Rock the Lot kicks off the pre-season

By Natalie Lasky

Editor’s note: This story was updated to remove quotations around a paraphrased idea by Rocco Nolfi, assistant athletic director.

The Rock the Lot fundraising event marked the commencement of Youngstown State University’s preseason on Aug. 19. 

The university’s football team operations fund was boosted by the event organized by Special Assistant Athletic Director Rocco Nolfi. The event combined live music and tailgating for the highest turnout possible.

“It’s a preseason tailgate party … It lets people see the atmosphere of tailgating and then mix in some music,” Nolfi said.

Tailgating is a pre-event gathering in parking lots with food and drinks. Nolfi projected the event would draw a diverse crowd of all ages and aimed to create memories for the fans and community. 

“It’s just a great opportunity for friends and family and fans to get together to cheer their team on while also having a good time,” Nolfi said. 

Some tents offered cornhole and food, while others offered merchandise for sale to promote local businesses.

Rocco said he wanted  to capture the essence of a game-day experience, even without an actual game that evening, and the event laid the foundation for potential future game-day live entertainment opportunities.

Rock the Lot showcased a music lineup featuring Craig Martini, followed by Fifth & Aurora, culminating with the headlining act, The Vindys. 

YSU’s football head coach, Doug Phillips, said the football team is walking out to songs by The Vindys before home games.

“Our coming out music this year [is] to The Vindys,” Phillips said. 

According to Nolfi, The Vindys have been receiving significant national recognition recently.

“[The Vindys] are a popular band that started local and they’ve started to get some national attention,” Nolfi said.

Jackie Popovec, the lead singer for The Vindys, said she was excited to share the moment with YSU fans.

“Participating in Rock the Lot is a fantastic opportunity. It’s not just about the music — it’s about bringing people together, supporting our team and creating cherished memories,” Popovec said.

The event’s success was from the support of its sponsors, including ServPro, McHenry Industries, HBK CPAs & Consultants, Cut & Toast Premium Cigars, Penn Ohio, Lindy Co., Compco, SOBE Thermal Energy Systems and Durica Allstate Insurance Agency. 

According to Nolfi, the sponsors’ contributions were pivotal in ensuring the event’s execution and positive impact on the university’s football team.

Mike Crnarich from Youngstown Sportscards was an attendee tailgating and selling “The YO vs. The O” t-shirts at the event. Crnarich said what his top three must-haves are when tailgating.

“You [got to] have beer, you [got to] have food and you [got to] have a good time,” Crnarich said.

Several food vendors were present at the event, providing a variety of choices that included BBQ, pizza and steak sandwiches. Additionally, attendees could purchase refreshments from a lemonade stand or a beer tent.

The football team intends to host an annual Rock the Lot fundraiser. 

Tickets for the 2023 football season and tailgating passes can be purchased online and at the YSU box office.

For more information on Youngstown State’s football team, visit its website.