Gator Growl gears up for 2007

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will be buzzing with emotion, but it won't be on a Saturday. And it won't be because of a Gator game.


Get ready to Growl


  • What: Rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and comedian Frank Caliendo headline annual homecoming performance

  • When: 7 p.m. Friday

  • Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

  • Tickets: $13 students, $20 general public; University Box Office and Gate 13 of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
  • The 84th annual Gator Growl, "the world's largest student-run pep rally," will begin at 7 p.m. Friday - with a few different twists.

    Because of Verizon Wireless's sponsorship, the show is officially titled "Gator Growl 2007: Nation of Champions, presented by Verizon Wireless."

    For the past 83 years, Gator fans have filled the stadium to watch performers, student-produced skits and guest speakers.

    One tradition, however, will be broken. Unlike previous years, the stage will be in the north end zone instead of the south.

    Gator Growl spokeswoman Anna Murphy said the relocation of the stage saved Growl about $30,000.

    This year, the electrical gear will be hooked up to the stadium's internal public address system, which will save money that otherwise would be spent on an external system needed in the south end zone, Murphy said.

    This year's theme, Nation of Champions, recognizes UF's three recent national championships and academic excellence.

    In line with the theme, UF men's basketball coach Billy Donovan will introduce the 2007-2008 men's basketball team. Urban Meyer, the head football coach, will also make an appearance with the senior football players.

    Another change for this years Growl: Meyer's wife, Shelley, will host the evening.

    "She embodies Gator spirit, and she is very active in the community," Murphy said.

    The Gator Growl staff, made up of about 600 students, has worked to keep the event family-friendly.

    Rock 'n' roll band Lynyrd Skynyrd and impressionist Frank Caliendo will provide the headlining entertainment.

    Murphy said Lynyrd Skynyrd's classic music shouldn't offend attendees, and Caliendo's humor is not crude.

    "He appeals to the masses and is cross-generational," Murphy said. "He will make people of all ages laugh."

    There will be a student-produced comedy sketch that will touch on pop culture and poke fun at rival schools.

    "It will be entertaining, but not too dangerous for little ears," said Sara Tanner, director of tickets for Homecoming and Gator Growl.

    A fireworks display and the crowning of the 2007 Homecoming king and queen also will be a part of the night's events.

    Because Growl wanted to reach all branches of The Gator Nation, free tickets were made available to those who share Growl's birth year, Tanner said.

    Regardless of whether they actually attended the first Gator Growl, 84-year-olds just needed to bring identification of their age to the Florida Blue Key office to get a free ticket to Friday night's Growl.

    Though fewer than 10 people got free tickets, tickets to the general public are selling quickly, Tanner said.

    Tanner did not have an estimate yet of how many have sold, but last year about 40,000 people attended Growl.

    Murphy said she thinks this year will draw the biggest turnout because the talent appeals to a broad audience.

    Candi Goldbaum, a UF sophomore, bought tickets for her father and 15-year-old brother.

    "I am so excited I can sing along with a band that my brother and I loved listening to when we were younger," Goldbaum said. "We just can't wait."

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