When you bring a dad to college…

What to expect when the dads are in town for the weekend

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This past weekend, my fraternity held our annual Dad’s Weekend. Hordes of fathers from all across the country joined their sons in Charlottesville for the opportunity to experience college all over again for just a few short days. From Los Angeles to Rhode Island to Atlanta, our dads came not only to see where exactly their tuition and dues checks go but also to participate in some routine weekend debauchery.

Naturally, their visit began at Trinity, where our dads could get a taste for the true University experience — and their first Trash Cans. One dad remarked that he hadn’t tasted something so bad since his junior year abroad, but I guess that’s what being a college student is. Instead of exposing a bunch of 50 plus-year-olds to the peak hours of midnight to 1:45 a.m., we had a tame late afternoon lunch on Trin 3. The best part was that, instead of us buying drinks for girls and friends, our drinks were being paid for this time. While our dads usually text us with complaints about too many late-night charges from the Corner on their credit cards, the tables had turned — each dad seemed to be competing over who could dish out the most free drinks to his son’s friends.

From Trinity, we all ubered downtown to AMF Kegler’s Lanes to duke it out in the of art bowling. Unsurprisingly, this activity was treated as seriously as if we were competing in the Olympic trials. My group split up into two lanes with four dads and four sons in each.

Being that I hadn’t picked up a bowling ball since the last eighth grade birthday party I attended, my rustiness was evident. Gambling was involved, money was lost and things got heated — however, it was nothing that greasy bowling alley food and cheap beer couldn’t appease. When the clock hit 10 p.m., our lanes shut down and my dignity was spared.

Our next day began on dad time, so earlier than I have ever woken up during my tenure at the University. While half of our house braved the 40 degree weather and hit the golf course, the rest of us ventured to the South River in Waynesboro. As my dad is an avid fly fisherman, I enjoyed how happy he was to be wading in the water with a pole in his hand. Despite the fact that we didn’t see a single fish the entire morning, it was peaceful to bask in the sun and cast a few lines with my dad, who I hadn’t seen in weeks. After a few hours with no bites, we decided it was time to strip away our gear and head back to school to catch the buses for our next activity on the agenda — brewery tours.

One of my favorite parts about Charlottesville is the abundance of breweries, distilleries and wineries in Albemarle County that serve as the perfect way to spend an afternoon when the weather allows for it. Despite the temperature still feeling a little more like winter than spring, outdoor brewery tours were the perfect culmination of our father-son weekend. We started at Blue Mountain Brewery which, remaining true to its name, sits in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With a beautiful view surrounding us, my friends and I chatted with each other’s dads, discussing careers, summer plans and sports. Surprisingly, it was easy to forget that these were the guys who raised us since birth, as they shed their serious-corporate-dad cloaks and became both our friends and our equals.

After a few hours, we took off to Devil’s Backbone, my favorite brewery. Sitting on tens of acres in the mountains, the picturesque grounds make it seem like you’re at a remote resort. We sat by the fire pits, sampled different IPAs and played a few father-son cornhole matches, where I was able to redeem myself for my poor bowling performance from the night before.

While some dads smoked cigars with their sons, others took a more contemporary route. One dad turned to me and asked, “What are those little black boxes people are sucking on?” I laughed, never expecting that I would be explaining to someone over 25 what a Juul is. After giving him my best description, he remarked, “I’m gonna have to try one of those” and went to flag down someone with — as my dad calls it — a “dopey vape thing.”

As the sun started to set, we climbed onto the buses to head back to Charlottesville. Within minutes, the bus fell silent as dads’ heads slumped against windows and fell into a beer-induced sleep. I forgot that it had likely been a while since these men had practiced their day drinking — 30-some years, to be exact.

Although it had been a long day, the champs among the dads didn’t let their fatigue stop them from coming back to our house for a night out. This was their opportunity to travel back in time to their college years and experience once again what it feels like to be an 18 to 22-year-old. Some dads, who are University alumni themselves, revelled in the chance to party at their old stomping grounds. They took over the beer pong tables, swing danced with girls and ventured to bars — some of them ending their nights later than I did myself.

When the weekend came to a close and it was time to send our fathers home, I appreciated the valuable time I was able to spend bonding with my dad and look forward to next year’s event. Furthermore, I now realize youth is a mindset, and you are never too old to go back to college … at least for a weekend.

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