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UA Alumni reminisce about Homecoming traditions

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(Courtesy UA Alumni Association) UA students participate in Homecoming activities during 1987 celebration. Alumni described the Homecoming as “magical.”

It’s that time of year again — UA alumni will be traveling back to campus to take part in Homecoming traditions and celebrations.

For Lynn Engel, class of 1976 and former national chair of the UA Alumni Association, many of these traditions have been a part of her family since she was a child.

“I’ve never missed a Homecoming,” Engel said. “My parents were UA alumni and my dad worked at the university, so Homecoming is something I’ve been participating in since I was a young girl.”

Engel views Homecoming as a holiday and especially enjoys the alumni activities going on around campus.

“Alumni get a tent on the mall and friends and family catch up,” she said. “We have a barbecue now, which is such a fun tradition.”

Gary Harper, class of 1971, said alumni activities grow larger each year.

“There are more activities than anyone has time to participate in, which is great,” Harper explained. “I’ve been reaching out to the UA Alumni Association about possibly expanding tailgating areas all the way to Park Avenue.”

Marsha Umbenhaur, class of 1970, and former Gamma Phi Beta sorority president, said working on the floats for the parade was one of her favorite memories about Homecoming.

“I started walking around campus and this feeling washed over me. Seeing Old Main lit up was magical.” Umbenhaur said, describing her freshman Homecoming. “All the sororities would decorate the front of their house and make Homecoming floats. Having that sense of community and friendship is what Homecoming is all about.

There are some traditions that undergraduates today are not able to participate in, Harper said.

“What I really loved about Homecoming was having an after-party at the Pioneer Hotel,” Harper said. “But since it got burned, that tradition stopped.”

Football games are among one of the quintessential Homecoming experiences, according to Umbenhaur.

“I remember sitting in the student section for the first time,” she said. “It was so exciting, and I learned so much about how to cheer for my team.”

This Homecoming’s late-night game might mean there will be less participation, according to Harper.

“Having the game scheduled at 8 p.m. is a little late,” he said. “But that is just the outcome of the monetary support that comes from television advertising.”

Engel said if she could change one thing about this year’s Homecoming, it would be the time of the game.

“I just wish it was an afternoon football game,” she said. “That’s how it was traditionally. Having it later kind of eliminates that magical feeling you get seeing the field in the afternoon.”

Traditions within football games include the Homecoming royalty traditions.

“When I was a student, there wasn’t a Homecoming king and queen, it was just the queen,” she said. “They would drive her around in a convertible at half-time, which was such a big deal.”

Engel also remembered a unique experience she had as national chair of the UA Alumni Association.

“I got to walk out onto the field during a game,” she said. “I will never forget the feeling that washed over me. It was such an unforgettable experience.”

Students, as well as alumni, should be taking part in these traditions, Umbenhaur said.

“Homecoming is magical,” she said. “Every Wildcat should go out and enjoy it.”


Follow Jessica Blackburn on Twitter.


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