Lope families show off their purple pride for GCU's Family Weekend

Reece Gerhart sings Justin Bieber’s “Baby” during a karaoke challenge Friday night during the Lope Family Olympics on the Quad. The event was part of GCU’s Family Weekend.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

The campus bled purple all weekend as families decked out Grand Canyon University with their best purple swag for Family Weekend. Havocs and students go crazy with school spirit on game days, but proud dads, moms, siblings and grandparents take that school spirit to a whole new level.

Parent and Family Programs prepared a detailed itinerary spanning Friday morning to Sunday afternoon designed for families to get to know the school. From campus tours to an academic fair, mock lecture, Trivia Night, Student Market and performances, parents got a glimpse of student life and what it’s really like to be a Lope.

Team members toss bean bags in a game of tic-tac-toe during the Lope Family Olympics.

“The main goal is for families to experience the culture of GCU, to feel what that is for their students and to be a part of that,” said Robyn Hord, director of Parent and Family Programs. “This is usually the time students start getting homesick with the semester being halfway. It’s a great time to get a visit from home.” 

Over 5,000 Lope families came to see their children for this year’s Family Weekend.

Some toured their children's residence hall apartments, some toured classrooms pretending to be prospective students, but when Friday night rolled around, everyone swarmed the Quad for human size tic-tac-toe and foosball because nothing speaks family bonding like Family Olympics.

Lope Shop Visual Merchandising Manager Briana Gonzales (center) draws the winning ticket for the Thunder Bolt drawing with Thunder and Parent and Family Programs Director Robyn Hord.

Neon hoola hoops were set up in the shape of tic-tac-toe in the center of the field. Bean bags were distributed to six teams formed based off home states. Whoever was able to get their bean bags in a straight line first won the game.

Matching T-shirts, knee-high socks, face paint and bandanas had families in their true Havoc spirit. Loud cheers and chants left the rest of campus questioning if this was still just a family game night or a surprise GCU basketball home game, considering the high energy thundering through campus.  

Salli Jones (left) and daughter Samantha Jones sing ABBA's “Mamma Mia” during the Lope Family Olympics karaoke challenge.

But this was just the beginning of the hype.

With lyrics plastered on the jumbotron, speakers turned to the highest volume and flashing disco lights, this karaoke night quickly turned into a concert of old-school songs as families shamelessly screamed at the top of their lungs. Voice cracking and shortness of breath did not stop these Lope families.

Samantha Jones, a senior graphic design major, and her mom, Salli Jones, stole the show when they paired up for a duet of ABBA's classic song, "Mamma Mia."

“The energy is through the roof. The atmosphere is crazy. There is so much involvement with the families. This is our second Family Weekend, and we are definitely coming back next year,” said Salli Jones, a GCU mom from Yuma, Arizona.

 The crazy atmosphere carried over to the next day.

Family members take part in a water balloon fight Saturday during Family Weekend.

As the infamous Phoenix heat kept rising Saturday afternoon, there was no better way to cool off than a family water balloon fight. Student volunteers could not fill those water buckets fast enough as the crowd kept getting bigger. 

Located on the lawn between the Student Advising Services Building and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the water balloon fight was powered by water buckets filled with mini neon sponges lined up across the field. Families were divided in four corners, where they eagerly waited for the music beat to drop, which would kick start the game.

But rules were meant to be broken anyway. Some of the participants were too excited to wait for the next round, and they started their own water balloon fight as soon as they saw the buckets fill up. Laughter and screaming replaced the sound of music, and the plain grass quickly resembled a flower field as the colorful sponges were flying and dropping everywhere.

“Families love that the water balloons are actually small sponges instead of balloons because that means they won’t break and they can keep the game going longer,” said Madeleine Emmons, a freshman student volunteer for Family Weekend events.

Nine-year-old Jocelyn Fiedor takes part in the Family Weekend Lil’ Lopes Cheer & Dance Clinic on Saturday.

One mom took the whole bucket and poured it on her daughter, while a dad on the other side of the lawn stood over his kids, squeezing out the water from sponges on their heads as they kept laughing and screaming, “More, more!” Even the student volunteers couldn’t resist from playing as they joined in on the fun with the families.

Sandals squeaking and leaving a water trial behind them, families walked away drenched and refreshed.

But they didn’t stay cool for too long.

Family members learn country line dancing steps during the Lope Family Tailgate on Saturday.

Country boots, cowboy hats, denim jeans and flannels marked the attire for the next big event Saturday evening. Everyone gathered back on the Quad for a Lopes hoedown throwdown. 

Dance skills did not matter because GCU’s Line Dancing Club was there to teach attendees all the right moves. Everyone was up on their feet as soon as the music started. "Cotton Eye Joe," "Electric Slide" and "Footloose" had families two-stepping, sliding, pivoting and clapping the night away.

Thunder Bolt drawing winner Eric Jones grabs plush basketballs on his 30-second shopping spree in the Lope Shop on Saturday.

“I love it here. I have had so much fun. I am definitely considering GCU as my future college,” said Belle Greenfield, a GCU sister from Boise, Idaho.

Even when the big crowd split, families formed their own dance circles and kept the party going.

People were eating, relaxing, sitting down and laying on the grass. It was a classic Fourth-of-July celebration in the middle of October.

GCU's Staff Writer Izabela Fogarasi can be reached at [email protected]

Related content:

GCU YouTube: GCU Homecoming Family Weekend recap

GCU News: Homecoming Family Weekend makes big impression


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