Day and Night Owls
Student group makes signature event happen
KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 21, 2019) — As Kennesaw State senior Lee Oliver logged long work hours over the past week, he wasn’t just preparing Fifth Third Bank Stadium for the Owl-O-Ween hot-air balloon festival – he was gaining hands-on experience for a career he plans in venue management.
After three years as an equipment manager for the Owls football team, Oliver joined Night Owl Productions, the student group responsible for the day-to-day operations of events on Kennesaw State’s two campuses. Oliver, a sport management major, oversees a team of student employees as Night Owl’s lead of event logistics.
“In my major, the opportunities presented to you often are in the form of getting and learning from hands-on experience,” Oliver said. “Being able to work in an equipment room for three years and then transfer over to a leadership position for a stadium in the Atlanta area is a great opportunity – not only the work experience, but also the people you meet and the industry connections you make.”
Owl-O-Ween week is the largest endeavor of the year for Night Owl. About 175 students worked in nearly 450 shifts during the week of preparation and the two days of the festival, according to Erin Wylie, Night Owl staffing and administration coordinator.
“It’s inspiring to see that many students come together, work that many hours and be excited about what’s happening at their university,” Wylie said. “Our students are unbelievable. I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them to put on an event of this caliber and be part of the planning process from start to finish.”
The Night Owl students carried out a multitude of tasks during the week, ranging from running the stadium box office to moving and filling the water ballasts that keep the hot-air balloons in place on the ground. One of the larger endeavors happened Wednesday night when about 30 people laid down flooring to protect the stadium turf from the vehicles driven in by the balloon operators and vendors.
The flooring process lasted about five hours as the crew meticulously laid and connected nearly 400 interlocking panels of high-density plastic on the field. The Night Owls lived up to their name, finishing the job around 11 p.m.
Even so, Night Owl chief executive lead K.J. Hudson said, “It was definitely fun. We had music going. We had a lot of people come, and everybody was enjoying themselves.”
This was the third and final Owl-O-Ween for Hudson, who will graduate in December with a degree in integrative studies with an emphasis in venue management. He worked his way up through Night Owl to become the chief executive lead, overseeing the student leads of the organization’s 10 divisions.
“Night Owl really changed my life,” Hudson said. “I couldn’t be more fortunate to have them show me a new pathway, with venue management as a career. Night Owl and Kennesaw State have prepared me so well, and my bosses have put so much trust in me and given me so much responsibility, that I’m ready for the next step.”
Although Owl-O-Ween is over, the work doesn’t end for Night Owl. Owl-O-Ween week was sandwiched between two Kennesaw State home football weekends, when about one-third of Night Owl’s roughly 300 student employees work in some capacity such as running the box office, scanning tickets at the gates, ushering, manning the suites and operating the graphics for the video board. In addition, this Saturday’s football game will have a postgame concert by Zach Seabaugh.
Even on Owl-O-Ween weekend, Night Owl converted Fifth Third Bank Stadium for a sporting event the following day. Crews worked through the night, taking down all things Owl-O-Ween and preparing the stadium for a KSU women’s soccer game at noon on Sunday.
“We go from a big festival to a soccer game, and to see the changes the next day, it’s like the festival never happened,” Hudson said.
“It’s what we do. We love it,” Wylie said. “We’re happy to flip the stadium over so that the soccer team can be in their own house and have a great game. It’s our job to facilitate a great experience.”
Photography by Jason Getz with submissions by Night Owl Productions
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.