Sept. 13, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS - Shades of University of Notre Dame blue, gold and green stood out among a kaleidoscope of colors that swept across the Georgia Street/Pan Am Plaza area in downtown Indianapolis hours before the Fighting Irish kicked off at Lucas Oil Stadium in Saturday's Shamrock Series game against Purdue.
The 2014 version of Notre Dame's Shamrock Series took over center stage in Indianapolis, and Irish fans enjoyed a festive celebration that showcased the University's excellence in academics, service and athletics.
On Friday, more than 5,000 fans turned out for the Notre Dame football pep rally at one end of Georgia Street. More than 1,200 runners participated in the Shamrock Series 5K run that began the Saturday listing of events, followed by Mass at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in downtown Indianapolis. Football fans brought Irish vibrancy to Indiana's capital city as the countdown to kickoff continued--and more than 50,000 of them wandered through the Georgia Street fan fest during the course of the afternoon.
"The Shamrock Series has activated our city," Indiana Sports Corporation spokesman John Dedman said. "Notre Dame has made this so much more than an athletic event. The university has been involved in service projects in the city, and there have been academic events, and the city has embraced it. It's just been great for Indianapolis."
For Dave Williams Sr., Dave Williams Jr., and Michael Williams, of Bellmawr, N.J., the Shamrock Series meant continuing a special family tradition.
"The Shamrock Series is a great chance for me to get together with my dad and brother and plan a trip where it's just the three of us," Dave Williams Jr. said. "As soon as this one is over, we're planning for next year in Boston, and we're planning for two years from now in San Antonio. The Shamrock Series is really a lot of fun for us.
"I might not have ever come to Indianapolis if it wasn't for the Shamrock Series," Williams Jr. continued. "You don't see other teams doing something this special. It's a chance for fans like us to see different parts of the country."
Dave Williams Jr. said his passion for Notre Dame football led him to go see the Fighting Irish play in Ireland. From there, the family tradition of attending Shamrock Series games began.
Michael Williams said the Shamrock Series is the main football event for his family.
"We don't get to games in South Bend, so this is our chance to see the Irish," he said. "The great thing about the Shamrock Series is we get out and get to see different cities. It's nice. You see different things, different people. It's a chance to see Notre Dame fans from all over and have a good time. It's become our family tradition."
Notre Dame's Shamrock Series started in 2009 and has taken the Irish to iconic sports venues including Yankee Stadium, Soldier Field and the Alamodome. Next season, the Irish take over Fenway Park in Boston.
Joseph Hearne of Chicago said that Saturday's football game was his first Shamrock Series experience.
"I'm here for my dad (David)," Hearne said. "He was an avid Notre Dame fan. He didn't miss a Notre Dame game for 40 years, and he passed away this past spring, so this is for him."
Hearne soaked in the Shamrock Series pageantry during a pre-game concert and marveled at the electricity the event generated.
"This is fabulous," said Hearne. "I'm not going to miss a Shamrock Series event from this one forward. The venue is great. I understand this area was made for the Super Bowl, but I think Notre Dame is going to re-name it. It's a great time here in Indianapolis."
For the Williams family, proximity was a big plus for the Shamrock Series in Indianapolis.
"Indianapolis is a great venue for this," Michael Williams said. "I love having the stadium right in the city. It's a lot more enjoyable. Our hotel is one block away, and we're having a great time at the tailgate party, and then we just walk one more block over to the stadium. It couldn't be any better than this."
Alec Torigian of Minneapolis was manning Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education table at the Shamrock Series version of the Irish Green on the Georgia Street/Pan Am Plaza. Torigian, who earned a Notre Dame master's degree through the ACE program in 2013 and teaches in Mobile, Ala., said the Shamrock Series offered Notre Dame academics an important presence in Indianapolis.
"We're seeing a widespread effect of people being excited to talk about the Catholic schools that they went to, or they teach at, or they support," Torigian said. "We've had a number of people interested in our principal-training program, or learning about teaching, or learning about our leadership program.
"We've talked to a lot of people about service to school communities and the academic program. I think this is a key piece of the Shamrock Series. It's hard to think of Notre Dame without thinking of all of the important pieces. It's amazing to see people celebrating athletics, academics and service, and to see people doing great work to make things better in a community that matters."
Saturday morning's 5K run became a chance for Notre Dame vice president and associate provost Dan Myers to finished second in his age group in the Shamrock 5K and continue a remarkable streak. Saturday marked the 956th consecutive day Myers has run three miles or more, a span that now runs more than two-and-a-half years.
Myers has continued the streak despite getting hit by a car--and he even had to run in the Boston airport one night after a flight home to South Bend was cancelled. More recently, he's been battling an Achilles injury. Myers plans to run 1,000 straight days and then evaluate whether to keep the streak going.
As the Circle City evolves into the Championship City, Notre Dame's Shamrock Series carved out a distinct place in the fabled Indianapolis sports landscape.
"Anytime we can host an event that brings people and a national audience to Indianapolis, it's very special," Dedman said. "We've been extremely excited to work with Notre Dame on the Shamrock Series.
"The Shamrock Series game has meant a lot to Indianapolis. There has been a virtual sellout of downtown hotel rooms. We would love to host this event as often as we could. Lucas Oil Stadium is a marquee venue, and obviously Notre Dame brings as many fans and as many eyeballs to Indianapolis as anybody else."
-- By Curt Rallo, special correspondent