Ute fest gives fans chance to meet athletes

By Marco Villano, Staff Writer

Rice-Eccles Stadium was bleeding red Saturday as the U sports teams had their annual Ute Fan Fest to kick off the school year. The festival had a large turnout and featured autograph signings by coaches and athletes, games with prizes and, of course, some savory snack foods.

Ute fans, donning their crimson red, poured into the tent-filled plaza outside of Rice-Eccles, hands filled with posters, footballs and basketballs ready to be signed by athletes.

U basketball player Morgan Grimm was one of many athletes present for autographs.

“We do it a lot now,” Grimm said. “It’s like every day there’s a basketball in the clock room that we have to sign, so I’m used to it.”

As the fans scurried around from tent to tent, the Pride of Utah marching band and the cheerleaders began to organize into a mini halftime show which caught all of the fans’ attention. They played a number of school songs with the most popular being “Utah Man”, but they really showed their versatility by playing a song by The Foo Fighters. Fans were indulged by the scene and seemed to really be enjoying themselves.

“I just love being a Utah fan,” said Phil Badger, materials science and engineering major. “I love the MUSS, I love the excitement of the new season. I’m really excited for football and the new cheerleader uniforms.”

The Ute Fan Fest gives fans the opportunity to meet and mingle with the players and coaches, which gives them a sense of “belonging” with the teams. It’s a great atmosphere and it lets fans know that they are appreciated and that the season is right around the corner.

U football head coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged the mass turnout that made their way to the festival.

“That was the best turnout since I’ve been here, that’s for sure,” Whittingham said.

While the fans were probably more enticed by the festival, Grimm mentioned the personal factor for the fans and the people they pay to watch.

“The fans like to interact with the athletes and come see the people they watch at a personal level,” Grimm said.

The most popular booths at the Fan Fest were the men’s and women’s basketball teams, in which fans got to shoot around with the players. The baseball team, who had the old water-dunking machine going was also popular, and of course the gymnastics team were also frequently visited.

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