Mesa’s Pioneer Park bustled with activity on May 5th as it hosted BYU Fan Fest.
What is the BYU Fan Fest? It’s about personal connections.
“Our main focus is to connect and engage our fans with our student athletes,” said David Almodova, assistant athletic director over marketing. “Our teams play all over the country, but our fans are never able to engage with them at the games.”
BYU coaches, cheerleaders, and twenty athletes shared time with their fans by shaking hands, signing posters, and talking face to face with the public.
Women’s basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and soccer each had two representatives, including volleyball’s star outside hitter Roni Jones-Perry.
BYU teams have several Arizona connections. Mo Langi, who served a mission in Phoenix, as well as Mitch Harris from Gilbert and Matt Bushman from Tucson, were among the eleven football players present. Payton Dastrup from Mesa represented men’s basketball.
Lee Cummard, former student athlete hired in April as BYU’s Assistant Basketball Coach, is also from Mesa. Impressed by the turnout of his first Fan Fest, Cummard said, “I have a lot of family in the area. Having them able to experience the culture of BYU with me is exciting.”
Though the temperature soared 10 degrees hotter than average for the day, it is estimated that over 3,500 fans participated. Not surprisingly, BYU Creamery sold out of the 620 cups of ice cream they’d brought. Ice cold water and kettle corn refreshed many attendees, as did
Y-shaped donuts provided by the Phoenix chapter of the BYU Alumni Association.
Several activities spread families around so that lines to meet athletes were not too long. Children threw footballs and basketballs into giant inflatables, ran in short races, had their faces painted, and lounged on an enormous inflated bouncy chair. T-shirts and other popular items were purchased at the onsite BYU store.
Fans watched BYU Sports Nation broadcast live from the park. One of the first fans to arrive was Marjorie Marz, who was happy to give large stacks of handmade burp cloths, including some made with BYU-print material, to announcers Spencer Linton and Jarom Jordan. “You really do watch the show!” exclaimed Linton. Marz knew that his third child had just been born, and that Jordan is expecting his second. Both papas were grateful for their gifts.
While defensive end Corbin Kaufusi stood by a back drop for photo ops, two missionaries approached him. Kaufusi was glad they did. One of the missionaries, Elder Fitisemanu from Hawaii, is his best friend’s cousin. They’d seen each other in pictures but had never met.
As the final attendees were departing, and seconds before Cosmo jumped into a truck to leave, one particular fan, Ken Driggs, got to shake Cosmo’s paw. A Mesa resident since the late ‘60s, Driggs donned the BYU mascot costume during the 1965-66 school year. “I had an absolute blast!” he recalled. He is amazed by the athleticism of today’s Cosmo. Even back then, he admits, he didn’t have the gymnastic and dance skills we see these days.
Goodbye for now, BYU athletes. We’ll see some of you in September when football takes on U of A!