SYCAMORE – Many Northern Illinois University athletes came to Sycamore for the first time Tuesday night.
“Some of the student-athletes tell me they’ve never been here before,” said Mayor Ken Mundy. “It’s nice to have some town-gown relationships over here, too.”
Discover Sycamore held a Tuesdays on the Town event in downtown Sycamore. The theme was NIU Night, the second year for the event, and NIU athletes were on hand to play games with children from Sycamore. The events are usually held on the second Tuesday of the month, but this week’s event was a rescheduled NIU Night because the original event was canceled for rain.
However, it worked out better for NIU Athletics.
“We’re here now for workouts,” said Ally Lehman, a member of the women’s basketball team. “We wouldn’t have been here for the first event. But we’re having fun and it looks like [the kids] are having fun.”
Children could play in a bounce house, listen to a DJ and play basketball alongside both men’s and women’s team players.
Mundy said it’s important for NIU and Sycamore to have a connection to each other.
“Northern and Sycamore have a lot in common,” Mundy said. “We’re both growing and trying to be best at what we do. It’s good to work together and show NIU students the communities they can be involved in.”
Robert Biarnesen of Sycamore brought his son, Leland, 7, to see what the event was all about. Leland enjoyed playing basketball alongside some of NIU’s players.
“You put the defense on them, didn’t you,” Biarnesen said to his son.
Laura Gregory of Sycamore is an NIU alum and brought her daughters out to the event. She said they enjoyed meeting the cheerleaders. Football, basketball and volleyball were also represented at the event.
NIU cheerleader Kacie Patterson participated in the event for a second year.
‘”It’s fun signing autographs for the little kids,” Patterson said. “It’s like they think we’re famous.”
The event was also a chance for NIU to introduce The Yard, a new tailgating concept that will begin this fall at home football games. Katie Berry, NIU Athletics assistant director of marketing, said a fan tailgating section will be available on the west side of the stadium. It will be open admission and feature live music, a beer garden, a kids zone and more for each home game.
Katelyn Fogle, Sycamore Chamber of Commerce events and marketing assistant, said Tuesday’s event had one of the series’ best turnouts, and she said the partnership with NIU is something she looks forward to continuing.
“It’s fun and it’s nice that the hoops are low enough to dunk,” said Cassidy Glenn, a member of the women’s basketball team.