Strolling Campus with the Lion Ambassadors—At Night
It’s one thing to go on a campus tour with the Lion Ambassadors, those enthusiastic, backwards-walking, history-spewing students. But going on one of their Lantern Tours turns out to be a whole other experience altogether.
The Lion Ambassadors—the student corps of the Alumni Association—offered their annual Lantern Tours last night. Having never actually gone on a Lantern Tour myself, I figured it was about time. So I went. Twice, in fact. (More on that later.)
A Lantern Tour turns out to be a lot like a typical Lion Ambassador tour, only (a) in the dark and (b) with costumed characters. Basically two Lion Ambassadors take you on a tour of central campus, and get interrupted every 25 yards or so by other Lion Ambassadors who jump out from behind a tree and enact an impromptu skit.
I sort of knew that there would be characters; I just didn’t realize how many. I figured we’d see George Atherton, maybe, and Old Coaly, possibly Fred Lewis Pattee, and maybe Joe Paterno. Ha! Shows what I know. We saw all of those, plus George Atherton’s widow, Milton Eisenhower, Heinz Warneke, Sue Paterno, some THON dancers, some fraternity guys, an ROTC cadet, members of the old College Band … you get the idea.
And the amount of Penn State history imparted in that 45-minute stroll was astounding. We learned about everything from Pattee composing the Alma Mater to the VW-in-the-pond incident in the 1960s, and plenty of stuff in between.
(One stop was outside the post office in McAllister Building, where Jimmy Gibbons, playing the role of Milton Eisenhower, handed out cookies to go with a story about how Penn State got its own post office. You can read more about that story here and decide for yourself if it’s truth or folklore.)
In any case, there was so much going on throughout the tour that it was a little hard to get it all. Which was why I decided to go on the tour a second time—this time in a steady rain—just to catch some details (and photos) I had missed the first time through.
It seemed like the Ambassadors were even better the second time around. By then, they had done the skits so many times in the evening that they were really loose and having fun with it. On the Pattee Mall, Joe Caruano, playing the role of a hard-nosed Blue Band director, derided Nick Baccash for adding “glimmer” to his uniform, and Baccash responded with perfect deadpan, “Sir, with all due respect, it’s shimmer, and it makes me play better.”
Perhaps the best actors of the night were T.J. Keefe and Mike Lampariello, portraying rival tycoons Andrew Carnegie and Charles Schwab, shouting at each other on Pollock Road:
“My mother was Scottish!”
“Yeah, well I was the president of Bethlehem Steel!”
“You make me SICK!”
Even our tour guides cracked up at how much energy they seemed to put into their rivalry.
Sara Jones, the Alumni Association’s director of student involvement and the adviser to the Lion Ambassadors, says this year’s Lantern Tours attracted 650 people. A fun evening.
Tina Hay, editor
Entry filed under: Alumni Association, Campus events, Penn State traditions, Students, University Park. Tags: Alexander Middleton, Andrew Carnegie, Charles Schwab, Fred Lewis Pattee, Henry Varnum Poor, Joe Caruano, Mike Lampariello, Nick Baccash, Old Coaly, Schwab Auditorium, T.J. Keefe.