First night includes appearances by Bill, Willie

By Bethany Knipp

The first night of Purple Power Play on Poyntz, a community-wide kick-off to the football season, commenced Wednesday with a slightly different name and location.

This year, the event is known as Purple Power Play in the Park because of the need to relocate it to City Park because of construction on Poyntz Avenue.

Allie Webb, vice president and vendor coordinator, said she was pleased with how well the park location worked. She said initially she was skeptical of attendance because of the new location and because rather than the festival being on a Thursday and Friday before a Saturday football game, it was being held on a Wednesday and Thursday preceding a Friday game.

But Webb said Wednesday that when the two-day event has run its course, she now expects turnout to be close to 20,000 people. That’s believed to be about the same as in recent years on Poyntz although there is no official way to keep track because the event is free.

Organizers are considering whether to keep the event in the park in future years, in part due to the room for growth that setting provides.

“It has the potential to grow three times the size,” Webb said. She said she also liked that Purple Power Play was within walking distance from the university campus and Aggieville, a convenience for students.

“I would love to see it stay in the park,” Webb said. Though she has no problem with the event being on Poyntz, she said the Purple Power Play’s growth might be a logistical issue.

Gina Scroggs, Purple Power Play board member and director of Downtown Manhattan, Inc., said the board and those involved in the event will have a discussion in September about a location for next year.

Scroggs agreed that growth would be an issue for consideration.

“It’s gotten so big, which is a good problem to have,” she said.

Another issue is making the event comfortable for patrons, vendors and entertainers. She said with the event being in the park, vendors are set up on grass, a cooler setting than the street asphalt on Poyntz.

Even on grass, Purple Power Play was still hot Wednesday. Some vendors handed out paper fans to help keep patrons perusing the park more comfortable.

With City Park smelling of corndogs and funnel cake, K-State fans and Manhattan residents explored the rows of vendors, collected free food samples, stickers for children and bought jewelry.

Mike Smith, 40, of Wamego, said though he’s from Ohio and more of a Buckeyes fan than a Wildcat fan, he still comes out to Purple Power Play with his family every year to see the people and hang out with friends.

Terry Xidis, a first-time Purple Power Play vendor and owner of Hazel Hill Chocolate in Manhattan, said to prepare for the hot August evening, she brought items to sell that were heat resistant.

Entertainment took place in the Larry Norvell Band Shell and around 8 p.m., the K-State pep rally kicked off with the marching band playing “Wabash Cannonball” and the fight song “Wildcat Victory.”

Willie the Wildcat took the stage and led cheers for the crowd, maintaining school spirit until Coach Bill Snyder showed up to speak to the crowd about the upcoming season. People who were in the vending area while Snyder came out dropped what they were doing and started running to the band shell so they wouldn’t miss him speak.

Though a different experience from last year, Webb said Purple Power Play patrons adjusted to the change and most of them she talked to liked the park atmosphere, though some said they enjoyed a crowded street fair experience more. She said with the park being such a big area, it’s impossible to see all of the people who attend, creating a different experience.

Purple Power Play in the Park will continue Thursday, Aug. 29, with another pep rally and a fireworks display at dusk.

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