UNIVERSITY PARK — Mark Pasquarella and Garrett Grimwald tossed a football on the sidewalk of Porter Road near the Curtin Road intersection while they held down their fort at Nittanyville.
They were among more than 770 Penn State students Tuesday already camped out at Gate A of Beaver Stadium a tradition known as Nittanyville, the tent city erected outside the stadium before home football games.
But this week is special for student campers, as the Nittany Lions take on the undefeated Michigan Wolverines during Penn States homecoming game at 5 p.m. Saturday.
I think naturally because its homecoming, people are pumped. Its like nothing else you can compare it to, said Sara Butcher, a freshman who has camped out at Nittanyville before. There is a bonding that goes with it and a camaraderie with everyone. I think were all nervous for the team after the loss last week, but were hoping for the best and really just out here and at the game supporting Penn State.
In an outdoor common area between the tents, Kyle Donahue and sophomore Alex Sullivan were parked on a bench finishing homework.
Donahue, a junior transfer student from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, said this is his first time camping out at Nittanyville, an experience he called second-to-none, especially during homecoming week.
The atmosphere was awesome, he said. Last night, people were chanting and singing the alma mater. I think everyones here for one purpose.
Students were able to set up their tents on Monday night three days earlier than usual, Sullivan said.
Another student, senior Robert Willis, from Maryland, was tucked away in his tent on his laptop during his designated time to stay in the tent. Nittanyville rules require at least one person at all times to occupy the tent.
We try to get out and camp at Nittanyville once a year. We camped out for the Ohio State game last year, said Willis, who was camping with seven others . You get a sense of community, and now that its homecoming and were playing Michigan, everyones energy is running high.
Its just a group of diehard fans showing our support and hoping for the best on Saturday, Sullivan added. And everything like the parade and the activities gets you ready for the game.
At 6 p.m. Friday, the homecoming parade kicks off the weekend, said Sarah Kurz, homecoming public relations director
The parade will begin at the intersection of Curtin and Porter roads and end at the intersection of North Burrowes Road and Pollock Road, Kurz said.
Each year, Kurz said the parade attracts about 10,000 people. This year, the parade will include a baby cub, the Nittany Lion mascot, the Penn State Blue Band and cheerleaders, floats, large parade balloons, and showcase court members, honorary grand marshal Anne Ard and grand marshal John Amaechi.
This is the spirit of Penn State, Kurz said.
Penn State Transportation Service released a statement that said the parade route will be closed to vehicles from 5:30 to about 9 p.m., or the close of the parade. Parking along the route is also restricted. Additionally, the Centre Area Transportation Authority said some bus routes would be altered.
Penn State homecoming is a student-run organization that aims to promote tradition and pride through activities, Kurz said.
On Friday between 1 and 4 p.m., the homecoming committee is also hosting a student alumni ice cream social at Hintz Family Alumni Center, and from noon to kickoff Saturday, a tailgate competition will be underway, where judges will vote on the best tailgate.
The more spirit you have, the better chance you have at winning, Kurz said.
At halftime during the game, Kurz said the homecoming courts would be released that includes 10 nominees for student court, seven nominees for university court and eight nominees for first-year court.
Student court represents the entire student body, university court represents Penn State faculty and staff, and first-year court is comprised of all first-year students, Kurz said.
Campus security efforts are in place as they are for every home football game or on campus activity, said Penn State spokeswoman Jill Shockey.
State College police also said they would increase their manpower and patrols over the weekend.
Kelly Aston, Community Relations and Crime Prevention Specialist, said police typically increase their presence for large events, like Penn State homecoming, football Saturdays and the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.
The department also has been releasing public service announcements this week asking students and others to make smart decisions this weekend.
We are just trying to remind people to be safe and smart, Aston said. We are reminding people coming back to the area to be role models. And we are asking the students to do the same.
But more than anything, for Penn State students, homecoming is about Penn State pride.
It gives you opportunity to unite with other Penn state students, to be excited about supporting our school, and to be part of homecoming is just an opportunity to get excited about being a part of this school and opportunity to get involved and enjoy my time here as a student, said freshman Gabriella Carnuccio.
I think were all in it not just for the football game, but to show our support for Penn State, Willis added.
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @M11azzo.