Allison Metcalf of UWBadgers.com immersed herself in the annual Badger Sports Kids Fair, a two-hour event held Saturday that gave Badgers fans of all ages a chance to get up close and personal with coaches, student-athletes and, of course, Bucky Badger, prior to the 2009 Spring Game.
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Youre never too young to be a Badger fan, and proof of that was easy to find on Saturday.
This afternoon, before the 2009 Spring Game, I headed over to the McClain Center to check out the Badger Sports Kids Fair. Once inside, I could see Badger student-athletes everywhere, and each was accompanied with a swarm of tots, kids, and teens waiting in line for autographs.
I noticed a beaming young boy holding a pennant filled with autographs. His father, Eric Olson, explained that they arrived at Camp Randall Stadium extra early and waited in line so that his son, Tommy, could meet some of his favorite players. Tommy was fully decked out in Badger gear and, by the looks of the limited space left on his pennant, he accomplished his mission to obtain autographs from all of his favorite players.
Weve just been getting a lot of autographs, Tommy explained. I got John Clay, David Gilreath, and a lot of other guys. John Clay is my favorite player because I like running backs. I want to be a running back some day. I am really excited to watch the game and see the players.
After talking to the Olsons, I spotted a tiny little girl wearing a throwback Ron Dayne jersey. To be honest, my first thought was, Wow, I didnt realize they made Wisconsin football jerseys that small! She was posing with members of dance team along with her older sister, who was wearing a red tutu in support of her love for dance.
Their father, Eric Bradley, explained that coming to UW events has been a long-time tradition within their family, and he doesnt hesitate when it comes to bringing daughters Grace and Rylie to anything that involves the Cardinal and White.
My grandfather is a retired professor, so I just really like to bring the kids out to all alumni events, Badger games, and anything for the kids, Bradley said. I hope that my kids become Badgers some day. Grace got her jersey awhile ago. She loves her Ron Dayne jersey and she never wants to take it off.
Were all planning on having fun today, enjoying the nice day, and meeting all of the Badgers.
My next stop was with cousins Hunter Kaun (age 13) and Royce Anderson (age 10). They were holding brown and white leather Wisconsin footballs and seemed very content with the various array of Badger players they got to chat with. Despite their young ages, neither of them stumbled while articulating their UW pride.
I went last year and it was really fun. I got a wristband from Isaac Anderson, Kaun explained. We were in the front row and, at the end of the game, the players just started taking off their gloves and wristbands and handing them out to the crowd. It was great.
Isaac Anderson is one of his all time favorites. Today I got autographs from John Clay, Dustin Sherer, Isaac Anderson, and Zach Brown. Royce and I plan on going to the game and hopefully trying to get another wristband.
Kaun had so much fun last year that he wanted to enjoy the day with his cousin, an avid Badgers fan, this time around.
Hunter called me and asked if I wanted to go, Anderson said. I am a huge Badger fan so I pretty much had to say yes. I really enjoy football and basketball. Watching the Badgers is such a great thrill because they are normally a really good team.
I play football, but this my first time actually getting to go to a college game.
Beyond autographs, there were several inflatable games and plenty of student-athletes helping each young fan try to score a goal, throw a football or shoot a basket. Everywhere you looked there were cameras flashing as kids got to take pictures with their favorite Badgers.
The most popular attraction, however, was the line to meet Bucky Badger. Its clear that Bucky has the ability to draw crowds of all ages, and there were several grandparents who wanted their grandchildren to get a taste of Badger pride.
Mike Sweeney brought his grandson, Haben (age 7), all the way from Milwaukee. Even at a young age, Haben was ready for the Spring Game with a UW hat, a red t-shirt, and a giant pair of binoculars to ensure that he could see every play. Haben was waiting in line to take a shot on an inflatable goal with some of the UW mens soccer players.
Hes a big Bucky Badger fan and hes excited to watch the spring game, Sweeney explained. We thought that we could come here early and participate in some of the activities. We have done the hockey, we have high-fived the University Bookstore book, and we got a lot of autographs.
This is his first time at Camp Randall, and were kind of working him in so that he can come to a football game in the fall.
As much a thrill as it is for the young fans who get to meet their favorite Badgers up close, the experience is a memorable one for the student-athletes, as well.
The Kids Fair gives you the opportunity to come out and enjoy the day, sign a couple of autographs, Isaac Anderson said. You dont get that many opportunities to do this in your lifetime. You have to take advantage of the four or five years you have here to mingle with some of the familiar faces and the Badger fans.
Its a lot of fun.