Homecoming Festivities Abound on Campus

Themed floats, food trucks, fireworks, and activities for children highlighted this year’s Alumni Weekend and Homecoming.

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 09, 2013) — With less than an hour to go before the parade got under way, Hannah Abel and some of her friends scurried about a trailer hitched to a pickup truck, adorning it with colorful decorations. They quickly fashioned it into a float themed after the 1960 Dr. Seuss children’s book One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

Abel, along with throngs of other University of Miami students, was preparing for a grand parade on their Coral Gables campus. “This is one of the few times we all come together as a community, and the only time I feel closest to my friends,” she said.

On Friday, UM celebrated another Alumni Weekend and Homecoming—one like no other, as festivities abounded amid the excitement over the recent opening of the new Student Activities Center.

This year’s parade route started on Merrick Drive, winding its way past Eaton Residential College and the Pavia Garage and ending on Stanford. Alumni, students, families, and community residents pressed against barricades to get a look at some of the themed floats like the one Abel helped decorate. Among the others was the Anacaneda, a rainforest biome-themed float made of discarded plant clippings that featured an ibis-anaconda hybrid creature. The College of Engineering, Veteran Students Organization, College Republicans, and Council of International Students and Organizations collaborated on the float, placing 14 of their members on it. “We started working on it a week ago, but the design process was a month’s worth of work,” said UM student Athena Jones, president of the Engineering Advisory Board.

Miami Heat forward James Jones, who played for UM from 1999 to 2003, served as grand marshal. It was a busy week for Jones. On Thursday, he was named to the UM Sports Hall of Fame.

Planning for the festivities began “full throttle” last spring, according to Karam Alawa, chair of the Homecoming Executive Committee, which is composed of 33 students. “Just as you would plan any other large scale event, the committee must make sure to anticipate all obstacles ahead of time,” said Alawa. “Every year is special in its own way. This year is special because it marks our first year with our beautiful, new Student Activities Center.”

The parade wasn’t the only highlight of the evening. About 20 food trucks turned Stanford Circle into a culinary cul-de-sac, selling everything from gourmet grilled cheese, pizza, and smoothies to fish tacos, wraps, shaved ice, and burgers.

The Foote Green became a giant playground that catered to kids with a variety of activities. Gladys Gomez Rossie, community relations coordinator at the University of Miami Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection, watched her two grandsons—Oscar, 10, and Javier, 13—test their skills at a rock climbing station. Rossie’s birthday coincides with UM’s alumni weekend and homecoming festivities, and she has made it a tradition to bring some of her family members to campus to watch the parade and enjoy themselves. “I tell them this is how I like to celebrate my birthday,” she said. Other activities were geared toward bigger kids. UM student Tommy Richmond and his girlfriend, Lonching Eng, went for a tandem zipline ride, describing the experience as “adrenaline-pumping.”

Former classmates and old friends reconnected and reminisced at Alumni Avenue, which this year celebrated the 50th, 25th, and 10th class reunions and welcomed affinity groups from Iron Arrow, the Band of the Hour, WVUM, the UM cheerleaders, and other organizations. John Schuster, UM Class of 1975, flew in from Chicago with his wife, Karen. “We came down for our 25th wedding anniversary six years ago, and we’ve been coming ever since,” said Schuster.

This year’s Alumni Weekend theme: Celebrate Your Place in UM’s History. “As a team, we really thought about what Alumni Weekend means and came up with a reunion theme idea,” said Cynthia Cochran, director of Alumni Programs in the Office of Alumni Relations. “We wanted it to express how important alumni are to the legacy of the institution. As a young university, the impact of each of our graduates has truly shaped our success.”

Robert C. Jones Jr. can be reached at 305-284-1615.

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