Stags up! Fellow community and campus Stags joined for a night of festivities at the University’s Meet the Stags event, held on the Sherman Town Green on Oct. 27.
From 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Fairfield University offered children and their parents the opportunity to meet and greet with members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the cheer and dance teams, as well as the pep band.
With anticipation continuing to grow for the new Leo D. Mahoney Arena and the return of Red Sea Madness, this event only seemed necessary. These well-awaited kick-offs come in light of Fairfield University’s upcoming basketball season, a leading source of spirit around campus.
Sarah Ratchford, the director of marketing and fan experience at Fairfield, executed a game plan ensuring the night’s success. She stressed the event’s focus on connecting the Fairfield community with its adjacent university.
“It’s a nice community tie,” she said. “We really wanted the community to feel the teams’ presence.” Ratchford added the further desire to welcome the community like a member of their teams.
Balloon bouquets, Fairfield-themed canopies and competitive games decorated the Sherman Green. Two basketball shoot-off competitions were set up by the front of the lawn, and a life-size Connect Four sat near the gazebo.
Teams and guests were encouraged to have their picture taken inside the gazebo, many of which included a celebrity appearance from Lucas the Stag.
A “Meet the Stags” banner and purple string lights dressed the gazebo’s white exterior, and a Fairfield University backdrop rested against its interior.
The enormous, inflatable Lucas the Stag surely did not match the energy provided by Lucas himself. Whether it was high-fives, hugs or an inviting interaction, Lucas created an unforgettable experience for his Lil’ Stags.
Fan-favorite music also managed to lift attendees from the sidelines in an undeniably enthused environment. Children eagerly followed the lead of the Dance Team in showing off their unique moves, always to be applauded and celebrated by watching eyes.
Children and parents were not the only ones charmed by the Dance Team, however. Planted in groups at lawn edges, the girls cheered on passing cars and, occasionally, earned a honk back.
Just before dark, the team “took the court” with an official dance routine, which captivated guests old and young.
There was a strong turnout and a brisk fall day set the scene for the occasion.
Aside from the venue, participating community members offered positive feedback from the event.
Parents deemed the event “well-put-on,” and their running, laughing and cheering children certainly agreed. From stroller to ball-shooting age, the excitement of the little guests was clear.
In its aftermath, Ratchford said “Overall, the event was great. It is always rewarding to see the community interact with the coaches and student-athletes and to receive their support.”
Fortunately for the continuation of “Meet the Stags,” she does not believe this night was the event’s one-and-only: “We hope this will become an annual event and continue to grow each year.”
The Cheer Team managed the night’s free giveaway table. T-shirts, foam fingers, mini-basketballs and stickers were available for the taking of any interested guest. All teams offered pom-poms and personal autographs for the children as well.
Food and refreshments were offered near the back corner of the green. The Stag Shack parked across the street from Firehouse Deli, and a table of cider, cupcakes and donuts remained close by.
Development of the event was a collaborative effort from Fairfield University Athletics and the University Marketing and Communications team.
Senior Manager of Integrated Marketing Sara Colabella, Senior Manager of Social Media Marketing Nicolette Massaro and Associate Director of Community and Public Relations Robby Piazzaroli were at the forefront of production.
Director of Ticket Sales and Service Joe Cappucci was also present for general assistance at the giveaway table.
Ratchford noted the Town of Fairfield’s tremendous help in bringing this event to life. Because it was Fairfield’s Annual Restaurant Week, the town was not only able to sponsor the campus’ event but to also hold it in the center of town.
Notice of the event was spread on the university’s social media platforms. For weeks, Fairfield University’s social media has been persistent on the grand opening of its Leo D. Mahoney Arena, set for Nov. 18.
From 10 a.m. to noon that day, the community is invited to attend its official ribbon-cutting ceremony. Later that night, the women’s basketball team will claim the arena’s first game against Stonehill College at 7 p.m.
The men’s team hosts its first Mahoney Arena game on Saturday, Dec. 3 against Saint Peter’s University.
Fairfield University students are just as eager for their new arena as the community is. Many students, such as Sarah Howland ‘25, are confident in the arena’s ability to create a more engaging community environment on campus.
“I personally will attend many more [basketball] games this year since they will be on campus, much more accessible, and less time-consuming to watch,” Howland states. “I think it will unite the campus even more.”
Like Howland, Ariana McKernan ‘25 shared her increased interest to attend more basketball games, along with her individual excitement for what the arena will provide to students.
“Its close proximity makes it more appealing to attend games,” she said. “I think that it is an exciting, new addition to our campus, one I have been looking forward to since I walked in as a freshman.”