It’s getting close to the official kick-off of the University of Illinois football team’s “New Era” under new coach Tim Beckman. The first game of the Illini season is Saturday, Sept. 1.
While the product on the field remains to be seen — literally — it’s clear that Beckman, his staff and the athletic department are committed to making this team more accessible to fans, young and old alike.
Here’s a guide to ways your family can interact with the football Illini and be a part of the action this fall, all free:
Gameday Events: The Illini have seven home dates, including Sept. 1, Sept. 15, Sept. 22, Sept. 29, Oct. 27, Nov. 10, Nov. 17.
– Illini Walk: Illini Walk will start 2.5 hours prior to game time at the corner of First Street and Kirby Avenue. Led by the Marching Illini and Illini cheerleaders, the football team will walk through the Street Fest area down First Street to Irwin Drive, then along the north end of Memorial Stadium. Following the Illini Walk, the Marching Illini and Illini cheerleaders will perform briefly for tailgaters as Street Fest gets underway.
– Illini Street Fest: During each Illini Street Fest, a free, public concert will be held at the main stage on the corner of First and Irwin facing south. A different band will perform each game day prior to kickoff. Captain Rat and the Blind Rivets will be the featured band for the Sept. 1 opener against Western Michigan. In addition to the concert, Illini Street Fest will feature several family-friendly, free activities at each game, such as inflatable games, a mini golf course and face painting. Illinois athletic teams will make appearances and sign autographs at selected games. Vendors will also be available for fans to purchase food and drink.
– The University of Illinois football team will hold weekly youth football clinics on Thursday evenings this fall for kids in eighth grade and under. The events will run for one hour starting at 5:30 p.m., on Thursdays from Sept. 6 to Nov. 1 (except for Oct. 18). A different position coach and his group of Illini players will run each clinic, incorporating as many position-specific drills and situations as possible while focusing on general football skills.
No registration is required for the clinics. Parking will be available in the northwest lot of the Assembly Hall. Parents and children should enter the stadium through the tunnel on the south end of Memorial Stadium along Kirby Avenue.
– The annual parade and pep rally will be held on Friday, October 27, starting at 6 p.m.