Homecoming traditions keep the Wildcat spirit alive
A crowd gathers around the Homecoming bonfire outside of Old Main on Nov. 7, 2014.
Homecoming is upon us, Wildcats. Sunday, Oct. 22 marked the beginning of the Homecoming celebration with the lighting of “A” Mountain, and the festivities will continue until Saturday, Oct. 28. Melinda Burke, who is the vice president of University of Arizona Alumni Relations and president of the UA Alumni Association, offered some insight into the traditions of Homecoming and just what they mean to our university.
Lighting of “A” Mountain
According to Burke, this tradition started in the early 1900s. The brass would be burned off the “A” in order to get it ready for whitewashing.
“It was in 2011 that we brought back the tradition of lighting the ‘A,’” Burke recalled. “We do that now in the tradition to launch the start of Homecoming week.”
The Homecoming Parade
Another huge tradition for Homecoming, the parade is a crowd favorite and is brought to the University of Arizona by the alumni association.
“The parade is probably over 100 years old,” Burke said. “It used to be really a big way for all the clubs and organizations to show their support for the university. It’s not necessarily quite so much that anymore. We still have clubs that participate, but we don’t have quite the number of clubs that participate as we used to. It’s a very fun tradition.”
Burke said she would have to research exactly how long the bonfire tradition has been around, but she thinks the bonfire has been part of Homecoming since the event started.
This year’s bonfire will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27. The program will begin with a march from the Bear Down Friday Night Pep Rally from Main Gate to the Old Main Fountain. The Homecoming King and Queen will be crowned, with the bonfire following the crowning.
These traditions, among others, have a purpose to reconnect with the university and to show your pride, according to Burke.
“It’s really about institutional pride and connecting back to your roots, especially for alumni,” Burke said.
Alumni from all over the world return to enjoy Homecoming and reconnect with old friends, professors and the campus itself.
“We pride ourselves on history and tradition, but we have to use very current communications tools to let people know what’s going on and communicate,” Burke said. “It’s very much focused on social media and digital sorts of communication. As soon as we know the date of Homecoming, we promote it probably six to eight months out; we start letting people know the date because everyone needs to plan so far in advance.”
The alumni association utilizes Facebook and other social media tools and emails to reach alumni. As soon as the alumni association knows the date of Homecoming, colleges such as the Eller College of Management and the James. E Rogers College of Law help promote it and get the word out.
Homecoming is about more than just celebrations and parties and Wildcat pride — it’s also about strengthening connections between alumni and strengthening the connections that the alumni have with the university, Burke said.
“So the goal is not just for everybody to have a party, but hopefully by the end of the weekend, it sort of is a refresh for all those connections — people you haven’t seen in a long time,” Burke said. “It reawakens your strong feelings for the university, it informs alum so they know what’s going on on campus, [and] they can get involved in different ways. It is fun, but it also has the purpose of strengthening those ties and getting people reconnected.”
As for current students, Burke hopes they have a blast with the Homecoming celebrations. She also hopes they see how important it is to be a part of a network that extends far beyond their college degree and simply being a student at the UA. Furthermore, she hopes alums want to return and experience Homecoming.
For recent alums, there’s more good news. Homecoming will soon have a new tradition in its midst, starting next year with an event called Glow. It will be a party or gathering just for alums who have graduated within the last five years, Burke said.
“So it’s going to take place after the bonfire, and it’s going to be a festival, kind of a music festival, for recent alumni to give them a chance to get back and connect,” Burke said. “That’s our newest and kind of cool tradition that we hope starts next year.”
This year, they’re kicking off Glow at Bear Down Friday. Any recent alum who shows their ID will get a glow stick, and they’ll be able to use the glow sticks at the bonfire.
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