Penn State vs. Illinois–more than a game in Champaign

“Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.”~George S. Patton, American U.S. army general

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.A football weekend in Champaign, IL. We left Michigan early enough on Friday to meet the team bus when it arrived at the Holiday Inn. We stayed at the Ramada directly across the street, so it was a short walk over to the team’s hotel and then back to get ready for the night’s festivities.
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20121001-173040.jpgFriday night meant a mixer in downtown Champaign. Local chapter members mingled with out-of-town guests. The cheerleaders came out, we chanted pep songs and watched the Lion mascot do his trademark one-armed pushups. The event came cmplete with tasty blue-n-white sugar cookies from a local cookie shoppe.
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20121001-173126.jpgSince we were now in Central Time Zone, the noon game started at 11am for us. At 8am, I was in the Alumni Association’s Pep Rally tent eating banana nut muffins and drinking coffee mixed with hot chocolate. I won a foam football for shouting out a trivia answer. Roger Williams, PSAA Director, said, “Diana Hirsch, you can call yourself a Penn Stater.” The Blue Band showed up, playing songs with the Fighting Illini Band. The cheerleaders and the band performed for us under the white tent. “How many points will we beat Illinois by?” asked Roger. Someone in the crowd yelled “thirty!” and so the Lion did 30 one-armed pushups to the cheers of the crowd of 150 or so attendees.
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The Blue Band did a tribute to The Wizard of Oz at halftime, complete with a flag of the Wicked Witch of the West flying around the field. By this time, I realized that leaving the bottle of sunblock back in the hotel room was not a cool idea.
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20121001-173323.jpgOh, right, the game. Yeah, somewhere among all the fun the Nittany Lions played a great game to win 35-7, ending with a dramatic stop on the last play to prevent a second Illinois goal. They almost met that 30-point prophecy. We saw Coach Bill O’Brien’s first home game in State College (a loss) and his first Big 10 Conference game (here! we won!). That meant a Celebratory Frappuccino, one of the sweetest I’ve ever had.
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20121001-174006.jpgWith time to spare before dinner, my husband and I wandered to Record Swap, a used CD store he saw. I found a cool vintage store down the block, Go Retro. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle collector cards tempted me, as did the Shirt Tales lunchbox and the collection of Little Golden Books. I restrained myself and walk out with half of my 80s Halloween costume there, along with a nerdy-cool purple and green wool hat.
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We worked up an appetite walking back downtown, and dinnertime in Champaign means Papa Del’s. I prefer thin crust pizza, but I have been looking forward to this deep, rich, cheesy pizza for weeks. The Super-Stuffed Pizza is worth the weight it will add to your thighs. I don’t think my husband has taken me anywhere else to eat when we’ve visited. Well, except the cookie shoppe.

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