Community and Staff Day brings students and families together for fun, football and fireworks

"It feels like it's tickling!" exclaimed 9-year-old Charlotte Reedy as she stood on a wooden stool and placed her hand gingerly on the large silver orb. The crowd around her oohed, aahed and giggled to see Reedy's shiny red hair literally standing on end.

Charlotte, who was visiting the Princeton Plasma Physics booth at Princeton University's Community and Staff Day on Saturday, Sept. 17, learned that the silver orb was a demonstration model Van de Graaf generator, which gives off 50,000 volts of electricity. By standing on the stool, Charlotte was isolated from the ground — and when she placed her hand on the orb, the hairs on her head repelled each other.

Demonstrating the Van de Graaf generator at Community and Staff Day

At Community and Staff Day, activities included a Princeton football game, fireworks, a youth sports clinic and an information and activities fair featuring University and community organizations. Above, Charlotte Reedy places a hand on a static electricity demonstration ball at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory's table, sending her hair high up the air. (Photos by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications)

Organized by the Office of Community and Regional Affairs, the annual Community and Staff Day featured a Family Fun Fest at Princeton Stadium. Several local nonprofits and University departments set up booths with crafts, music, face painting, bounce houses and games throughout the stadium concourse. University student-athletes hosted a youth sports clinic — including baseball, basketball, crew, fencing, lacrosse, softball and track and field, among others — on Weaver Track next to the stadium. The fun concluded with the Princeton football team's home opener against Lafayette College, to which 12,000 area residents received free tickets. After the game — which Princeton won, 35 to 31 — fireworks lit up the sky.

"We had beautiful weather, a large crowd and a great football game. We were delighted with the attendance and the enthusiasm of the crowd," said Erin Metro, associate director for community relations in the Office of Community and Regional Affairs.

"We appreciate the Princeton student-athletes who participated in the very popular youth sports clinic and the community organizations and campus partners who participated in the Family Fun Fest," she said.

Vanessa Smith, a senior on the women's basketball team, helped out at the face painting table. "We come out as a team to interact with our fans. It's nice to just play games and have fun with them before the football game," said Smith, who has participated in the event for the last three years. "It's a great way to get involved with the community."

Face painting at Community and Staff day

Vanessa Smith, a senior on Princeton's women's basketball team (left), helps out at the face painting table with two participants in HomeFront's Joy, Hopes and Dreams Program.

Across the field, Jian Sun helped his 4-year-old son, William, place a ball in a lacrosse stick. William, using all his might, brought the stick behind his shoulder and tossed the ball to Phillip Robertson, a freshman on Princeton's lacrosse team. Sun said they came to the event to let his son "try different sports to see what he's interested in. I go to whatever sport he leads me to."

Chris Marchetti, director of the Joy, Hopes and Dreams Program at HomeFront, brought almost 40 area children and teenagers with him. HomeFront is a nonprofit agency that provides a range of services for families in transition who are dealing with crises including homelessness, financial struggles and other life challenges, said Marchetti.

"For several years, we've been working closely with the Princeton Varsity Club on Weapons of Mass Construction [a community service initiative spearheaded by the club], and we have a fantastic relationship with the athletes and staff. [Community and Staff Day] gives our youngsters a chance to come to campus and interact with and hopefully make some friendships with Princeton athletes. We get the VIP treatment — we get to have pizza with the athletes and they escort us to the game. They roll out the red carpet," Marchetti said. "They really show that they care about the kids."

Learning lacrosse skills at Community and Staff Day

William Sun, 4, gets some lacrosse tips at the youth sports clinic from Phillip Robertson, a first-year student on the lacrosse team.

Around the stadium concourse, families enjoyed crafts such as making tissue paper flowers at an activity table hosted by the University's employee resource groups. Other University groups included Cotsen Children's Library, the Baby Lab, Theatre Intime and the Princeton Center for Complex Materials, among others.

At Princeton's Office of Sustainability booth, Matthew Mullins, 10, played an eco-trivia game. He answered the following true-false question correctly — "Are we still drinking the same water that the dinosaurs drank?" (Answer: true) — and was entered into a drawing for prizes.

Several community organizations staffed information and activity booths, including the Arts Council of Princeton, McCarter Theatre Center, Corner House, Princeton Public Library and the Historical Society of Princeton, among others.

At the Princeton Symphony Orchestra's "instrument garden," Courtney Kilmer adjusted her tiger ears headband and picked up a trumpet. Bringing it to her lips, she blew out a tremendous blare. Then she said with a grin, "It felt like static on my lips!" Her mother, Candace, said this was their second year attending the event.

Just before 5 p.m. the crowd filtered into the stadium to watch the football game. Puneet and Daljeet Maken of Plainsboro settled into their front row seats with their middle-school-aged son, Nirbaan. This was their first football game — ever. "He's a sports kid," said Puneet, nodding towards her son, "so he wanted to come. All his friends are here."

Enjoying the football game at Community and Staff Day

Puneet Maken, left, her husband, Daljeet Maken, and son Nirbaan Maken enjoy the Princeton-Lafayette football game, which was followed by a fireworks display.