Tom Dondlinger has been going to Wichita State University basketball games since 1955, when he was 5 years old.
“I didn’t go to school there, but we built the Henry Levitt Arena in 1955 and came back and renovated it” when it became Koch Arena in 2003, Dondlinger said of his family’s construction business, Dondlinger & Sons. “We built Cessna Stadium. We’re renovating the Rhatigan Student Center, and we’re going to build a new housing center this summer.”
When his only daughter, Anne, got engaged last year and picked April 6 for her wedding date, Tom Dondlinger never in a million years dreamed that it would coincide with the Shockers being in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1965. The reception starts at 5 p.m., nine minutes before tip-off in Atlanta against Louisville.
“You know what’s worse?” Dondlinger asked. “It’s a sit-down dinner, and they sit down at 6:30, and that’s about the time the second half’s going to start.”
Other Wichita brides are running into the same situation. Robin Branstetter’s grandfather is a diehard Shocker fan. When the time was announced for the Shockers’ Final Four game last Sunday, granddad Pete Camargo was on the phone to Branstetter, who also is getting married Saturday.
“We have an issue. The game is starting as the ceremony is beginning,” Branstetter said he told her.
But not to worry, Dad and Grandpa: Both wedding receptions will incorporate the tournament game.
Anne Dondlinger and John Mumford will wed at a safe 1:30 in the afternoon, but their reception won’t start until 5.
“If my dad is available – well, if he can make it that night,” Anne Dondlinger jokes, “… they are actually going to set up a TV for us in one of the dining rooms so we can accommodate all the people who are going to be on the edge of their seats.”
The weddings are not the only happenings that are finding competition from the Main Event on Saturday night.
Ticket-holders to Saturday night’s Wichita Symphony concert have been exchanging their tickets for the Sunday matinee.
The Kansas Science Olympiad that brings middle- and high school students to WSU from around the state will have its honors ceremony at 4:45 p.m. (There will be no TV to detract from the students, but the ceremony only lasts an hour.)
Other previously scheduled events are morphing into simultaneous watch parties.
The junior-senior prom at Scott Community High School in Scott City – hometown of Shocker guard Ron Baker – will start on time at 7:45 p.m., but a large-screen TV will be set up in the commons area so students can catch the action.
A silent auction in Wichita to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation – including two basketballs autographed by the Shockers right after their win over Gonzaga – is still on for 7 p.m. at the Hickory Creek Club House at 1238 Hickory. But, once again, the game will be on. “Go Shocks!” the foundation cheered in a news release.
And that’s the spirit that the Dondlinger and Branstetter brides are bringing to their weddings. Far from resenting any competition from the Shockers, the women are fans themselves, excited to be sharing the biggest day of their lives with one of the biggest in Shocker history. Their grooms are similarly happy, they said.
Anne Dondlinger went to Kansas State University, but grew up going to WSU games with her parents and her brothers, “and I’ve always been a fan,” she said. “It’s just unbelievable. No way would I ever have guessed these two things would happen on the same night.
“It will definitely make for a night we’ll never forget – everybody cheering for the Shockers.”
Robin Branstetter will wed Joshua Busch at 5 p.m. on the balcony of the Wichita Boathouse, and a TV will be set up inside on the first floor for the game. But the bride is hoping people can turn away for the 20 minutes or so that the ceremony will last.
“Everybody’s joking about having their iPhones in their laps and watching the game silently,” she said.
By the time the second half of the game starts, she said, the reception will be unfolding on the second floor, and a projector will show the game on a big pull-down screen. A DJ will play music as planned.
“Hopefully we win, and it’ll just be a big party,” Branstetter said.
Neither bride, ready to live happily ever after, was imagining any other outcome.