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Penn State community gathers to celebrate Homecoming tradition of 'Guard the Lion Shrine'

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Gaurd the Lion Shrine handoff

Penn State ROTC members exchange arms with the next two guards during the Guard the Lion Shrine event following the Penn State Homecoming parade at the Lion Shrine on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021 in University Park, Pa. The event featured public figures from across the university as guest speakers, as well as live music and other activities.

The eve of Penn State’s homecoming weekend arrived — and so did the Nittany Lion’s pride of guards.

For the 54th year, Penn State’s Lion Ambassadors, Alumni Association and Army ROTC members organized the “Guard the Lion Shrine” event.

Subsequent to the Homecoming parade, families, students, alumni and community members alike gathered at the lion shrine for food, live entertainment and a night full of school spirit.

Per tradition, “Guard the Lion Shrine” is an event in which ROTC members stand by and keep a watchful eye on the lion shrine, protecting it from Homecoming rivals.

In 1996, Sue Paterno, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s wife, said she noticed a lack in school spirit as Penn State’s Homecoming football game against Syracuse approached. Paterno said she was trying to figure out how to “break this pattern of no noise” — then it hit her.

“I’ll paint the lion.”

Paterno said she proceeded to sneak out with a friend and doused the lion shrine in washable orange paint, reflecting Syracuse’s school colors, to stir up rivalry.

A group of three Syracuse students then poured permanent orange paint on the shrine, leading to true vandalism and a new Penn State Homecoming tradition: “Guard the Lion Shrine.”

After that year, Penn State community members have gathered for a night of festivities, spirit and protecting the Nittany Lion each Homecoming.

This year, the event began at 8 p.m. Friday with a performance by The Singing Lions who performed a series of classics such as the Penn State fight song and alma mater, along with several other spirit songs.

Member Cheyanne Waller (senior-communication sciences and disorders) said it’s been about two years since the group has had “a real performance,” and it was “really cool to be a part of something so important for Penn State.”

Afterward, as community members dove into face painting activities, caricature drawings and funnel cake, the Blue Band filed in for a performance.

Filled with music and choreography, the show had the audience engaged.

The Lion Ambassadors ran the event to “celebrate community and come together,” Committee Director Shannon Huber (junior-secondary education and English) said.

Community members also gathered close and linked arms, singing “Sweet Caroline” with Paterno, filling the air with Penn State pride.

Alumnus Larry Trubilla, a member of the class of 1998, said seeing the students and fellow community members have a great time “brought back a lot of good memories.”

“We have that Penn State bond,” Trubilla said.

The night ended with an appearance from The Statesmen: Penn State’s all-male a cappella group.

Meghan Putnam (senior-secondary education), executive vice president of the Lion Ambassadors, said after a year of hardship, “it was all we could ask for” to bring everyone together and have “joy in celebration.”

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