The University of Arizona Homecoming parade began in 1929 and has been an annual feature of Homecoming up until 2020 when it was canceled due to COVID-19. It has not been held since.
On Oct. 20, UA alumni Kirk Sibley created a Facebook group that has since gained a following of 700 Wildcat alumni. They all have one thing in common: disappointment over a canceled 90-year-old tradition.
Sibley — who served in the Pride of Arizona and was the UA mascot from ‘96 until his graduation year in ‘99 — has spearheaded the effort to bring the parade back.
“I’ve literally been [attending the Homecoming parade] ever since I graduated ... It’s the traditions that make our school unique and really define who our university is,” Sibley said.
Marc Acuña, senior director of Alumni and Student Engagement of the UA Foundation, maintains that the cause of the parade cancellation is a lack of student turnout over the years.
“People have to sign up to be in the parade ... every year that number goes down lower and lower,” Acuña said.
Since students are responsible for making floats, a lack of student turnout means a less lively line up.
Sibley has his own opinion about the lack of student turnout, feeling that the blame lies not with students, but with the marketing team behind the event.
“The only thing that's been the common denominator in declining student interest is the school, which owns the student engagement, the marketing, the resources, the incentivization ... it just doesn’t show up organically, you have to do the work,” Sibley said.
While Sibley and members of the Facebook group are upset by the cancellation of the parade, they are also upset about how they found out.
“The real problem we identified upfront is that nobody knew it had been canceled,” Sibley said, disappointed about the lack of a formal cancellation announcement. “We expected them to ask for help. To get the word out that they were thinking about canceling it ... and do everything [they could] to save a 93-year-old tradition instead of just letting it hit the floor,” he said.
What makes matters worse for these passionate alums is that Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University have maintained their student turnout and parades.
Nate Kirchner, president of the UA Alumni Band said, “Every year homecoming is sad to me because ASU and NAU have more participation in their homecoming than UA. We should be able to represent our university better.”
Even though the parade hasn’t occurred in three years, Acuña assures stakeholders that it isn’t canceled indefinitely. “This isn’t forever ... we’re always open to conversations about what the future can look like. We are Wildcats. We are great at advocating for things we are passionate about ... as long as [alums] are sharing what they care about and doing it respectfully, I think there’s a great opportunity to have open dialogue and conversation.”
Alumni, led by Sibley and Kirchner, will be petitioning and collecting signatures at the upcoming tailgate. They also have a virtual petition that has gathered 221 signatures at the time of this publication.
Sibley has a message for current students: “When we get this homecoming parade back, I want to see involvement in next year’s parade like we’ve never seen before, [because] we’re pushing hard to get this thing back for you guys.”
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