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THON Behind The Scenes: Keeping The BJC Fed

Of all the events hosted in the Bryce Jordan Center each year, THON is undoubtedly the largest. With a constant flow of hungry THONers steadily migrating through the concourse, short lines are a rarity. To keep the BJC adequately fed and hydrated, concession workers must remain sharp. But it’s important to keep in mind those workers are students too, putting in ridiculous hours to ensure THON attendees remain nourished and happy.

We took some time with stand manager Vanessa Campbell (shown on the left) to better understand what it’s like to experience THON from behind the concession booth.

THON 2016 BJC Concourse

Though she’s been employed by the BJC for about a year now, this is her first THON. The senior hospitality manager came to University Park from a branch campus, but her role in ensuring concession operations flow smoothly is integral to the weekend’s overall success. She says she’s enjoying the experience despite the unforeseen chaos that can arise while on the job. “It’s pretty hectic only because a lot can occur,” Campbell said. “We had a soda machine explode during last night’s shift, and there’s always something different happening that you have to be prepared for.”

Her rest periods come in the form of slow concourse traffic — something that occurs once in a blue moon during THON. Though she’s covered the spectrum of events hosted at the BJC during her time there, Campbell it’s difficult to compare anything to THON. “THON is different because it’s 24 hours a day for basically the entire weekend,” Campbell said. “It’s just never-ending. I’ve worked six hour concerts before, but those are easier to plan around because your hours are easier to predict. Mentally preparing for a 30 hour workweek over the course of one weekend is much different than anything I’ve experienced before.”

Campbell says her and the other stand managers have two options when it comes to shifts — daytime or nighttime. “Basically, stand managers will relieve one another,” Campbell said. “I took over for the person before me, and another will take over for me after my shift concludes. We pretty much alternate night or day shifts.”

Unpredictability is part of her job description — Campbell says she could be assigned to work any of the BJC stands at any given time. But she’s worked hard to reach the position she’s in now; managing your own stand doesn’t come without practice and preparation. “I was an intern last semester, so I wasn’t able to manage a stand by myself without having a supervisor present,” Campbell explained. “They gave me a smaller stand to manage starting out, so that helped me get ready for what I’d face this weekend.”

Through the tireless hours of working, Campbell says she’s thoroughly enjoyed her THON experience because of the memories made with her staff. In a way, her staff is similar to a THON organization in how they become stronger and closer despite the hectic hours spent nourishing students and parents alike.

“This weekend has been incredible because I’ve gotten to know a lot of the people I work with so much better,” Campbell said. “I’ve gotten to experience different volunteer groups that are coming in, and that’s really cool because you don’t really get to have those people on a regular day, but because it’s THON, everybody’s here at once. It’s been so cool.”

So when you leave your seat to get some food during THON, keep in mind how hard the people behind the booth are working. Without them, there would be no hot dogs or pulled pork pretzel sandwiches. Thanks for keeping us full and happy, Vanessa!

About the Author

David Abruzzese

David is a senior from Rochester, NY, nestled right in beautiful Western New York. He is majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and as an avid sports fan, he passionately supports the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. He is the first Penn Stater from his family, and couldn’t be prouder to represent Penn State University. In his free time, he likes to alpine ski, and play golf. You can follow him on Twitter @abruz11, and can contact him via email at [email protected]

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