Tom Wenner, a Penn State junior, looked winded when he climbed out of the human-sized inflatable hamster ball, having just won a race against a fellow student.
Another student climbed in, ready to participate in the race dubbed the “Criss-Cross” after the crossing paths that required participants to roll to the end of their designated inflatable path, then roll back to the beginning.
“It’s not that bad till you get to the end,” Wenner said, “then you have to go up a little slope. It’s a little more tiring.”
The “Criss-Cross” was one of more than half a dozen activities involving inflatable objects such as a wrecking ball, an obstacle course and the hamster ball on the Old Main lawn as part of the “Best of Penn State” field day and carnival celebrating Penn State homecoming this week.
An arch of pink, black, blue and white balloons greeted everyone who entered the carnival area, with games and rides dotting the perimeter and a tent in the center housing different Penn State organizations and the games they offered.
Even the Nittany Lion made an appearance, snapping pictures with fellow students.
“We have events teams participate in,” homecoming committee member and senior Sam Krug said. “They rotate around each event, and whoever wins is crowned the field day victor.”
Field day events included party favorites like bean bag toss, egg toss and trivia.
The carnival started at 3 p.m. with the opening of the inflatable games. Students and guests were invited to slide, bounce and race on platforms that tested balance and speed, but mainly just offered plain, simple fun.
Sarah Cooper, of State College, brought her children Maxwell, 4, and Lucy, 1, to the carnival for the first time. While Cooper had to help Lucy keep her balance on some inflatables, Maxwell jumped and bounced, enjoying free cotton candy between rides.
“He saw the inflatables when we drove up, and he was like, ‘I want to go there,’ ” Cooper said. “Give him some free cotton candy and a slide and he’s in heaven.”
Meanwhile, in the tent, Penn State fraternities and organizations offered their own games, including bean bag tosses, slides and croquet, allowing students to earn “spirit points.”
Nicole Paladin, junior and member of the Lion Ambassadors, explained that when a student participated in one of the games, they could get a small card signed off by that organization. Whoever had the most spirit points at the end would get recognized.
At the Lion Ambassadors table, students were encouraged to knock over wooden pins emblazoned with the logo of a rival Big Ten school, or they could pin the tail on Coaly, Penn State’s first informal mascot.
Krug said the carnival was an opportunity to get the community involved, as most other homecoming events are geared toward students and alumni.