November 14, 2011
City abuzz with Cortaca activity
Students celebrate annual contest between SUNY Cortland and Ithaca
Scott Conroe/contributing photographer
Young people gather on and around a house on Groton Avenue on Saturday afternoon, as SUNY Cortland students and their friends partied all day.
Cortaca Jug weekend arrived Friday night with a burst of parties and bar activity downtown, as SUNY Cortland students reveled in the annual football game between their college and Ithaca College.
Bars opened at 8 a.m. Saturday and parties went on all afternoon and into the night.
The revelry surrounding the game has grown since 1988, when the two teams were undefeated and the crowd at SUNY Cortland’s former football field, Carl “Chugger” Davis Field, was so huge that people stood three-deep around the field.
Saturday was sunny and temperatures in the 60s.
Young people sat on roofs and porches, shouting and calling to friends, and swarmed through downtown and moving in packs from party to party. City police were kept busy with all sorts of calls, from noise complaints to people needing medical attention.
Many of the young people wore red shirts with antiIthaca slogans, with words spelled to hint at obscenity without actually saying it.
One shirt showed the slogan “The Biggest Little Game in the Nation,” a phrase coined by a Sports Illustrated writer years ago, across a map of the U.S.
There was one other dimension Friday night: a six-hour non-alcoholic event at the Interfaith Center on Calvert Street, starting at 9 p.m.
Cortaca Mug, in its fourth year, offered bands playing, raffles giving away a digital camera and an iPad and dozens of other items donated by local merchants, games like Yahtze and Scattergories, and nothing more potent than soda, cider and coffee.
About 100 students were there at 10 p.m., sitting at tables, munching popcorn and chips. Some of them were residence life staff, taking a break before a weekend when residence halls could double in population. Some were musical theater majors who had to remain low-key because they had a concert of “Les Miserables” music to perform Sunday.
“The appeal is a chance to hang out and have fun,” said Vicki Johnson, the college’s Protestant chaplain, organizer of the event. “We got about 20 people the first year, then last year we had about 100 per hour. Students can’t drink here but they can find a warm place to sober up for a while.”
Johnson said she started Cortaca Mug after joining the college staff and discovering that students who did not want to drink on Cortaca weekend “either went home or stayed in their rooms.” Sophomore Mariann Sillah, a resident advisor, said the event was a nice alternative to the student crowds.
The next morning, a limousine parked on Groton Avenue for 12 SUNY Cortland alumni — many of them former Red Dragons football players — headed for the noon game in Ithaca. They were leaving at 8:40 a.m.
SUNY Cortland won the game, 27-3. It was the 53rd Cortaca Jug game.
Houses on streets around campus were packed, as students hosted young alumni and friends from other colleges. Over on Lincoln Avenue, a house full of fifth-year seniors were hosting several friends who had graduated in May.
“We all lived on the same floor as freshmen, in Hendrick Hall, and we stayed friends,” said fifth-year senior Matthew Bilello, one of the house’s residents. “There are about 30 of us.”
SUNY Cortland student Gary Kern, who was at Bilello’s house, said he had three friends visiting him from Loyola University outside Baltimore. The three — Greg Cerchione, Cian McGeever and Tom Marcotte — are sophomores from New York City who went to high schools that are rivals in sports, but are now friends.
“This is our first Cortaca,” Cerchione said. “We drove seven hours to get here.”
Down Lincoln Avenue, SUNY Cortland student Max Raterman and Tompkins Cortland Community College student Corey Ward, who share a house, had about 10 friends staying with them. A dozen or so other friends were staying nearby. All of them were from Whitney Point, where Raterman and Ward grew up.
Two houses down, eight students were hosting about 40 friends. Logan Spaulding, a Cazenovia College student, stood on a Groton Avenue porch with three friends from home — Copenhagen, in Lewis County — while they waited for a friend from SUNY Cortland to come back down the street.
“This is my second Cortaca,” he said. “How could you not come to Cortland for this?”
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