Cougar Cruiser drivers don't mind the stares

MEGAN THOMPSON and Mylan Evenson didn't need any convincing as to the depth of school spirit at Washington State, but when the two WSU students hit the road earlier this month in WSU's Cougar Cruiser, even they were shocked at the widespread and enthusiastic response from the crimson faithful.

To illustrate, consider this tale from the mean streets of Seattle…

While stuck in rush-hour traffic, Thompson and Evenson rolled down their windows and soon heard someone yell, "Go." A moment later they head someone else yell "Cougs." The beloved game-day chant, it seems, can erupt anywhere, at anytime.

"Just the amount of love we get is unreal," says Thompson. "But I would say that the chant on the freeway was totally unexpected and awesome."

Thompson is a junior from Walla Walla, majoring in sports management. Evenson, from Tucson, is a senior-to-be majoring in public relations. Together, they are driving all over the state, attending various events and handing out Cougar posters and more.

. This is the third straight summer WSU's athletic department has put the Cougar Cruiser concept on the road. The aim is to create a little fun around the Cougs in the slow days of before football heats up.

This year's ride is a silver-gray Chevy Equinox, supplied by Chipman & Taylor of Pullman, and decked out in various crimson-colored decals provided by Cassel Promotions & Signs.

A hint of the type of reception Thompson and Evenson would get on their travels actually arrived before they even started. On the way back to Pullman after getting the decals put on the car in Spokane, people in other cars were honking and staring.

The ultimate highlight of the summer came last weekend, though, when Thompson and Evenson drove the Cougar Cruiser to a wedding in Snohomish. The groom, Mark Nesteroff, had quietly invited the Cruiser to make an appearance.

Megan and Mylan showed up unannounced, and when they arrived, they thought they may have made a mistake. Mylan said she saw three groomsmen staring at them as they drove up, which did not seem right. Megan got out of the car and walked toward the wedding with a camera, and within seconds, the wedding party swarmed toward them, with expressions like kids have on Christmas Eve, Mylan said.

"Our fans are everything to us, and this is why we have the Cougar Cruiser, to go out and to reach those fans who are everywhere," Megan said. "I think that, this last weekend, we really did touch those fans and I think we're going to see them on game day here in Pullman, and that's the whole point. We want to encourage the people to make the trek for at least one game, or just to support us, because we appreciate everything they do to make our university and our athletic department better. It was very cool to see their reactions and how much they want to support us."

Everyone at the wedding received free Cougar gear, much to their delight because everyone there was a Cougar fan, the two drivers said.

Fans are encouraged to contact the drivers in advance via Facebook, or on Twitter @Cougar_Cruiser, so that the Cougar Cruiser can possibly show up at an area near them. At the beginning of the project, Megan and Mylan were given the car with 5,000 miles on it, a budget, and the freedom to use it how they wished. They said the schedule has been organized and researched to maximize the amount of places they can go, but that schedule is flexible enough to allow additions before the project concludes in mid-August. The July schedule will be released when the month begins, and the drivers will evaluate where else they need to reach when August arrives, as long as the miles on the car and the budget are still available.

The Cougar Cruiser plans on visiting Vancouver, Walla Walla, Yakima, and also making stops at Seattle Sounders and Mariners games, and the Tri-Cities for a boat racing event.

Souvenirs such as frisbees, bags, posters, shirts, flags, sweaters, hoodies, sunglasses, water bottles, and koozies are given out by the Cougar Cruiser drivers at their various destinations. The newest drivers know each other very well by now, and have plenty more places to visit as they get to know Cougar fans around Washington to raise the hype for the upcoming football season.

"When you are in this internship, at first it's scary, but then when you see all these people smile just because you're there, that's what makes this internship an awesome one," Mylan said.


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