Throughout preseason football camp, Assistant Director of Athletics Communications Rachel Perreault will take you on a behind-the-scenes look at different aspects of the football program that go beyond the practice field. In today’s fifth installment, she checks in at the Welcome Back Picnic.
The Welcome Back Picnic, put on by the Blacksburg Hokie Club and IMG, has been a staple in the football team’s preseason agenda for 15 years now. Originally a small event of just about 50 people, the picnic has grown tremendously over the years.
The catered event is an opportunity for fans to come together and get a look at this year’s squad and its newcomers. The event also gives the Hokie Club an opportunity to raise money for things like scholarships, as they are responsible for all athletic fundraising.
This year’s event was held in the South End Zone of Lane Stadium yesterday and no one could have asked for a better evening. Upon arrival, the fans had a chance to grab some dinner on the concourse, which was a barbecue spread from Custom Catering, before filing into the stands to enjoy their food and watch a recap of last season on the video board.
Just wrapping up practice, players and coaches trickle in through the stadium and head for the food tables before joining everyone in the bleachers. Once everyone made their way over, the show really began as Bill Roth and Mike Burnop, who are celebrating their 25th season of broadcasting together, took to the stage on the field and welcomed everyone. They moved through the program and welcome the evening’s various speakers, a short lineup that concludes with Coach Beamer.
After Coach Beamer addressed the crowd, Roth returned to the mic to honor the 16 seniors in training camp, which includes 13 players who have already graduated and three more who will walk across the stage this fall.
Closing the event, Roth introduced this year’s freshman class, which had a little more trouble with alphabetical order than its veteran counterparts, before releasing all in attendance to an autograph session with the team back on the concourse.
Norman Fitzwater is president of the Blacksburg Hokie Club and has been in charge of coordinating this event for the past 13 years. Though it is a bit more low-key than many of the other events the Blacksburg Hokie Club puts on, he is happy to see the growth of the picnic and really enjoys giving the younger members of Hokie Nation a chance to meet the players at the autograph session.
For 9-year-old Jaelynn Ferguson, who has had the chance to attend all sorts of these events, it’s a fun time for her and her two sisters, Addison and Chloe, to see their friends and snap a quick picture with her favorite player, D.J. Coles.
Through the first week of camp already, the Welcome Back Picnic begins to put the excitement in the air for Hokie Nation. Giving fans their first chance to see and meet each year’s team early on, it sparks some enthusiasm for those close to Blacksburg and has them counting down the days until Sept. 3rd.
For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Football).