This October, the Office of Parent & Family Relations will host Gonzaga University's first in-person Fall Family Weekend since the onset of COVID-19.
The planners for the three-day event, which starts on Friday, is spearheaded by an undergraduate student and spans far beyond GU’s campus. Skylar Jimenez, who is set to graduate at the end of 2021, is the official Fall Family Weekend Coordinator. She began organizing the event in January.
Fall Family Weekend is packed with social events and opportunities to better understand the offerings of the university. Friday’s events include a comedy show, a movie showing, a family social following check-in and academic, engagement and study abroad fairs.
Saturday is a celebration of GU’s community. The morning events scheduled are academic sessions and a Bowl & Pitcher hike with GU Outdoors.
Scheduled for the afternoon and evening is a family-friendly beer garden, a charity fun run and cornhole tournament, a pep rally in partnership with local businesses and food trucks, men’s and women’s soccer games and Numerica’s Kraziness in the Kennel.
For smaller attendees, Saturday’s offerings include inflatable bouncy houses and an obstacle course in addition to special games geared toward children at Numerica’s Kraziness in the Kennel.
Kraziness in the Kennel is often the only opportunity for Spokane residents and GU families to experience GU basketball. The event, which begins at 1 p.m., has historically included a scrimmage, a 3-point shooting contest and a dunk contest.
Following Kraziness, at 8 p.m. on Saturday night, the Sophomore Family Coffeehouse will provide an opportunity for sophomore families to connect with one another. This event was inspired by the GU Student Body Association’s recurring coffeehouse open mic night every Wednesday in the John J. Hemmingson Center Hemm Den.
"[Family members of current sophomores] were forced to drop kids off and leave, which is really unfortunate and we are all very sympathetic to that and understand that a lot of students and families have struggled to find community here at Gonzaga,” Jimenez said.
At the Sophomore Family Coffee House, attendees can expect student performances, a raffle and hopefully a chance to catch up on finding community at GU.
“Some of [the family members] had the opportunity to maybe go to school at Gonzaga," Jimenez said. "Some didn’t, so you just get immersed in what it is like to be a student… It’s like their own little looking glass into what life is at Gonzaga.”
Sunday is relatively relaxed, with a Fall Family Weekend Mass and family departure rounding out the weekend.
During the weekend, the Office of Parent & Family Relations aims to not only provide families a glimpse of life on campus, but also an introduction to the city of Spokane.
Partnerships with No-Li Brewery, which is located just a few blocks off campus, and several local wineries were important for Jimenez to emphasize during Fall Family Weekend.
“We’re trying to immerse our families in the Spokane culture, because it is so hidden a lot of the time…. food and beverages are actually a big part of the Spokane culture,” Jimenez said.
Even with the special occasion of Fall Family Weekend, the partnership between No-Li Brewery and GU is nothing new. No-Li’s Marketing Director Jack Bryant said that it feels like they have been partnering for a long time.
“St. Aloysius’s Church sponsored our family from Naples, Italy, to Spokane in 1917," Bryant said. "Since this time, our family has been involved with St. Aloysius Church, GU community events and a number of family members, and countless No-Li employees have graduated from GU. No-Li and GU have a spirit of giving and supporting our community together."
No-Li has partnered with GU during Fall Family Weekend and other events for the past decade. This year, there is a greater saliency to the event.
“No-Li craft beer culture is centered around community giving and celebration," Bryant said. "COVID had us pull together and find new and creative ways to support each other."
During Fall Family weekend, there are certain events that require additional tickets or registration. The "60x60" Dance Performance, a vocal performance, musical composition performance, Rudolf Fitness Center Family Cornhole Tournament and the aforementioned ZagNation: Miles for Miracles Fun Run can be registered for on the GU website or through email communications from the Office of Parent & Family Relations.
Aside from events, however, Fall Family Weekend provides something invaluable to many families: a sense that their child is growing and adjusting to their new environment.
“It kind of just provides you that sigh of relief that 'oh my gosh my kid’s okay,'” Jimenez said.
Now a senior, Jimenez recalls what Fall Family Weekend meant to her own family during her freshman year.
“They get to see the young adult that their student is becoming… they get to see the lives that we’ve created," Jimenez said. "I’m a biology major, so I was involved in the research fair[my first year] that my parents actually got to go and see and they got to go see my peers present on research that they had done."
In addition to community, an attitude of giving remains integral to the mission of GU, as well as the businesses Fall Family Weekend partners with. Jimenez is currently organizing a donation drive that will take place during the weekend with the help of the Center for Community Engagement.
According to Bryant, No-Li Brewery is excited to be donating 100% of all beer and seltzer sales at Fall Family Weekend to a GU student organization.
A small-town, small-school hospitality feel married with large impact and big goals is something Fall Family Weekend wishes to direct its attention to. A goal which would not be possible without Jimenez’s core team and the many Parent & Family Crew student volunteers assisting with the event.
“Parent & Family Crew… we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them to be honest," Jimenez said. "They’re the most amazing student volunteers in the world."
Students Jordan Cruz and Brandon Cote are Jimenez’s partners on the core team. Cote serves as the student leader coordinator, supervising student volunteers on the Parent & Family Crew, while Cruz assists Jimenez with the logistical aspects of New Student Orientation and Fall Family weekend, such as planning the academic socials and corresponding with the GU Event Service Team.
To support the work that Jimenez and her team have invested in this event, families are invited to purchase tickets, which are available on the Office of Parent & Family Relations website. For questions and concerns, or to ask about how to get involved, call the office at (509) 313-5399, or visit the office in the lower level of the Crosby Student Center.