Strolling Campus with the Lion Ambassadors—At Night

October 10, 2009 at 11:34 am 4 comments

DSC_5852 sm freshmen

Students did a great skit on the way upperclassmen treated freshmen in Penn State's early days. Click to enlarge.

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.)

DSC_6017 sm freshmen dating

Students reenacted the stresses of dating in the days of chaperones and curfews.

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.

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Alexander Middleton portrayed Henry Varnum Poor, creator of the Old Main Frescoes.

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.

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Mike Lampariello was great as Charles Schwab.

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, University Park. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Marilyn Curry  |  October 11, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    I’m so proud of Mike Lamps! What would Penn State be without him?
    Keep up the good work.

  • 2. Mark Mesarch  |  October 13, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Sounds like a great time….Will be back to State College for the first time in 9 years at the end of Oct. Do they do these tours every weekend?

  • 3. Bill Moore  |  September 16, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Is there a Lantern Tour scheduled for 2010? Thank you.

  • 4. Tina Hay  |  September 17, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Bill, I just checked, and indeed there is. October 20, starting at 6:00 p.m.

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