Giving Something Back – Part I

Most college football fans cheer for either teams from their hometown (Miami), their alma mater (Tulane), or the team playing against the football program they hate (Notre Dame).  With the occasional and rare exception, this holds true across the landscape that is NCAA football.  Friday was one of the rare exception days.

Lee and I took off work to volunteer as Street Teamers for Sister Hazel.  If you know us, this comes as no surprise.  Sister Hazel is our favorite band, and much of our social life and calendar revolves around either Sister Hazel shows and appearances or gatherings with our fellow Hazelnuts.  So on this day free from work, Lee and I rode up to Gainesville, Florida to take part in the Gator Growl parade.

The day actually started on Thursday morning as I met up Kyra, the Chief Indian to the Sister Hazel Street Team tribe.  Kyra was not able to make it the parade and I offered to take the shirts up to Gainesville and distribute them to the rest of the Street Teamers.  At some point between picking up the shirts and preparing for Friday morning, Kyra volunteered me to be the point person for the Street Team at the event.  To use her words, I was ‘Kyra Junior’ for the day.

“Great! No pressure!” I thought to myself.  “Just call me KJ.” But it turns my worrying was all for not.  Lee and I arrived at Pressly Stadium and met up with the other volunteers.  We handed out the shirts, got to know everyone, and after 20 or so phone calls finally figured out what we were doing and where were supposed to be.  Of course, it’s tough to stay cool while being a huge fan.  I was listening to the final instructions from Chris, the band’s business manager, when I heard, “There’s Ken!”

“What? Where? Huh? What was that again, Chris?  You want me to do what?  Got it.”  I have no idea what he said.  He either told me to carry the banner or marry Tanner.   And although he is a cute kid, Tanner is a little young for me.  In all seriousness though, it was tough to do my job as a volunteer and resist the desire to just go ‘hang’ with the band.  But we were all there for a reason.

So Cori, Jenny, Jessica and I carried the parade banner while Lee, Jon Michael, Alex, Linsdey, and ‘lil Schyler distributed promotional materials to the crowd (I needed to give props to my fellow Nuts).  The band members, who were the Grand Marshals of the parade, rode in Ford Mustang convertibles behind the banner.  Although the sun was hot and the distance was two miles, it was incredibly fun to feel the energy of the crowd and the love they had for both Sister Hazel and their Florida Gators.

After seriously re-hydrating ourselves immediately following the parade, as well as a four hour break for lunch and rest, we met up again with Sam, the tour manager, and Chris.  Our job this time was to help with merchandise sales at the Gator Growl event.  No big deal except the merchandise for sale was the yet-to-be-released ‘Absolutely’, the latest CD from the band.  “We’d ABSOLUTELY love to stay and help”, we said.

So after personally selling 22 copies of the CD to vibrant Gator fans and buying five copies ourselves, Lee and I were absolutely ready to head home to Tampa.  After all, we had a busy Saturday planned and we knew we’d need the rest.  But the ride home had a feel of Christmas morning.  We promptly threw the new CD into the player, listened contently to the bands collection of new songs, and relished in the fact that we were able to give back a little bit to the band we feel has given us so much as fans.  And as crazy as it sounds, it was really cool to be a Gator for a day!  GOOOOOOO GATORS!!

p.s. I write this after having watched the Gators make kittens of the LSU Tigers 23-10!


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