Blue-White weekend sees changes

Penn State football fans will have to sacrifice one activity for the return of another this weekend.

The Blue-White football game kicks off 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and the activities will include a resumption of the player autograph session, but the annual carnival didn’t make the cut this year.

Jeff Nelson, assistant athletic director of communications, said that the athletic department is bringing back the signing with players; it will run from 10:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The event didn’t happen last year, he said.

Gates A and B will open at 10:30 a.m. for fans who want to go to the session, Nelson said. Stadium staff will be handing out posters for players to sign. Attendees are also allowed to bring items small enough to fit in a one-gallon clear plastic bag if they want to get that signed, Nelson added.

But the carnival that usually begins the day before the game has been cut due to a series of factors.

“We look at it from a financial standpoint,” Nelson said.

With a low number of other athletic events scheduled this weekend, Nelson said carnival organizers didn’t feel it would attract as many people. He did not have a figure of how much would be saved.

Due to scheduling, the only other athletic events are women’s tennis matches at 3:30 p.m. Friday against Purdue and at 10:30 a.m. Sunday vs. Indiana.

“We don’t have the draw of baseball or softball or lacrosse this year,” Nelson said.

Additionally, construction on University Drive and Curtin Road would have limited space to hold the carnival.

“We knew in advance we were unable to have access,” Nelson said.

He added that officials would discuss how to move forward with the 2015 carnival.

Thanks to a forecast that predicts the weather will be 68 degrees and sunny on Saturday, Nelson said he expects the Blue-White game to attract more than 60,000 this year.

“We’re hopeful that, considering the weather forecast and (Coach James) Franklin’s first season, people will come out to enjoy the game and see what the team will look like,” Nelson said.

In 2009, the Blue-White game drew a record crowd of 76,500 people, Nelson said.

“Weather plays a role in attendance,” Nelson said. “It was not a good day last year weatherwise, and if they know well in advance that the forecast looks good and that April 12 is a nice day, more people will plan ahead to come to the game.”

Stadium staff are currently getting the final touches together for Saturday’s team scrimmage, while sales representatives are gearing up to sell season tickets at the game.

Nelson said that sales representatives will be scattered around the stadium with an iPad in hand for people to purchase season tickets and pick their seats on the spot.

Since January, more than 2,500 new season tickets have been sold, Nelson said.

“I think people are excited about the game and Franklin,” Nelson said. “He has engaged Penn State fans and the State College community since Jan. 11, and he’s a Pennsylvania guy who’s familiar with the program.”

To continue the hype of the weekend, the game day Woolrich Fan Festival will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with vendors, entertainment and children’s activities on Curtin Road near Beaver Stadium.

On Sunday, the fifth annual Paterno Family Beaver Stadium Run for Special Olympics Pennsylvania will be held. The three-mile run begins at 11 a.m. with an 11:10 a.m. one-mile walk.

The run will begin near the Bryce Jordan Center on Curtin Road, head through Penn State’s campus and conclude with runners racing through the Beaver Stadium tunnel and onto the field, said Nicole Jones, Special Olympics Pennsylvania communications director.

Jones said the event started five years ago as part of an idea that Sue Paterno had.

“We worked with her and capitalized on the strong support we had with Penn State as the summer games are held there,” Jones said.

Paterno will be in attendance on Sunday along with Franco Harris, the official Beaver Stadium Run starter and Hall of Fame Steelers running back. A VIP reception will be held Saturday night before the race to honor former assistant coach Tom Bradley with the second annual Community Hero Award, Jones said.

About 4,000 people are expected to participate in the event — 300 more than last year, Jones said. The goal this year is to raise $400,000. By Thursday night, $353,238 was raised, according to the event’s website.

In its first year, Jones said, it raised $36,000. The last two years, Sheetz has donated $100,000.

Also on Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m., the annual Penn State IFC/Panhellenic spring carnival will take place on the Old Main Lawn.

Free to the public, the event will include traditional carnival games, and food and drinks.