Story by Ellen Becker, Managing Editor
It’s more than just a football game and the crowning of kings and queens, it’s a time when alumni from around the country return to their alma maters to reconnect with people, places and traditions.
I recently found myself wondering about the history of Homecoming at UCM, so I decided to do a little research.
According to the UCM website, Central’s first homecoming was a silver jubilee on Nov. 5, 1935, in honor of Central’s then President Eldo Hendricks.
It featured a convocation during which 21 alumni reminisced about Hendricks’ 25 years of service, plus a halftime presentation where the president and his wife received 25 silver dollars.
It was Hendricks’ hope that Homecoming would become an annual celebration rather than an occasional jubilee.
Students have crowned a queen since 1938, and in 1999, they added a king.
The website goes on to say that “for almost 30 years, the brightest and most accomplished alumni have been recognized as part of the Homecoming celebration.
Recipients of UCM’s Distinguished Alumni Award have been generals, world renowned scientists, humanitarians, poets, artists, dancers, university professors and more.”
One of the most popular events of Homecoming is the annual parade.
Community and campus organizations and groups gather each year to express their school spirit by creating floats and handing out candy to children.
I have attended the parade since before I can remember.
Since there are many generations of Central alumni in my family, it has always been a time for us to get together and reconnect.
My aunt, uncle, cousins and grandparents travel to Warrensburg each year for the parade.
Some of my fondest memories include tackling my cousins for candy as it was thrown to us by parade-walkers.
Even in my 20s, I still have to resist the urge to dash out and get that Tootsie Roll before a little kid does.
When I got older, I started riding in the parade on a float with my elementary and middle schools.
Of course, there are always the paper mache “mules,” that look more like giant rabbits or kangaroos as they ride by awkwardly waving or kicking the rival football team’s mascot on various floats.
Then there are the overly-excited sorority girls and cheerleaders who are hoarse at the end of the parade from constantly yelling and cheering at the people sitting on curbs.
Another one of my favorite things in the parade are the men who wear funny little hats and ride around in circles on child-sized motorcycles—the Shriners. Ah, men and their toys.
Marching band leaders awkwardly walk backwards as they yell “Left, left, right, no I said left!”
Since this is an election year, I’m sure there will be many politicians schmoozing with the crowd, shaking hands and kissing babies.
I can’t wait for all the politician-monogrammed goodies I’m going to receive, like lip balms with a senator’s face on the label, or Frisbees with a state representative’s name plastered across them. I’m getting excited just thinking about it.
And who doesn’t love the scent of manure as the city’s street sweeper cleans up what the horses leave behind.
Regardless, I wouldn’t miss the parade for anything.
There’s always that one really impressive float, usually made by the technology or engineering clubs, that has computer controlled gizmos with lights and smoke.
And it’s always fun to see 200 dancing gymnasts performing to subwoofer-thumping music.
I think Homecoming is a great opportunity for the community, students, staff and alumni to share experiences, reminisce and make new memories.
There’s nothing quite like gathering on a crisp, fall morning with the sound of marching bands in the distance.
The sense of togetherness and school spirit makes me proud to be a Jenny.
So start practicing your queen wave—elbow-elbow-wrist-wrist—and get ready for another great Homecoming.