For PSU students, there's nothing like Nittanyville
UNIVERSITY PARK – On seven autumn Saturdays every year, State College is flooded with tens of thousands of football frenzied Nittany Lions fans.
But for a select group of Penn State students, the celebration of Blue and White football extends far beyond the confines of a Saturday filled with tailgates and touchdowns.
Since the Sunday before Penn State’s 17-10 victory over Ohio State in October of 2005, it’s become tradition for rows of tents to line Gate A of Beaver Stadium in the days preceding home football games. Once called Paternoville, the campout has adopted the name Nittanyville and is now an official club with over 18,000 Twitter followers.
“I just wanted to be able to do it once,” said Jason Nguyen, a sophomore who recently took part in Nittanyville for the first time. “It’s an experience that everyone’s got to do at least one time just to say they did it.”
Because any Penn State student can participate, many choose to do it on a whim. The only regulation is that the leader of each group, which can consist of up to 10 people, must register his/her troop at 9 p.m. on the Wednesday before the game. They then have an hour to get their parties to Gate A, where at least one member must be present at all times until 7 a.m. on Saturday. The prize: front row seats in the student section.
“I think we’re behind the goalposts, so that’s pretty awesome,” said Michael Choven, another Nittanyville first-timer. “We’re still trying to decide on our sign. None of (our ideas) are good. People would laugh at me if I said the ones I thought of.”
Nittanyvillers have different strategies for braving the elements, and while this was a mild weather week, sleeping on the cement ground is a test of will for some.
“I highly recommend bringing air mattresses,” Nguyen said. “We just brought blankets and laid them down. Four blankets stacked on top of each other was not enough. You feel it in your back the next day.”
Part of the beauty of Nittanyville is that little-to-no planning is involved. All a group needs is a tent and able-bodied Nittany Lions fans who are willing to pitch a tepee and enjoy the weather.
“I got roped into it on Wednesday,” sophomore Katie Bakaysa said with a laugh. “I was told I was doing it, so I showed up. It sounded like fun.”
Because many students have class to attend and other responsibilities to tend to, day shifts are usually mellow hours filled with utilizing stadium Wi-Fi and doing homework.
Caroline Clements, a senior in Chovan’s group, spent close to 12 hours at Nittanyville before she went home to shower, attend class and an interview. Another member of their group, senior Emily Obusek, was rooted to her tent from 4:30 p.m. Thursday until 3:30 p.m. Friday, when she had to go to a meeting.
“It’s just something you check off the Penn State bucket list,” Obusek said. “Here we are as seniors, getting that list down.”
During the very first Nittanyville in 2005, an estimated hundred tents popped up in front of the student entrance. During Georgia State week, there were about twenty, but the sense of community is no less strong, especially when the sun sets on Happy Valley.
Prior to the Georgia State game, members of the Penn State women’s volleyball team and the football team’s wide receiver corps visited the tent city bearing gifts of pizza and cookies. Nittanyvillers got to play badminton in the streets, and even showed school spirit prior to retreating to their tents for the night.
“All together right out front (of Gate A) we sang a bunch of our fight songs,” Nguyen said. “We sang the alma mater before everyone went to sleep, and it was a lot of fun.”
As Penn State continues its momentous rise to the upper echelon of college football, Nittanyville continues to thrive as a proud and dedicated community.
Many Penn State students consider joining Nittanyville at least once a “must” before they graduate, and the reasons extend beyond getting great seats and time on the Beaver Stadium big board.
“My favorite part is definitely just the bonding you do with your friends,” Nguyen said. “There’s nothing like a tiny little tent and all your friends being crammed together, whether you’re doing homework or playing card games to pass the time, it’s just a fun time.”