Since 1903, Harvard Crimson football fans have cheered for their team in historic Harvard Stadium, but most of them have been students and alumni. For the 700th official game this past Saturday, many of the people in the stands were residents of Allston, Brighton, and Cambridge who’d come to enjoy the festivities and fun at the 29th Community Football Day.
“This is our first Harvard football game. We’re new to Cambridge, it’s so exciting to see this open, free community event, it’s wonderful,” said Armi Sippel, who recently moved with her family from Pasadena, Calif., for her husband to attend the doctoral program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Not much put a damper on the annual celebration, not even the capricious weather that included misty rain, a sprinkle of sunshine, and even a heavy downpour. Families, friends, and neighbors of all ages gathered at the community tent for a good, old-fashioned tailgate lunch, then enjoyed free admission to the game, where the Crimson rose to victory over Lafayette College, 38-10.
Itai Fiegenbaum, a fellow at Harvard Law School, his wife, Simone, and their two young sons moved from Israel to Cambridge four months ago and said they wanted to experience a Harvard tradition.
“This is my family’s first time at a football game. It’s a great outing for us, my sons are really enjoying it,” he said. “We’re doing the face painting, eating the lunch, thank you to Harvard for organizing this, we love it.”
For some, Harvard football is a longtime tradition. Others are new to it. Eleven members of the McGrath family from Brighton — four adults and seven children — ate hot dogs and played football in the grass just outside the community tent. “This is a great stadium to come to, and although we were born and raised here, this is our first time coming to Community Football Day,” said Kelly McGrath. “We will definitely be back.”
There was plenty to do. In addition to lunch, pre-game activities included children’s games, face-painting, and a raffle of sweatshirts, T-shirts, water bottles, and hats. Families delighted at the game-day souvenirs, balloons, and tiny chocolate footballs for dessert.
Six-year-old Ron Dunn of Allston loved blowing his souvenir toy whistle. He came with his father, Ronald Dunn, who works for Harvard University Dining Services and said he brings the family to this event every year.
“I am here to cheer on the team,” young Ron said.
Claire Hoffman ’21, who is concentrating in neurobiology, is a member of the Harvard Crimson cheerleader team. She came with two of her teammates to help with face painting and other children’s activities.
“I really like this big sense of togetherness, everybody is really excited about the same thing,” she said. “I think this is awesome that there are so many community members out here; the more fans there are, the more excited everyone gets. I find it really fun.”
John Bruno, chairman of the Harvard-Allston Task Force, said he never misses Community Football Day.
“I don’t think I’ve ever missed this event. It’s a feel-good, warm, fuzzy feeling that you can get out of your house, go for a walk, and come through these stadium gates. I grew up here as a kid and being able to do this now is wonderful,” he said.
Although Mother Nature could not make up her mind, no one seemed to notice.
“I don’t think we’ve had a terrible day in all the years this has gone on,” Bruno said. “So, if you want to plan a wonderful neighborhood day, mark this on your calendar. The weather will be fine.”