CSU officials said that based on the significant increase in CSU-community participation they witnessed at the Homecoming Parade, Friday, the university plans to follow a similar structure for the event in coming years.
In response to some community disappointment and remaining concern about the changes to the date and parade route, the university will talk with both the CSU and Fort Collins communities to gauge reactions and determine how to proceed in the future.
“We’re very pleased with the turnout,” CSU spokesperson Brad 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.”
“We couldn’t have asked for more success in the first year,” said Matt Helmer, a CSU spokesperson and Homecoming and Family Weekend Committee co-chair. “I think with the numbers that we saw in participation – not only the students, but the community – we will continue to follow this structure in the future.”
The New Parade
Hundreds of green and gold-clad children and their parents, sixty-year CSU alumni cloaked in blankets, community members and CSU students lined the new parade route that started on Howes Street. They watched as the parade followed the curve of the Oval and ended on the Lory Student Center West Lawn and cheered as a mix of “green” floats, bicyclists and a slew of eco-friendly messages marched to the beat of the parade theme, “It is easy being green.”
“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.”
Of the 85 parade entries in Friday’s parade, about 35 represented the university, compared with 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, and every one in between, CSU organizations stuck to the green theme and represented many facets of CSU.
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 100 percent green.
“As it says on the banner, we’re going green without gasoline,” said Alex Adams, the Sigma Phi Epsilon homecoming chair. “There are no carbon emissions from this float, just hot air from these guys.”
After learning of the changes, some members of the Fort Collins community were disappointed and said that they preferred the parades in the past for various reasons.
Betty Anne Martell-Housten, a parade participant and a 1942 CSU graduate who said she has attended every Homecoming parade since starting at CSU in 1938, said that she was upset by the fact that the parade was on Friday night and prevented participation from Rocky Mountain High School and Poudre High School students, who were involved in the cross-town football game scheduled the same night.
The time and date change also concerned officials in the Poudre School District.
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 with its 30 entries in the 2007 parade.
“The change to the time and date affected (PSD participation) negatively – sadly,” said Will Allen, the principal of Johnson Elementary School. “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.”
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.”
The Homecoming Festival
People rushed to file 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 more than 1,000 attendees 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 communal interaction between CSU and Fort Collins.
University officials said that extending the invitation to the Homecoming Festival to the Fort Collins 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.
“It was about bringing everyone together to celebrate on one night,” Bohlander said.
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.
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.
“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 email@example.com.