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How Do Dancers Stay Entertained (And Awake) During THON?

Staying awake for 46 hours is a daunting task for even the most strong-willed individuals, let alone standing and dancing the entire time. Penn Staters know it takes a special kind of strength to be a THON dancer, but how exactly do they fight the urge to sit down and nod off?

We went on a mission to find out how dancers stay focused and have fun during the grueling 46, with activities ranging from simply throwing a beach ball around to crafting jellyfish out of coffee filters and ribbon.

The Line Dance

This one is obvious, but according to dancers, it’s the most effective. With hundreds of words (550, to be exact) to remember in the lyrics and choreographed dances to learn, it takes a few tries to really nail down one of THON’s most recognizable and beloved traditions. However, the challenge of becoming a line dance expert is what keeps dancers focused, abating those tired feelings.

“I’ve had dancers tell me that the line dance saves them,” said one dancer representing OPP. “It keeps you trying to memorize all the moves and the lyrics.”

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Blowing Bubbles

Take yourself back to the days when you were a little kid, and nothing was more exciting than popping dozens of soapy bubbles in the backyard. I myself was an especially big fan of running around with those giant bubble wands. At THON, you’ll see dancers and children alike crowd around in a circle and blow bubbles to each other, filling the BJC with tiny bulbs of joy. Just don’t get any in your eye.

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Playing Catch

Whether it’s beach balls, tennis balls, balloons, or Nerf footballs, you’ll see dancers tossing all kinds of objects back and forth to each other throughout the floor. Bonus points for adding an extra degree of difficulty, like throwing over a crowd or through a hula hoop.

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Arts & Crafts

Paper Jellyfish

Jellyfish are the worst creatures on earth behind mosquitoes, but they are graceful and at least somewhat amusing to watch bob up and down in the water. Evidently, they’re much more enjoyable as crafts, which involves decorating a coffee filter and attaching long, colorful ribbons to serve as the tentacles. A Penn State-themed jellyfish? That’s the kind of creature I can get behind.

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Newspaper Fashion Show

T-shirts, tutus, hats, and socks are always must-see attractions, but dancers also spend their time coming up with creative ways to turn newspapers into high fashion. Finally, a use for all those unread copies of the Collegian!

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Headbands

Sometimes you’ll see dancers with colorful woven headbands on their foreheads, which they crafted themselves at one of the many arts and crafts stations scattered throughout the floor. By taking elastic bands and weaving them in and out of your fingers, you can form a colorful new headpiece in just a few easy steps. With the challenge of both learning the weaving technique and following the correct order, it keeps dancers focused and alert as THON rages on.

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Coloring

Perhaps the most childlike task of the bunch, coloring books and an assortment of crayons and colored pencils are scattered on tables to help dancers pass the time. Dancers Andy Stoof and Kate England told me it’s a great way to pass the time while hanging out with your friends, and takes your mind away from thoughts about the terrible t-words: time and tired.

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Games

Card Games

Honestly, it wouldn’t be #FTK if it didn’t involve games. Card games like “Spot It!” — a fast-paced matching game — keeps dancers stimulating their minds to overcome feelings of tiredness and boredom. Not to mention, it’s a great way to break the ice.

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Word Search Puzzles

A variety of puzzle-based games were on display for dancers to use, including a word search. Though the word search wasn’t THON-themed, it still provided a few minutes of fun while keeping the brain occupied.

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Squirt Guns

Almost as iconic to THON as the dancers themselves, the squirt gun battles waged on the dance floor and throughout the concourse and lower levels of the BJC are as fierce as they come. If you’re at THON, expect to get wet. Getting hit by an errant stream of water is just part of the fun.

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Slides of Strength

When you’re feeling sore and just need to take a quick break, why not slide down a rubber mat covered in baby powder while people yell and scream and strangers start massaging you once you come to a complete stop? At THON, this type of activity is not only allowed, it’s celebrated!

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Anything we might have missed? Let us know in the comments below, and tell us your favorite THON activity!

About the Author

CJ Doon

CJ is a senior journalism major from Long Island and Onward State's Sports Editor. He is a third-generation Penn Stater, and his grandfather wrestled for the university back in the 1930s under coach Charlie “Doc” Speidel. Besides writing, one of his favorite activities is making sea puns. You can follow him on Twitter @CJDoon, and send your best puns to [email protected], just for the halibut.

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