Susan "Sue" Owen '94 December 22, 2017 11:31 AM updated: August 14, 2018 11:56 AM
Pretty much as soon as A&M football games are scheduled, Association of Former Students staff start work on finding locations for away-game Midnight Yell.
Sometimes, those conversations can be pretty entertaining.
When the Aggies went to Pasadena earlier this year, it was the first time in more than a decade A&M had played in California.
“The lady at City Hall said, ‘You want to get together a bunch of people to yell at midnight?,’” recalls Ryan Bugai ’17.
He and Amy Hale ’10, as Club Programs coordinators for The Association, have set up Midnight Yells this fall from Florida to Louisiana and California to Tennessee, securing permits and booking the yell leaders’ hotel rooms, setting up equipment… and doing a lot of explaining.
Hale says, “The conversation can go so many different directions. Trying to explain Midnight Yell to someone who’s not from Texas and doesn’t know much about A&M is quite comical.
“I wish I could see the faces of people that I call for venues… ‘Yeah, we could have like 500 to a thousand people yelling. We only need to yell for probably 20 minutes, and it’s going to be at midnight.’
“Because that’s not a normal request that people get in places outside of College Station. You know? They’re like, ‘Why can’t you do it earlier?’ And I’m like, ‘The event’s called Midnight Yell; it has to happen at midnight.’ And they say, ‘Well, do you have to yell?’ ‘Well, it’s called Midnight Yell.’ That’s part of the job, is having this conversation with an event venue. ‘There’s going to be kids there, too; it needs to be kid-friendly.’ They don’t understand.”
Aggie terms may require a little translation.
“Sometimes they’re like, ‘What are you yelling?’ And I’m like, ‘We’re doing our yells… and we might say “beat the hell out of” whatever your local mascot is, but we mean it with all of the sincerity in our heart… we’re being as nice as we can.”
The fact that the event is so short can puzzle outsiders, too. “Yell Practice itself lasts about 20 minutes,” says Josh Reinbolt ’99, director of Former Student Programs for The Association. “But we tell people when we’re planning that we’ll need about an hour, because people will show up 30 to 45 minutes early, and then it takes us another 20 minutes or so to take down after the event, depending on how much setup we have to do.”
For the 2017 Belk Bowl, Association staffers navigated some city noise ordinances and found a site at the EpiCentre entertainment/shopping/dining complex in uptown Charlotte, N.C.
On Dec. 28, the Whisky River sports bar will be Aggie HQ and also host Midnight Yell. The next day, nearby Flight Beer Garden agreed to open early, at 9 a.m., to host Aggies before the midday kickoff, and will stay open through the game. Details: tx.ag/bowlgame
To help local officials and venue owners understand what to expect from Midnight Yell, Bugai and Hale send pictures and videos of past events.
In choosing sites, Reinbolt says, “We look for a venue that has a large capacity, because we don’t want to turn anyone away, that’s surrounded by some kind of nightlife — restaurants, bars — where people can congregate before Yell Practice that’s not going to charge people to go attend Yell.”
Free or at least cheap parking is a big plus. So is an outdoor gathering place (with no fire code limiting crowd size), because it’s hard to predict how many Aggies will come out. Crowds this year have ranged from 500 to 3,500.
Bugai says, “We try to have some kind of scenic background, like Fort Worth’s Stockyards are iconic, and Bo Diddley Plaza (in Gainesville, Fla.) is an amphitheater, so there was a stage.
“You’re playing off a lot of factors, like can we get the yell leaders elevated, is there room for the people we’re bringing, are there noise ordinances, all that sort of thing.”
The Association also books the yell leaders’ hotel rooms and pays for their stay.
In Pasadena, city staff were on board with hosting Yell at City Hall until the permitting process turned up an ordinance to which no exceptions could be found (barring amplified sound after 9 p.m.) “And so they pointed us over to Old Town Pasadena where they have different city ordinances, because they’re a bar district,” Bugai says.
The manager at Gainesville’s Bo Diddley Plaza had been concerned that he would have to charge for cleanup time after the event, Bugai says.
“At 12:30 he was like, ‘This is clean!’ I was like, ‘We’re Aggies. We’re going to leave your place clean.’”