LAFAYETTE — Thousands dressed primarily in red and white University of Louisiana at Lafayette school colors streamed into the Cajundome on Sunday afternoon, fueled by the comfort of air conditioning and the prospect of a new era in the school’s football program.
“We have our season tickets, because it’s a year of change,” said Mary Anne Chadderdon, who was among those waiting with husband Thomas for the facility’s doors to open for annual Fan Day activities.
Chadderdon, of Lafayette, said she is anticipating a more competitive football season under the direction of head coach Mark Hudspeth, a former Mississippi State assistant hired in December by ULL.
“Hudspeth’s been working those boys’ butts off since the day he got here, so they will play the full four quarters this season,” she said.
Fan Day attendees moved from the smothering outdoor heat and through the Cajundome’s turnstiles, where they were offered autograph books; full-sized posters with football, women’s soccer and volleyball schedules; and red T-shirts.
For nearly 45 minutes, fans mingled underneath the building’s huge loud speakers that blared hip-hop and contemporary rock music.
Some took pictures on the floor of the Cajundome before they were seated to watch the introductions of players and video productions featuring the three sports.
Afterward players and coaches signed autographs and posed for photographs.
For the first time, the Fan Day event was held away from Cajun Field, where the team plays its home football games.
“Anytime you hold an event in south Louisiana in an outdoor facility, you’re really rolling the dice with the heat and the possibility of a thunderstorm,” interim athletic director Scott Farmer said. “This event has grown so much, it warranted a wider venue.”
Carl Toups, of Erath, and his wife Mica attended the event with their children: Raleigh, 14; Ambre, 10; Avery, 7; and Phillip, 3 — something they do annually.
Holding the event inside instead of at the stadium just didn’t seem the same, Carl Toups said.
“We come every year, but I would much rather it be outside,” Toups said. “I understand what they are trying to do, with no heat and all, but we liked going down on the football field and going out and taking family pictures.”
Veronica Edwards, of Jeanerette, said she is not a football fan, but she decided to see what Fan Day is all about after bringing 18-year-old daughter Julia Wilkerson to ULL for the start of fall classes on Monday.
“I’m surprised at this outpouring of support for athletics,” said Edwards, a school bus driver and casino employee.
“I didn’t know anything about what is going on, but I decided to get over here since my daughter and the other students were showing up today,” Edwards said.
Blake Chachere, of Lafayette, and friend Eric Trosclair, of St. Martinville, are avid Ragin’ Cajun fans.
Chachere, who drives around Cajun Field on a riding lawn mower before home games, was dressed in a helmet and shoulder pads while Trosclair donned a bicycle helmet in red and black with a flashing light attached on top.
“I guess we’re the ultimate Cajun fans,” said Trosclair, who created his own website dedicated to ULL fans, where they can blog and upload pictures.
“We’re here to show it’s getting more intense now that the season’s here, so we decided to dress the part,” Chachere said.
ULL opens the season Sept. 3 at Oklahoma State.