Ithaca College Rowing Teams Unite for Summer Cookouts

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Every Thursday night during the summer, former Ithaca College men’s team coach Dan Robinson ’79 could be found standing at a small, hand-built charcoal grill next to Cayuga Inlet.

This is the scene of the Ithaca College men’s and women’s team cookouts. Robinson, who announced his Retirement of the team in March, and his wife, Becky Robinson ’88, head coach of the women’s sculling and crew teams, has hosted the events for more than 30 years.

Major Gregg Seiz described Y Robinson as “The Grillmaster”, who continues to help put on the event even though he is no longer on the team.

“It was good to see Dan,” Seiz said. “He loves the job very much. It’s good to see him do well. I think part of it is retirement, part of it is just, I like it, the atmosphere of the barbecue.”

While Seiz said attendees are usually just team members, Robinson said the event is open to just about anyone, as long as they’re part of the campus or rowing community.

“From time to time, we have some students in Syracuse [who] will show up,” Robinson said. “The rowing community [in the City of Ithaca] is invited, the university community is invited and they can bring friends. All these times, it’s an open invitation.”

Since taking office on July 12, Justin Stangel, the new men’s team coachIt has come to some of the dinners. Her first time there was August 11, but said he doesn’t think it will be his last.

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“I thought it was a great event,” said Stangel. “I think having the opportunity to connect with current and alumni of the program is a really unique and special experience at Ithaca College.”

Nope all the world on the teams knew how long the Robinsons have been hosting cookouts: Sixth-grader Allison Arndt said she was surprised to learn it had been more than 30 years. And although she is entering her sixth year of college, 2022 was the first time she was able to attend the dinners.

“I had heard of them and people were always talking about them,” Arndt said. “But I was like, ‘I’m not here in the summer, I’m just here during the school year.’ … But it’s a great time to see everyone who’s in town because when you’re in Ithaca during the summer it’s a lot different than being here during the school year.”

Bobby MacInnis ’22, who was on the team for three years, said this summer is the first time he’s attended one of the team’s cookouts because he hasn’t been to the area in recent summers but hopes to get to some more before the end of the summer.

“I’m here all summer teaching a class,” MacInnis said. “So, I don’t know, I can hang out and see some people. You never know who’s going to be in these things. … I love this climate, it is relaxing. And it’s better than eating at home, in my kitchen.”

Zoe Foster ’22, a former coach of the men’s team, had also never attended any of the summer cookouts before this year, mainly because they found it difficult to stay in Ithaca during the summer. They said older students and recent graduates tend to make up the bulk of the crowd, but freshmen know they’re invited, too.

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“This is my first summer [in Ithaca], and I’ve been looking forward to this since I was a freshman,” Foster said. “We don’t really advertise it a lot, but it’s like, ‘If you’re in the area and want to hang out and get free food on a Thursday, just come hang out.’ It’s super casual.”

Located right next to Cayuga Lake, the Ward Romer Boathouse has an outside concrete patio with picnic tables right next to the water. Stangel said there were some rowers from the university exercising on his behalf when he was there, coming to talk to the other attendees after spending time on the water.

Robinson said the casual nature is what makes it so much fun. He said he spends about $15 a week on hamburgers and hot dogs, and whoever comes is welcome to bring a side dish or drink, but there’s no pressure to contribute, just to come and have fun.

“We always have stuff, and if we run out, we run out, that’s right,” Robinson said. “It’s totally casual. … And if it’s raining, we have this big umbrella [for the grill] and we move the picnic tables [inside the boathouse]. We have done it with rain and sun”.

However, Seiz pointed out that there is an unwritten rule about replenishment. Robinson could be okay with running out of food, but Seiz said it shouldn’t happen.

“You have to make up,” Seiz said. “It shouldn’t be the case. [that we run out of food] …and if you bring food, you’re paddling like royalty. It doesn’t matter how fast you are.”

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This story was originally published on June 27, 2022. This version has been updated and expanded.