Daily Egyptian

Fan Fest brings out Salukis of all ages (PHOTOS)

Junior cornerback Craig James, center, and junior linebacker Kyron Watson, right, teach children drills Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, during the sixth annual Saluki Fan Fest at Saluki Stadium. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

Junior cornerback Craig James, center, and junior linebacker Kyron Watson, right, teach children drills Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, during the sixth annual Saluki Fan Fest at Saluki Stadium. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

By Shannon Allen

For some people, being a Saluki ends after four years. For Bill and Diana Gasa, it is a lifelong commitment.

The SIU graduates were among a few hundred people who came out to Saluki Fan Fest on Tuesday to support SIU athletics at Saluki Stadium, where members of the cheerleading, volleyball and football teams mingled with the community.

“I used to go to games alone until I met Bill in 2010,” said Diana, a football and basketball season ticket holder since 2010. “The experience of the game is much more interesting when you’re surrounded by family and friends.”

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The couple donates to the Saluki Athletic Scholarship Fund each year and donated to the Saluki Way project in 2000, which helped remodel the stadium and SIU Arena.

“After living in Chicago for 28 years, I sat down and made lists of things like where I’ve had the most fun in my life and where the cheapest place to live was,” said Bill, who moved back to Carbondale in 2010. “For every list I made, Carbondale was the top choice, so the decision to move back was pretty easy to me.”

Evelyn Wienert, 4, of Carbondale, practices her tackles under the supervision of Saluki football players Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, during the sixth-annual Saluki Fan Fest at Saluki Stadium. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

He said the Fan Fest helps the community get to know SIU’s athletes.

“Win, lose or draw, the football team’s image is going to look great after an event like this,” Bill said, gesturing toward a player running mock drills with a child. “I mean, just look at how happy that kid looks.”

SIU graduates Alli Arvanis and her husband, Stephen Arvanis, brought their two children to the stadium to run around the obstacle courses set up by the university’s athletic department.

“It’s nice that they have these type of events where it’s free, family friendly and we get a chance to meet some athletes,” Alli said.

Staff writer Shannon Allen can be reached at 618-536-3326, [email protected] or on Twitter @ShannonAllen_DE.

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