A group of us from H2O Kent traveled to Youngstown, earlier today, to meet up with our friends who moved to Youngstown over the summer. Together, we hosted a tailgate party outside of Youngstown State University’s Stambaugh Stadium before their home opener against Duquesne. And it was honestly a lot more fun than I expected it to be.
Youngstown State University (YSU) has a way more lively tailgating culture than Kent State University. Even though the school is just a third of the size of Kent! The tailgate party vibe seems to be powered by people from the Mahoning River Valley, who went to YSU and now live and work in the Mahoning Valley. “Townies” more than current students. Still, there are plenty of students around. And I honestly found myself feeling envious about the partnership between the community, the University administration, and the student body in creating this College Gameday Culture. Kent could learn a few things from Youngstown.
What made today’s tailgate party special, though, was the way that it signaled the dawn of a new era for the H2O Church at Youngstown State University. We’ve been thinking and praying in this direction for years. And over the summer, the H2O YSU Team has laid a lot of groundwork, settling in and making connections. But the past week has been YSU’s Kickoff Week. And the tailgate party provided the perfect space for planting a flag, staking a claim in YSU circles, and celebrating with newfound friends.
We grilled hot dogs and cheeseburgers. Some people played croquet and tossed a football around. Others just sat around and talked. But all together, it almost felt like a sort of institutional baptism: a visible and tangible way to celebrate the fact that a new community of faith is coming into existence. So, it felt like an honor to be there. And I hope that I’ll get to go back again soon.