College football in the USA is bigger than Scottish soccer (football) – both economically and in terms of profile brand. Sport engagement from colleges – is also packaged as a lifestyle and can grip the town – its lifestyles and membership of towns. Growth of college sports in 2006 was reported as 360,000 student athletes participated in 43 intercollegiate sports. Colleges (same as Universities) – lets call them colleges from now on – have developed sport as an integral part of the college life…I am in the middle of Boulder over 6500 feet in the air and now its time to watch a college warm up “party” for the University of Colorado’s American Football Game. Its called The Pearl Street Stampede (imagine this in the UK…).
What was the event?
Let the story begin…
Standing, alone, in the middle of Boulder I wear my new Colorado Boulder hoodie and carrying a paper bag with my other two branded University of Colorado tops, its time to watch and experience the party.
The marching band arrived ready to rock and roll. Everyone is pumped with a usual American approach to it all. The cheerleaders are here, the fire truck to carry the college football players has parked up, the police to escort the parade through is ready…
Strolling about for 2 hours prior the event I started asking all of the local businesses about the event. I was advised that the stampede is a tradition that is about warming up the town for the next day – college football day. So just to be clear – college football has a party the night before where most of the students in the parade cannot actual drink or go to the bars – hilarious. But with thousands descending to have beer and food the night before the match and all be as one – its all part of the aim. Draped in their white and gold colors everyone is University of Colorado – even people who have never been to the university, its like following Manchester United for a lot of people – and with a stadium of 55,000 it’s the size of a English Premier League football team. But as for the Stampede – it’s a unique standalone event in itself. The beating heart of the stampede is actually the marching bands whom originated in 1908. The bands perform “fight songs” and the community cheer back. Its actually quite powerful to be in the middle of. With over 250 members of the marching band you can imagine the sound – at one point a Lion King remix was played – so I approved straight away.
Strategically the benefits of the stampede are laid out pretty well on the Boulder Downtown website. It indicates the joint collaboration with local business, the City of Boulder, Downtown Boulder and University of Colorado. I mean for me – this is more powerful than the match. Its basically about multiplying on the fact 55,000 are ready for a match – so have a party the night before and get the place “bouncing”.GB
Outside the County Courthouse just over 1,000 people surround the gardens as 19:00 approaches. But unfortunately so does rumbles of thunder from above. It turns 19:01 and suddenly the college football players arrive through the crowds like they are celebs. High fives, photos with the young kids being pushed forward by there parents like there on the Walk of Fame on Hollywood for the Oscars. The players jump on the fire truck as the cheerleaders wave frantically with high fixed smiles. The marching band, all 250 of them, strike up. But just as the moment arrived so did the lightening…AND THEN. Lightening, thunder, rain…not just rain – it’s a downpour and the floods are arriving…
I kid you not, I watched an event descend into (in my eyes) chaos – as the parade begin, the storm creates absolute chaos with the students being drenched – but even me being soaked – I needed to watch what happened. I don’t think there was a plan to be honest in terms of safety – but I have never seen rain suddenly come out of no where and bounce. The public disappeared into shelter quickly. The marching band attempting to protect there instruments and the Pearl Street Stampede was well and truly not what it would usually be. Even the police who were accompanying the parade were drenched. When I say I was wet – my feet were swimming and even better my new jumper needed to be put into the dryer when I got back to Denver. We drove 3 blocks and the buses who has just dropped off the students had zipped around to pick them back off.
I was impressed. I love the pride that the University brings to the town. I love the tradition that is Pearl Street Stampede. I love the whole concept – congratulations.
One thing to take away…
The brand of the university has taken control of the town. It has allowed people to have something to participate, engage and enjoy a leisure activity. A lot of professional teams in the UK could learn so much from the whole model that universities have brought – more about this in my book….