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THON 101: Rookie Mistakes

To many people reading this, the following tips will likely not apply to you. You’re probably well-versed in THON culture and know exactly what to do and expect this weekend; however, for all the THON gurus that exist, there are also a few newcomers. Perhaps families driving up to see it for the first time, friends from home visiting a dancer, and some freshmen witnessing their first THON inside the Bryce Jordan Center. Regardless of your reason, I say on behalf of everyone, WELCOME!

Whether you stay for one hour or all forty-six (hopefully closer to the latter), you’re going to have a wonderful experience. Mark it down right now. You will laugh; you will cry, and you will experience many other emotions. It will be an absolute blast, but before setting foot in the BJC, here are a few tips for navigating your first THON Weekend:

  • Attempt to contain your excitement when lining up- THON is not exactly like Paternoville. Doors to the BJC will open at 4 p.m. (two hours before THON officially begins), but people are not to line up before 1 p.m. You will help everyone by being patient and following these directions.
  • Have a little background knowledge– Don’t be the person who shows up and says “What is the Four Diamonds Fund?” or “Why are people dancing?” At the very least know that THON is an event to provide emotional and financial support for children and families who are affected by pediatric cancer. If you want to learn more, you can check out our Who To Know piece.
  • No sit for you! Beginning at 6 p.m. tonight, 708 dancers will stand for 46 straight hours. The expectations are that everyone in attendance will stand as well while watching. If you or someone you are with has a medical condition that makes it necessary for them to sit, you will be directed to a special area.
  • Do not show up drunk– Never mix THON and alcohol together. Drunk guests will be removed immediately.
  • Learn the Line Dance– The Line Dance will be played 46 times. It incorporates Penn State, sports, pop culture, and THON references, and the various stretches through out it feel great for the dancers, but those in the stands are encouraged to learn the lyrics and participate. When in doubt, just throw your hands up and smile. Check out the THON 2011 line dance to get an idea of what to expect.
  • PASS patience- If you are lucky enough to be on a PASS List that will get you on the floor, congratulations! Being on the floor is an unreal experience, but it may take two to four hours for a pass to be ready depending on the time. More can be found about the PASS system here, but know that regardless of the wait, it will be worth it. If you are not on a PASS list, you will still have a great view from the stands or pit.
  • Proper floor etiquette– If you are lucky enough to get on the floor and visit specific dancers, they will be thrilled to see you. Few things boost morale like seeing a close family member or good friend. Two important things to keep in mind though are not to tell a dancer what time it is and not to show up with wet hair after a shower. If dancers want to know the time, they’ll find out, but do not make it your job to tell them. Much of making it through forty-six hours is a psychological game, and many prefer to be in the dark when it comes to knowing the time. The same goes for showering. Dancers will be sweaty and feel gross after many hours and do not want to see or hear about the amazing shower you had an hour ago.
  • Be flexible with parking– There will be plenty of parking available, but know that you may have to walk a bit after finding a spot.
  • Arrive early for select events– Two of the more popular events are a Saturday night pep rally that features various Penn State varsity sports teams dancing on stage and the final four hours on Sunday, including Family Hour. The BJC reaches capacity levels for both events, and there is a good chance that doors could close by 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. Show up early.
  • Donate, donate, donate- Plenty of opportunities will exist to donate to THON over the course of the weekend. Two of the easiest ways are to purchase THON merchandise at the BJC or donating at THON’s official website.

With all of that now said, congrats! You are now officially ready to experience your first THON. Keep these basic tips in mind en route to an unforgettable weekend.

About the Author

Drew Balis

Drew is a senior marketing major. This fall, he will be covering Penn State Football for Onward State. He is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and loves THON and Domonic Brown.


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