AREP volunteers get real world experience volunteering at Hob Nobble Gobble


Members of the registered student organization Association of Recreation and Event Professionals hand out decorative necklaces to guests at the Hob Nobble Gobble event in Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan, on Nov. 17, 2017.

Men in tuxedos dine on pink and blue cotton candy. Women in designer gowns and high heels indulge in greasy French fries. Children of all ages dance and play on a red carpet that lines the pathway between bumper cars and a brightly lit fun house.

“Watch your step,” volunteers warn as guests balance their drinks and their kids, while carefully stepping down the narrow cement stairway of Ford Field stadium. At the bottom of the 88-step descent, a whimsical, holiday themed carnival awaits where more volunteers hand out free gifts and girl scout cookies. 

This annual black-tie fundraiser, Hob Nobble Gobble, is an event where the contradictory casualness of a carnival meets an upscale dinner party, hosted by Santa Claus.

For the third year in a row, 30 Central Michigan University students were given the chance to volunteer at Hob Nob Friday Nov. 17 through their involvement with the registered student organization Association of Recreation and Event Professionals (AREP). 

CMU is the only school that helps produce this event said AREP president J.D. Copus. The RSO is given the opportunity due to an inside connection made by a professor in the Recreation Parks and Leisure Services Department and the Parade Company, the main sponsor of Hob Nob. 

For these future event planners, the event allows them to experience how a large-scale event is produced by being present and involved before, during and after. As far as volunteering through AREP goes, this is the largest attended event of the members according to Copus. It is something they look forward to all semester. 

“You can definitely see all the work and all the behind the scenes stuff that goes into such a large-scale event,” Copus said. “So, it gives you an idea of what you’ll be doing in the real world.”

The volunteers arrived in Detroit around 2:30 p.m., scarfed down a provided turkey dinner, quickly changed into black Parade Company t-shirts, and were then given a tour of the venue by Hannah Deacon, the production manager. 

Among the flashy carnival rides and game stands, gourmet dessert tables display bite-size pastries and chocolate covered strawberries. An endless amount of seafood, street fair, and chef prepared entrees were provided near the music stage, where there were live performances by an 8-piece cover band, Your Generation, an American-pop boyband, Why Don’t We, and DJ Karriem Riggins. 

Before the event, the AREP volunteers helped by unpacking boxes of free giveaway gifts and  displaying them at various "punch stations" set throughout the venue. Hot wheels, baseball hats, cookies and stuffed dragons were included among the items that the volunteers would help pass out to attendees throughout the night. 

Canton senior Paige Philips greets an attendee of the Hob Nobble Gobble event in Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan, Nov. 17, 2017.

By 8 p.m. Ford Field was busy with families and people of all varieties, elegantly dressed and enjoying the lighthearted games and entertainment. The AREP volunteers were assigned various positions such as stair greeters, dance floor, and at least one member helped man the elevator all night. 

Niles junior Brayden Swathwood enjoyed his first year volunteering at Hob Nob, handing out light up Christmas tree necklaces to guests. He said he loved seeing the look of enjoyment on everyone’s faces, and he even had one young girl tell him that he was her favorite person.

“We are the people business -- we want to make people happy,” Swathwood said. “Our whole idea of event management is people, so the more you care about people, the better outcome you’ll have for the event.”

Saline senior Ashlee Harmon spent the night on the dance floor, admiring the guests' attire and prompting them to dance, while also handing out festive sunglasses and plush roses. She views this opportunity as a time to network. 

“It’s cool just talking to people who have been volunteering at this event, or who help put it on,” Harmon said. “I love just hearing about their stories and networking.”

By the end of the night, the volunteers’ cheeks were sore from smiling, and they were ready to make the long drive home to Mount Pleasant. 

“It’s always fun to see the whole Ford Field transform, and in an hour, this is all going to be taken down and back to a football field soon enough.” Deacon said. “It’s pretty amazing the transformation both ways.”