The sun lit up Medlar Field at Lubrano Park as families, and fans enjoyed the music playing to get the audience ready for the upcoming Penn State baseball game as the smell of popcorn wafted from the open concession stand.
On May 2, the State College Spikes held their annual TicketFest – a time when fans could purchase Spikes season tickets and indulge in music, food and fun.
“I’ve been a Spikes fan for at least five or six years now,” said Eric Mann, a resident of Howard, Pennsylvania. “I enjoying coming to the park – it’s a great time with friends and family while enjoying a ball game and it’s something that’s local. You can’t do that in very many places these days. I walked right up and purchased my season tickets.”
On the field, the Penn State baseball team was warming up. On the concourse, fans and families were finding seats, purchasing food and watching Penn State prepare for the game. In Suite 519, however, a different sort of preparation was underway.
Highlighting the annual TicketFest were the annual National Anthem tryouts. Singers of varying ages from all over the Central Pennsylvania area converged on Medlar Field, trying out and hoping to be picked to sing the National Anthem during the Spikes home games.
The singers waited outside the suite, located on the upper level of the stadium and down the hall from the press box, for their turn to impress Spikes personnel with their rendition of the National Anthem. Among the singers who auditioned in the three-hour period was ten-year-old Aliyah van Blon.
When van Blon’s turn came, instead of wanting to stand alone, she asked for her family and her voice teacher Lisa Keller – who auditioned earlier – to stand in the back of the room with her as she sang.
“It’s my first time trying out,” van Blon said. “I’ve been asking my mom for a very long time.”
Keller has been singing the National Anthem for the Spikes since they made Medlar Field their home base a decade ago. Both van Blon and Keller are “big Spikes fans.”
“I’ve tried out every season, and I believe I’ve sung every season since the Spikes got here,” Keller said. “I used to go to The (Altoona) Curve, and sing the anthem there. When we finally got a team (in State College), I was excited.”
Five other girls – twins Lizzie and Natalie Giacobe, Anna Kate Scott, Megan Irwin and Halle Mitchell – also auditioned to sing the National Anthem.
While the ladies were auditioning, the little league teams that were there to participate in Penn State’s small camp had fun with the kid-friendly activities the Spikes set up. The Spikes mascot, Ike, manned the blow-up batting cages for the kids.
Ike helped to set up the event for the kids: he carefully placed the plushy baseball over a stream of upward air so the baseball could hover before the child that stepped up with a play baseball bat. The child would hit the “baseball” and try to hit it into one of the three holes at the other end of the cage.
When the hit was made, Ike would give the child a high-five before repeating the process with the next child.
Families took photos of the stadium, with Ike and purchased Spikes and Penn State baseball attire. Mifflintown’s little league baseball teams also attended the Spikes’ TicketFest while waiting for the Penn State baseball game to begin.
“It’s a fun, family activity,” said Kim White, a resident of Mifflintown, Pennsylvania. “There’s a lot of things for the kids to do and to get their energy out and to just watch baseball. We love baseball.”
Follow Stephanie Panny on Twitter @StephaniePanny.
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