While many Week of Welcome (WOW) events will feature plenty of free food and entertainment, there is only one event that allows hundreds of USF students to have free rein over a department store at midnight.
Groups of USF students lined up outside Target on Bruce B. Downs and Fletcher on Saturday night for after-hours shopping, a dance-off with a live DJ and giveaways during the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life’s Target Takeover.
Ashley Steinberg, a human resources executive and team leader involved in organizing the event, said Target stores near universities originally decided to host the annual event in order to build customer loyalty between the stores and their nearby on-campus college student populations.
“UF has done it in the past … and UCF does it as well,” Steinberg said. “It’s fun for the students, and it’s actually really fun for the employees here, too.”
Event listings and photos for Target Takeover can be found as far back as 2010, and Steinberg said the annual event could have made its debut as early as 2008.
Erik Silvola, a graduate assistant in the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life, said the event is an opportunity for students to do some last-minute shopping before school starts, as well as gain more information about Greek life and talk to members from fraternities and sororities.
While the event was scheduled to begin at 10:30 p.m., many students were already waiting to enter Target and had formed a line that filled the sidewalks of University Plaza and stretched around a large portion of the shopping center.
Handdy Voltaire, a freshman majoring in cellular and molecular biology, said he came to the event simply to hang out and meet new people.
“I knew there was going to be a massive amount of people from USF here, especially from the (WOW) events,” he said.
Gabrielle Campbell, a freshman majoring in health science, said she and her friend Alicia Kerr, a freshman and exploratory student in USF’s TRAC program, decided to come to Target Takeover to enjoy what the event had to offer for students.
“I think this event is a really good idea,” Campbell said. “We can come to Target after-hours, and that’s awesome. I love how they have a DJ and a party scene in a store — it’s a good mix.”
Other than shopping for school and dorm supplies, students at Target Takeover could also visit vendor tables set throughout the store for giveaways from Coca-Cola, Red Bull and Nintendo.
Students who visited Nintendo’s table near Target’s electronics and games section could help themselves to video game posters, pins and trial codes, as well as play Nintendo games set up at the event.
Red Bull set up a mobile video game station near the center of the store, complete with Xbox One consoles and a fridge fully stocked with Red Bull.
Coca-Cola’s table at the front of the store gave out free Coke and ice cream floats, as well as the prizes for Target Takeover’s dance competition.
During the dance competition, students danced to songs like Bruno Mars’s “Uptown Funk” played by a live DJ, and whichever students were deemed to have the best moves by Target staff were given free Coca-Cola T-shirts and USF football tickets.
Students not wishing to go head-to-head in a dance battle could also come by to dance the “Cha-Cha Slide” and “Cupid Shuffle” in groups.
“The dance-off was really encouraging; it got everyone to step out of their comfort zone and just join in and have fun with everyone else,” Voltaire said.
“For me, (coming here) was more about just hanging out with Gabby at Target … so the dance-off was an unexpected surprise,” Kerr said.
Voltaire said he was able to get free posters at the event, as well bounce around from group to group while walking through the store.
“I also got involved in a conversation with an OTL about fraternities and sororities, and she was piquing my interest with the information she was giving me,” he said. “I want to get some more information before I decline or join (a fraternity).”
Kerr said she and Campbell stuck together the entire time throughout the event and decided to get some ice cream and soda before doing some back-to-school shopping and picking up an auxiliary cord to enjoy music.
Shortly after midnight, most students had left, and Target turned off its front lights, marking the end of another Target Takeover during WOW.
Students who weren’t able to make it to the event will likely be able to go next year, however. Steinberg said while hosting the event is at the discretion of Target, it has become a pretty large event, and about 2,500 USF students showed up at last year’s Target Takeover.
“This is my third year (doing Target Takeover),” she said. “It’s something that we can decide to do or not, but we’ve done it every year that we’ve had the opportunity to.”