Students dressed as bananas, cowboys and giraffes lined the sidewalks outside of bars in Chauncey Village hours before kickoff Saturday morning, later than Breakfast Club’s traditional 7 a.m. start time but early nonetheless.
The Saturday morning pre-game event — which has been a tradition since the 1980s — was observed by a number of bars in the area, including Harry’s Chocolate Shop, Brothers Bar & Grill, Where Else, The Tap and State 19. Donning outrageous wear is a necessity, with some of the bars holding costume contests.
“Yeah, I’m dressed as a chicken right now,” Dominik Rafinski, a senior in the Polytechnic Institute, said as he stood in front of Where Else next to other students dressed as barnyard animals. “We went to Walmart, and we all kinda did these animal onesie things.”
Students from every corner of campus came together to celebrate the return of Breakfast Club, a tradition that this year seemed imperiled by restrictions on large gatherings.
“I think that now that football is on people finally have something to look forward to,” said Cameron McGugan, a senior in the College of Engineering.
Since the pandemic temporarily brought sports to a halt, he said, the energy around campus on weekends has been more somber than in previous years.
Aaron Cruz, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, said the return of college football has brought back a degree of togetherness among the student body.
“This year I haven’t been able to see everyone that I’d normally see,” Cruz said. “This will help move people together.”
To one peering out onto Chauncey Hill at 10 a.m., the familiar thrill of game day was undeniable. Despite breakfast-clubber Clare Behringer’s senior year in the Krannert School of Management being a “downer,” she agreed that the line outside Harry’s was proof enough that with the first game day came a revival of quintessential college spirit.
For some students, Breakfast Club was the main event, and the game was the sideshow.
Behringer, along with her friend Olivia Horowitz, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and another first-timer to Breakfast Club, said football took a backseat to the festivities.
“We’re just gonna see where the wind takes us,” Behringer said. “We don’t really watch the game. It’s all in the spirit of, ‘Purdue!’ Y’know?”
Behringer and Horowitz, who both wore masks, were in the minority. Virtually none of the students in the line for Where Else practiced social distancing or wore face masks. In front of Harry’s most wore masks but did not socially distance.
“At least at the bars they make you practice some guidelines, like staying in the booths,” Horowitz said. “Once I sit down I feel safe, but the lines are dangerous.”
The colorful pregaming ritual was met with swift backlash on social media.
Twitter users questioned whether the Purdue pledge had “expired” in response to several photos of the long lines crowding the front of Harry’s and Where Else.
Others expressed their disappointment in students, and speculated on whether the pregame could serve as a potential super-spreader event that ends the academic year.
Eighty-two confirmed cases were recorded in Tippecanoe County Saturday, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
In the hours preceding the game, Purdue fans remained confident in the Boilermakers’ chances against Iowa, despite the absence of head coach Jeff Brohm and star sophomore wide receiver Rondale Moore.
“Obviously Moore is just a huge X factor for the football team, so it’s gonna be tough without him,” said Brandon Stark, a senior in College of Engineering.
Additional reporting contributed by city reporter Maggie Piercy.