STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (CBS) — Football is back in Happy Valley tomorrow. But it’s going to look very different when Penn State hosts Ohio State.
It’ll be different for fans but also for businesses who rely on home football games to survive.
Every autumn when the leaves change, Happy Valley comes alive with the echoes of seasons past.
“Football is a way of life up here,” one student said.
Only blue and white are constants.
“Everyone loves football here so it really makes everyone happy and makes them look forward to something,” Penn State freshman Mary Hoese said.
But this year is unlike any of the other 130-plus seasons of Nittany Lions football. Enthusiasm hasn’t waned but attendance will.
No fans will be in the stands Saturday, no tailgating, no gathering for long periods of time in Happy Valley.
“I’ll probably go to my friend’s apartment, watch the game and have fun with my friends,” Hoese said.
“We’ll still be out here full force and I think Ohio State will know we’re here,” senior Connor Adams said.
As excited as fans are for football to return, no one is happier than the businesses that line East College Avenue.
“Depressing probably would be the best word,” McClanahan’s manager Greg Hooper said.
Hooper runs McClanahan’s, a sell anything and everything PSU staple for years. He says COVID-19 nearly broke them with reduced hours, inventory, and overhead.
But they’re lucky. Not every shop on this block made it.
“It wasn’t easy and still hasn’t been. The people who were here over the summer shopping we got to know every day because we saw the same ones every day,” Hooper said.
“First of all, let’s describe 2020. 2020 should be a do-over,” said Jim Brown with the Penn State Creamery.
The Creamery at Penn State can’t wait for football and the fans who follow it.
“We do pre-packaged only. We have half gallons, we have pints, we have ice cream sandwiches,” Brown said.
What you won’t find are some famous cones, or congregating. They’ve limited operations and customers in their store and suggest trying the bittersweet mint.
That, and a win Saturday against Ohio State, should get the taste of the last eight months out.
“This brings us one step closer to being somewhat normal and to bring back something we haven’t had for a long time and that’s a reason to cheer for things,” Brown said.