On Thursday, Oct. 24, the University of Massachusetts will kick off its Homecoming weekend, running through Saturday, Oct. 26. Attendees can expect a block party, tailgate tent, the homecoming football game and many more scheduled activities.
Homecoming weekend has been a UMass tradition for over 20 years, according to the senior manager of Alumni and Constituent Programs for the UMass Alumni Association, Melanie Cosgrove. In the past few years, Cosgrove said she has watched the event evolve immensely.
“Lately we’ve been trying to be more collaborative across campus and make Homecoming a UMass experience, so that it’s not just a student experience separately, it’s not just an alumni experience separately… [we’re] trying to bring all those target audiences together and all those elements together and try to program with synergy,” the 2002 graduate said.
Some of the groups that work alongside the Alumni Association in the planning of Homecoming include the Student Alumni Association, of which about 70 students work together, and the University Programming Council, which brings back a well-known or interesting alum to talk to students, among other things.
This year is the first in a while to have a cohesive theme, called “Proud and Loud.” Throughout the week, though there will be events dispersed around campus, this theme will be spread to keep everything cohesive and consistent.
“We do have so much to be proud of and that we should be you know out there being loud about it and being able to articulate [it],” Cosgrove said, adding that they “would like to see [the theme] evolve and use it again next year.”
The official kickoff to Homecoming weekend will take place on Thursday in the Campus Center Concourse. Here, attendees will have an opportunity to use a photobooth, send thank you messages to UMass donors and participate in giveaways.
Also on Thursday will be the Homecoming speaker, Natalia Butler a 2003 UMass food science masters graduate. According to the event website, all are welcome to come and “learn about the art and science of perfecting ice cream flavors, and how she combined her passions to land her dream job.”
On Friday, the Alumni Association will be hosting a block party between 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on the lawns by Goodell, the Old Chapel and Student Union. According to their website, attendees can “dance to live music …, feast on award-winning UMass food, toast s’mores at the fire pits, run the inflatable obstacle course and sample wine and beer from local vendors.”
For $5, attendees will get access to an “all-you-care-to-eat food tent” with a wide selection of appetizers and entrees. Sam the Minuteman and the UMass Cheerleaders are also expected to make an appearance throughout the night.
Cosgrove added that the block party will also feature other booths that are cross collaboration between groups to showcase different aspects of campus.
On Saturday, the Homecoming parade will kick off at 10:45 a.m. at McGuirk Stadium, and will featuring the Minuteman Marching Band, Sam the Minuteman and floats created by student groups. For those who wish to sport their maroon and white and cheer on the parade, the route can be found here.
After the parade, the Homecoming Tailgate Tent will open at McGuirk stadium at 12 p.m. with food, desserts and games. Online registration for the tent is now passed, but walk-ins are welcome as space permits. Costs for the tent vary based on age and participation.
UMass will also be crowning its Homecoming Court during the day’s football game. The court, made of up 10 students are described online as “student leaders who represent UMass Amherst with honor, integrity and school pride. Throughout the year, they represent the University at signature events and serve as ambassadors, educating future alumni about how to stay connected with UMass after graduation.”
Any student is able to apply, and 10 students are judged by a panel of judges from all across campus. The top two of these candidates are then crowned “homecoming royalty,” a term adopted three years ago to promote more gender inclusivity.
Students have the opportunity to vote for their two favorite members of the court until noon on Friday online.
Homecoming will culminate in the day’s football game, playing against rival University of Connecticut.
“I think that a lot of times Homecoming is seen as the area to celebrate the football program,” said Megan Hoyo, the alumni officer for Professional & Affinity Networks. “And because UMass is on the rise in rankings, it’s allowing us to exhibit the other great things at the college units are doing as well,” added the 2007 graduate.
Another major event happening on both Friday and Saturday will be the UMass Class of 1969 50th Reunion, where alumni can “reconnect and reminisce about [their] time at UMass Amherst and experience the revolutionary advances happening today,” according to the website.
Planning for Homecoming, said Hoyo and Cosgrove, happens a full year in advance. Once the leadership of the University selects a date for the next years’ homecoming, the Alumni Association begins to call out to groups on campus who may wish to collaborate and showcase their work during the days’ events.
Hovo said that the Association really “looks for Homecoming to be an experience that is throughout the entire lifecycle of someone who is involved with UMass. All the way from student to alumni to friends to family to faculty – it doesn’t matter how you affiliate with UMass, we want you to know that homecoming is an event that everyone can take part in, there’s something for everyone. And I think as an organization, we are striving more and more across campus to build out that programming.”
A complete list of the scheduled events can be found here.
Irina Costache can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @irinaacostache.