The bowl, which took place all day Saturday at Gainesville’s City Park stadium, is a Georgia Youth Football League tradition that includes eight teams from the league and eight that play for Hall County. The teams range from midget league to major league and are scheduled to play each other at random. This was the sixth year of the Big Red Bowl in Gainesville.
Missy Bailey, Jone Taylor and Beth Morris of the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department helped coordinate the bowl. This year, the youth athletic staff of the city’s parks department collaborated with the Boys and Girls Club of Hall County to form one big Gainesville Youth Football League, said Taylor, recreational division manager. The collaboration brought together different parts of the youth community in Hall County.
"The goal was to have the same training uniform across the board to provide for the kids," Taylor said.
Each coach and volunteer was trained specifically to meet the standards of the parks department. Coaches were dressed professionally and wore ID badges. All of those involved in putting on the Big Red Bowl agreed that the kids were the most important part of the event.
"I like seeing the kids’ faces when they see the size of the field. We take pride in the big ‘G,’" Taylor said as she laughed with Beth Morris.
The parks department worked for four full days to get the field ready for the bowl. The preparation included painting the big red ‘G’ in the center of the field, managing the grass and cleaning the surrounding grounds. David Presnell works for the parks department and is in his fifth year as a volunteer ticket-taker along with Ken Rovinelli, operations manager of the Gainesville Civic Center.
"I like the people here and I like being outdoors," Rovinelli said. Presnell agreed that’s why he volunteers, too.
The bowl started with the midget league at 9 a.m. and ended with the last game for the major league beginning at 7:30 p.m. The games grew more exciting as the player size increased throughout the day.
But the parent, coach and volunteer support of the kids remained consistent.
Cheerleaders were not the only ones donning their team’s logos. Parents showed support by wearing their kid’s numbers and team colors. Wilhite was just one of the many excited fans in the stands.
"I’ve never been, but I’ve heard a lot of talk about the Big Red Bowl and I enjoy the program here," Wilhite said.
The Big Red Bowl took two months to plan and by the looks on the kids’ faces, it was well worth it.
The Big Red Bowl is the last game of the season for the young athletes. Each winning team has its picture taken with the Big Red Bowl trophy and all participants, including the coaches and cheerleaders, receive a Big Red Bowl T-shirt. The bowl also includes a wide range of sponsors and volunteers. Sponsors were announced at each time out and 16 sponsor banners were displayed around the field.