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Parking captain sets mood for THON goers, participants

by MORGAN WEINDEL, Gazette intern on February 20, 2020 1:54 PM

UNIVERSITY PARK – Those attending the THON events this weekend at the Bryce Jordan Center who arrive by vehicle will most likely run into Erica Jones. She is a parking expert and is perhaps one of the first people THON goers and participants meet when they arrive, simply because of her position.

Like it or not, that initial interaction may set the mood for the entire weekend for visitors. She has the tough task of preparing the volunteer parking team to be smiling, courteous and downright fun when the first wave of cars arrives at the lots.

Jones embraces that challenge.

From checking in on each car to planning different games for the team of parking volunteers, Jones hopes to be a familiar, friendly face throughout the 46-hour dance marathon.

She believes making parking shifts fun for the volunteers will set the tone for everyone’s experience, since the parking volunteers are the first people spectators and families see at THON weekend.

“We’re all students, so people might be confused or not sure about things so I hope people don’t get too mad or upset about them because we’re just student volunteers trying to make parking a little easier for those coming into THON weekend,” said Jones.

Her past parking experience should pay off at the Bryce Jordan Center this weekend.

Each summer she works at music festivals like Electric Forest and Faster Horses as a parking and traffic manager for toll booths. Her work with parking logistics made her the ideal candidate for the role of parking captain for THON 2020.

“I was originally gonna apply for parking captain, but I wanted to try and have a committee of my own. I put (parking and traffic manager) in my application and that’s when they realized ‘Wow this girl could not be more perfect for this position,’” said Jones.

Her role as parking captain for the largest student-run philanthropy goes beyond THON weekend. Jones is in charge of parking for events leading up to the 46-hour dance marathon such as THON 5k, 100 Days ‘Til THON, Family Carnival and THON athletic events during the year.

For larger events like THON 5k and Family Carnival, Jones works with Penn State’s Parking Event Coordinator, Ryan Connaghan. The two work together to ensure THON families are able to park in special areas that are as close as possible to the event.

For smaller events, like THON athletic events, Jones works to make sure the families attending each have parking passes. While this seems like a quite simple task, Jones said planning parking for THON weekend is not as simple as it may seem, in no way, shape or form.

“We have four lots and just make sure that they’re being staffed right and that those coming in are the ones that are supposed to be coming in. It’s a bunch of little things that add up in the end,” she said. “Parking is a lot of time forgotten about because people have their events and are doing their thing and then think ‘Oh where are they gonna go?’ It’s a lot of last-minute planning, but eventually cars get parked. It’s never a daunting or terrible task because parking lots are everywhere.”

From Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, student volunteers will work parking shifts to ensure spectators are parking in the correct lots. Jones said it’s not the most glamorous job, but she tries to make it as fun as possible for eve

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