Going to the Dogs
By collaborating with their school's music boosters, the Mahomet-Seymour (Ill.) High School Athletic Booster Club has turned a modest tailgate party into an annual event for 2,500 people. The key to their successful Dawgapalooza, says Vice President Julie Clapper, is to keep the menu simple and the entertainment family friendly.
By Julie Clapper
Vice President for Concessions
Mahomet-Seymour (Ill.) High School Athletic Booster Club
In 2003, Dawgapalooza started as a tailgate event co-sponsored by the athletic boosters and the music boosters to kick off the season's first home football game. This year marked the eighth Dawgapalooza, which has grown into a huge celebration that draws between 2,000 and 2,500 people, including many who wouldn't ordinarily attend a Bulldog game. Live music, inflatables, food, face-painting, a pep rally, and much more make this event one the whole town enjoys.
We keep the food simple: hotdogs and pork chops with chips and a drink. We sell T-shirts too, and even though they're not a big moneymaker, people in the community love them. As an incentive, we give T-shirts to our volunteers, who run concessions, grill meat, sell wristbands, and clean up afterward.
All the work comes from parent volunteers. The athletics boosters spearhead the planning and organization, but when it comes time to staff the event, half of the volunteers are music boosters and half are athletic boosters. Collaborating with the Music Booster Club gives us access to a lot of volunteers, and it's great for students to see our two groups come together to work for a common purpose.
We hold the event at the football field right outside the gates. We have 15 inflatables, and we sell wristbands for eight dollars, which gives kids unlimited rides plus free admission to the football game. This year, we added five new inflatables because the lines of kids waiting to get inside were too long. People seemed pleased, so we're glad we made the change.
Clubs from the high school set up booths to sell Bulldog items. In the past, we found that if we allowed outside groups to come in, we would quickly lose control over what was sold. Now we only permit school-related groups selling school-related items.
At the end of Dawgapalooza, the marching band comes out to play the school song. Cheerleaders put on a pep rally, and it's time for everybody to go inside the stadium for the kick-off. When the event is over and all the expenses are totaled, we sit down with the music boosters and divide the proceeds down the middle.
This year, each group made about $2,700, which we were very pleased with. Then, while the ideas are still fresh, we have a wrap-up meeting. We share what went right, what went wrong, and what we can to do make the event better next year.
Julie Clapper is Vice President for Concessions at Mahomet-Seymour (Ill.) High School Athletic Booster Club. For more about Mahomet-Seymour's successes, see Clapper's "10 Tips for Running Concessions."