Massachusetts Daily Collegian

First annual homecoming block party held

Event held by the alumni association

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(Benjamin Tan/Daily Collegian)

(Benjamin Tan/Daily Collegian)

(Benjamin Tan/Daily Collegian)

By Michael Connors, Assistant News Editor

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In the middle of crafting bracelets and tea lamps at the Old Chapel at the first annual homecoming block party last Friday night, alum Marsha Frederick, class of 1970,  reminisced about her time at the University of Massachusetts.

Apart from the new and updated buildings, there was one major difference between the University now and from when she studied elementary education over 40 years ago.

“You guys have the best food in the country,” Fredericks said, noting when she was an undergraduate, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, deep-fried chicken patties and a small salad were the main courses. “The food was terrible.”

The homecoming block party, held by the UMass Alumni Association, was the first of many events for alums this past weekend visiting their alma mater. Though the party was initially planned to be held on Goodell Lawn, bad weather forced the alumni association to forgo the bouncy houses and instead move the festivities into the Old Chapel.

“We’re hoping to establish this as a campus tradition,” said Erin McDowell, manager of alumni communications. “It’s a great opportunity to bring students, alumni and the local community together here on campus. Some of our alumni haven’t been back in a while and it’s a great opportunity to get them here and expose them to the great advances happening here at UMass.”

But Fredericks and her friend, Sandra Locke, class of 1977, didn’t mind that the rain moved the event indoors. In fact, the both of them were just happy to be back. A light weekend back in Amherst is needed every once in a while, they said — especially when there’s football to watch.

“I mean, we’re here, right? I’m not driving though, you see,” Fredericks said.

“I’m her DD,” Locke said.

The main attraction at the block party was the beer and wine tasting in the main lobby. Alum were reconnecting with each other over drinks from local breweries such as Berkshire Brewing, White Lion and New City.

Keith Lentine, a 2014 graduate of UMass, said he immediately signed up for the block party when he received an email from the alumni association.

“I’ve come back the last three or four years,” Lentine said. “I just want to see a lot of my friends and go to the tailgate. It’s always a good time to come back.”

Lentine, however, was not as sure about his attendance to the football game as he was for the tailgate.

“We’ll see how the tailgate goes,” Lentine said. “One year they were offering free tickets after the tailgate so if they do that again, I might have to take them up on that.”

In addition to the crafts and beer at the block party, the UMass Minuteman Marching Band alumni were slated to give away two $1,000 scholarships to current undergraduate members of the band, said leader of the band alumni network Keith Paul.

“We’re trying to grow this,” Paul said. “This year alone, we have added almost $5,000 to our endowment. It doesn’t allow us to give out another award, but it gets us closer to doing more.”

Overall, attendees were proud of the strides UMass had taken in the past years in advancing its national academic reputation.

“I’ve seen a change over these years. No longer is [UMass] a backup school, people are waiting to get in,” Locke said.

Michael Connors can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @mikepconnors.

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