Family Weekend restructured to one day

GVL/Luke Holmes
Kids play a giant version of twister in the Kirkhof Center for Sibs and Kids Weekend Friday, Jan. 29, 2016.

GVL/Luke Holmes Kids play a giant version of twister in the Kirkhof Center for Sibs and Kids Weekend Friday, Jan. 29, 2016.

Emily Doran

Grand Valley State University students and their families will join together this upcoming weekend, thanks to the Laker Traditions Team and the Office of Student Life. GVSU’s annual Family Day will include a variety of sports-themed activities Saturday, Sept. 17, which will be followed by the more arts-based Great Laker Weekend from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.

In order to highlight the weekend’s football game against Northern Michigan University, the traditional Family Weekend has been rescheduled around the GVSU athletics calendar and condensed into one activity-filled day this year, with some events spilling over into the Great Laker Weekend later this month.

“In order for us to have the football game be involved, we pushed (Family Day) up because there is no football game that weekend we normally have it, which is the last weekend in September,” said Caity Hamaker, Laker Traditions Team member and co-coordinator of Family Day.

In keeping with these scheduling changes, the activities for Family Day have also changed location.

“In the past, we held our activities in Kirkhof, but this year, to go with the sports theme of ‘The Grand Score,’ we decided to move our activities to the Fieldhouse,” said Dan Ziegenfelder, Laker Traditions programming chair.

Given these scheduling and location changes, Ziegenfelder said it’s difficult to predict how many people will attend Family Day.

“In years past we have had a good turnout at the events, but due to the event being earlier this year, it is hard to tell what the turnout (will) be,” he said. “We are confident (it) will be good.”

There will be a variety of activities available to entertain and engage students and their families prior to the football game against NMU, including carnival and sports games, inflatables, a tailgate and music. In addition, GVSU President Thomas Haas and Louie the Laker will make special guest appearances.

Hamaker believes this family-oriented tradition is important because it gives students the opportunity to show their families “why we love this school, why we are Lakers (and) why we’re excited to be here.” Students sharing their Laker identity and pride with their families is a vital part of this annual tradition.

“We just think it’s very important to show them this is our school, this is what we’re proud to be,” Hamaker said.

Family Day also gives students the opportunity to spend time with loved ones who may live far away from GVSU.

“This tradition is important because it allows Lakers and their families to experience a Grand Valley adventure and help cure some students who are feeling a little homesick,” Ziegenfelder said.

In order to address the more limited time frame available for events this year, some events typically associated with Family Weekend will be incorporated into Great Laker Weekend instead. For example, the Renaissance Faire will be happening on the Kirkhof Lawn, complete with sword-fighting demonstrations, face painting and venders selling their wares. In addition, ArtPrize will be in full swing in Grand Rapids.

For more information about Family Day or the Great Laker Weekend, visit or