While students weren’t back on the Union College campus Saturday, parents and alumni set up their tents and tables, laid out their food and smiled as they greeted each other while wearing their Union College apparel.
They were ready for the first kickoff of the Union College football season.
Under one of the tents was the Mitchell family, who would end up celebrating regardless of whether Union or SUNY Morrisville won. That’s because the family had a player on each team–cousins Brandan Mitchell for Union and Ernesto Mitchell for SUNY Morrisville.
The family was excited to see the two play after COVID canceled the season last year, said Tonya Mitchell, Ernesto Mitchell’s mother.
“When we heard we were so happy,” said Janice Mitchell, Brendan Mitchell’s mom.
To support both players, the family made special shirts to wear to the game with both players’ numbers on the back.
But the competition between the two players is friendly, the mothers said.
No matter where the games are played, the family said they attend every one.
Parents Shawn Banerji and Jack Flanagan were getting drinks and food under a tent decorated with football streamers just down the sidewalk from the Mitchell family.
“It’s a great feeling,” Flanagan said about being back for a game. “Everyone has been cooped up.”
The two were part of a few families that had gathered together to cheer on the team.
Banerji was there to support his son, Julian, while Flanagan was there to support his son, Jack.
On the opposite side of the stadium, Aidan Donnelly’s family was chatting outside their SUV.
“I’m excited but a little jittery,” said dad Tom Donnelly.
He said he was nervous to see his son play again after not having played since high school.
“It’s a whole different ball game,” Tom Donnelly said.
The family, which included dad, mom Tonya Donnelly, grandma Connie Yandrisevitz and aunt Joann Donnelly all drove up from Providence, New Jersey. They said they would attempt to make every home game in between going to Aidan’s younger brother’s Sean’s football games, too.
Alumni were also at the game. Michael Newell and his family met up with several other alumni whom they have been tailgating with for several years.
“Last year was just hard,” Newell said about not having a season.
Newell, a 1974 graduate, said he didn’t start following the football team until 1988 but has enjoyed coming to the games, watching the team play and seeing friends.
“The team is a family, but I think the fans are a family, too,” he said.