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Picnic turns into organizational gathering

8/20/2013

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Band practice kept Christina Smith from participating in the back-to-school picnic for three years.

This time, she wanted to see what it was all about, and she brought along a newcomer to campus.

Smith, a senior from Salina, and Ellsworth junior Amanda Hochman were two of hundreds of students greeted with near-perfect weather for Monday's picnic and fair on the Fort Hays State University quad. Organizations, clubs and local businesses marketed their wares on nearly 130 tables.

And students crowded the areas carrying plastic bags handed to them by Commerce Bank employees, chock-full of goodies from the various tables such as pens and Frizbees, candy and T-shirts -- and loads of information in the form of typewritten papers and brochures.

"It's really cool to see all the different kinds of clubs there are here," said Smith, a member of the FHSU color guard.

Smith said she doesn't usually make it in time for the picnic after band practice but made more of an effort this year so she could bring along Hochman, in her first year on campus after transferring to Fort Hays from Barton Community College in Great Bend.

"Some (of the organizations), I didn't even know we had," Smith said.

That's the idea behind the picnic, said Vince Bowhay, coordinator for student involvement and Greek life at FHSU -- to introduce the students to different facets of campus life.

Bowhay and Brett Bruner from the student affairs office were all smiles as they watched some of the lawn games on the grass areas around their booth.

"Those just happened naturally," Bruner said. "We didn't have to plan it. They contacted us to come. They want to be part of something special."

Craig Karlin, who attended FHSU in the 1980s and now is director of financial assistance at his alma mater, has watched the picnic grow considerably through the years.

"It was more of a barbecue back then, a true picnic," he said of the picnic-style menu.

Karlin said he remembers tables lining only the middle sidewalk.

"Now, it's more of a barbecue and a fair," he said. "Students seem to get a lot out of it."

In addition to learning about numerous opportunities to participate throughout the year, both on and off campus, students could take part in lawn games and several other activities.

One popular site was the "Take a seat and make a friend" booth, where two people who didn't know each other would jump into a pile of small plastic balls and pick up larger ones with conversation starters written on them.

Laura Serrano, a junior from Denver in her first year at FHSU, quickly answered "my mom" when Hays freshman Leroy Franco asked her to name someone who inspired her.

A roar went up from the crowd of people watching when Serrano picked up a ball and read to Franco, "Describe the first time you fell in love."

"When I saw you," Franco quipped quickly, much to the delight of those who heard the answer.

Serrano and Frank just had met each other this weekend at first-year student activities, which both said has made them feel more comfortable around campus.

"It's been a great time, able to interact with a bunch of people," Franco said. "I've met a lot of new people already."

Serrano, who received an associate's degree while attending Aurora Central High School in the Denver area, agreed.

She said after her first weekend of college life and first day of classes Monday, she is glad she chose FHSU.

"An admissions counselor came to my school, and he sold me on (FHSU)," she said. "They were able to offer so many scholarships, and it's cheaper than (Colorado) colleges."

Likewise, Hochman said she also came to FHSU partly because of the affordability factor. And that meant two more new students.

Her boyfriend, Jacob Graham from Great Bend, also transferred to FHSU this year from Hutchinson Community College.

"He wants to try to walk on and play football," Hochman said. "So I decided to come here, too. He's here, and it's so affordable."