by the Hocking River and watching the Bobcats take on Miami was one of his and his college buddies favorite Saturday activities.

From recent graduates to graduates 26 years removed, the magic of Athens is alive during Homecoming Weekend. Amongst multiple activities and celebrations, alumni and current students celebrate the Bobcat Family and appreciate the relationships that Athens creates and fosters. “When I come back to Athens and when I’m with Athens again it’s like I never left,” Vaccari said.