As thousands of green and gold-clad children jumped for candy, sixty-year CSU alumni sat cloaked in blankets and community members and CSU students lined the parade route Friday at 5 p.m., it appeared that the changes to the 2008 Homecoming Parade and Homecoming Festival did not deter community participation as so many Fort Collins’ community members had anticipated.
“We couldn’t have asked for more success in the first year,” said Matt Helmer, CSU spokesperson and Homecoming and Family Weekend Committee. “I think with the numbers that we saw in participation-not only the students, but the community-we will we will continue to follow this structure in the future.”
The New Parade
Parade attendants, who lined the new parade route that started on Howes Street, followed the curve of the Oval and ended on the Lory Student Center West Lawn, cheered as a mix of “green” floats, bicyclists and a slue of eco-friendly messages marched to the beat of the parade theme “It’s easy being green.”
A result of the change to a Friday night parade re-routed to travel through the CSU campus -as opposed to the past Saturday morning event- university officials saw a significant increase in the number of CSU entries in the parade and CSU-community attendance.
Students who hadn’t previously gone to the parade or the Homecoming Festival said that the move to campus and the change in time made it more accessible.
“I didn’t attend the parade in the last years,” said senior biology education major Jessica Quiq. “I never really knew when it was going on, but since it was on campus, I came out this year.”
Out of the 85 parade entries in Friday’s parade, about 35 represented the university compared to 2007 in which only 10 out of 170 parade entries were from CSU.
From Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Gamma Phi Beta’s toga-clad, man-drawn Parthenon to the Associated Students of CSU’s float, swamped with plants and drawn by a 2009 hybrid Tahoe, CSU organizations upheld the university’s “green” name and commitment to both CSU and the community.
Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Epsilon members said that the goal for their eccentric float, drawn by about one dozen “philosophers” clothed in white togas and sandals, was to be one-hundred percent “green.”
“As it says on the banner, we’re going green without gasoline,” said Alex Adams, the Sigma Phi Epsilon homecoming chair. He said laughing, “There are no carbon emissions from this float, just hot hair from these guys.”
After learning of the changes, some members of the Fort Collins community were disappointed and perceived the change an attempt by CSU to break from the community.
University officials said that extending the invitation to the Homecoming Festival to the community-open only to the CSU community in the past-increased the connection between Fort Collins and CSU and achieved the university’s goal of bringing the community to the campus.
The time and date change concerned officials in the Poudre School District, long-time parade participant, because of the conflict with the football game between cross-town rivals Rocky Mountain High School and Poudre High School.
Because the families, students and marching bands connected to the schools were at the game, they were unable to join in the event and PSD saw a decrease in the number of parade entries representing its schools.
PSD had seven entries in the parade-from Lesher Junior High School with its representation of author Dr. Seuss’ book “The Lorax,” to Johnson Elementary School’s band of bicyclists with balloons-compared to its 30 entries in the 2007 parade.
“The change to the time and date affected [PSD participation] negatively-sadly,” said Will Allen, principal of JES. “Most of the high schools couldn’t participate because of the football game.”
“I understand where CSU is coming from though,” Allen said. “Logistics are hard, and logistics made it tough to get people here.”
Overall, parade goers did not feel the calamity of the changes that community members had anticipated and felt like the parade achieved the success of celebrating the university.
A 1997 CSU graduate Julie Nesbitt and her husband Matt Nesbitt, a 1996 CSU graduate said, “Change is fine, change is good” in response to the parade changes.
“You should reserve judgment until you experience [the event],” Matt Nesbitt said.
“We are some of the most die-hard CSU fans,” Julie Nesbitt said. “Whenever and wherever the parade is, we’re going to come.”
People rushed to fill in behind the CSU marching band as it crossed the LSC Plaza in a mass migration toward the LSC West Lawn and the Homecoming Festival. Right on schedule, at 6:30 p.m., the marching band serenaded the thousands of attendants who later joined together to sing the CSU fight song
The Homecoming Festival, previously hosted on the Friday night before the parade, featured a conglomeration of CSU pride, speakers, food and bi-communal interaction between CSU and Fort Collins.
Throughout the night, people were audience to alumnus speakers, pep talks from CSU athletic teams, performances by the marching band and the night’s culmination with the lighting of the bonfire and the Aggie “A” in the foothills west of campus.
“It was about bringing everyone together to celebrate on one night, said CSU spokesperson Brad Bohlander.
“We’re very pleased with the turnout,” Bohlander said. “We’ll ask around and do some follow-up with people to get their reaction and determine how we will plan next year’s event.”
Steve Fairchild, Head Coach of the CSU football team, kicked off the rally and reminded attendants that the event served a higher purpose than the food and festivities. He said it was about bringing people together to celebrate the university and its students over the years.
CSU students and community members stood in long lines waiting to exchange food vouchers-free to all students and $15 dollars for the community-for tickets to pay for caramel apples, corn on the cob, hot dogs and candy.
“Basically, [the festival] is a good idea,” said Diane Kahler, a community attendant at the Homecoming Festival with her kids. “It’s great for families, but it wasn’t planned out well and we weren’t able to get food because [the lines] were a little chaotic.”
In the end, students said that the event was an accurate representation of what it means to be a CSU Ram and the CSU spirit.
“Being a CSU Ram means having pride, civil service, fun, good community and full spirit,” said Mike Clothier, a junior business major, and Katie McKeeman, a junior health and exercise science major.
Overall, Steve Fairchild got the meaning of CSU’s Homecoming right.
“It’s remembering that all Rams will always have a place that they can call home,” Fairchild said.
Senior Reporter Madeline Novey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org