First Night kicks off Fall 2021 semester

Luke Taylor, News Editor

Students danced, cheered, and competed for prizes during Eastern’s “First Night” pep rally events on Sunday, the evening before classes start.

The event was held outside at O’Brien Stadium, allowing for one of the biggest crowds at a campus event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Energy was high from everyone in the stadium as the Panther Marching Band, EIU Cheer Team and EIU Pink Panther Dance Team performed, followed by a student dance-off and shout-outs to various sports teams, fraternities and sororities. 

Omar Solomon, an admissions counselor, was the master of ceremonies for the event.

He’s known on campus for his enthusiasm at events like this one.

“I’m so excited that we had a small return to a new normal, not just for the incoming class but the sophomores who started this last year, and for the entire campus community who came out and showed their spirit,” Solomon said.   

Solomon pointed out that most of the crowd stayed after convocation, despite that event being longer and less interactive. 

“The energy stayed, we didn’t lose anybody in the crowd, and that’s what it’s all about: getting back to the university,” Solomon said. 

Ceci Brinker, director of student life, was one of the many people involved in putting the event together. 

“Any time that we get a chance to showcase school spirit and school pride at EIU is a good thing,” Brinker said. “It was great energy to welcome freshmen into their new university and be surrounded by their peers. Of course, Omar sets the tone with his school pride and spirit. It’s just contagious.”

University president David Glassman helped toss t-shirts and other prizes up to the stands and then stayed after the event to take selfies with and talk to students. 

“It was a special night with a lot of spirit. Our juniors, our sophomores and our seniors all came out to celebrate tonight,” Glassman said. 

Glassman said the event raised his hopes for the first day of classes on Monday. 

“Now everybody has to go home, get seven or eight hours of sleep, wake up for their first class, make sure that they’re there, and we’ll start a great educational journey for fall 2021,” Glassman said.

David G. Boggs, who is beginning his third year as director of the Panther Marching Band, was excited for his second First Night. 

“The crowd was bigger, more energetic. I mean, my marching band was just here dancing to ‘September’ and singing. It was just kind of nuts, so it’s good,” Boggs said, comparing this year’s event to First Night in 2019. “Just the overall exuberance, I think is a great definition. Tonight was just exuberant.”