"One Spirit" for Hawkeyes


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Nationwide, Homecoming celebrations are all about welcoming alumni back while embodying the “spirit” of a school or community. If this is true for the University of Iowa, the Hawkeye spirit must be a high-energy blend of competition, creativity, and nostalgia.

“I think that the atmosphere of the week is really the center of the celebrations,” said UI Homecoming Council Executive Director Ayat Mujais. “There isn’t one event that is the main focus. Everything is tied together, and all of the Iowa spirit that we see during the week is really the center.”

The UI’s Homecoming Week began on Sunday with the first-ever Celebrating Cultural Diversity Festival, and continues through Oct. 6 with the Iowa Shout spirit event, Campus Activities Board comedy and film shows, Homecoming parade and court coronation, free SCOPE concert, and the Iowa football team’s contest against Michigan State in between.

“These are the events that everyone knows and loves, and they have become an important part of Homecoming week,” Mujais said. “There’s been a lot of growth in Homecoming week as a whole, especially in the parade, to the point where we’ve run out of room to have more floats.”

Indeed, Homecoming Parade Director Jacob Murphy said Homecoming officials had to cap this year’s parade crowd to 110 groups, making the event a hot commodity for UI student organizations, residence halls, and greek chapters hoping to show the best floats in order to earn points toward Homecoming sweepstakes awards.

“People get excited about the parade and take it seriously. It’s really competitive this year,” Murphy said. “The judges are alumni, so they try to appeal to them by being professional and original. But I tell them not to go too out of the box, that it’s tacky.”

Lambda Chi Alpha member Chance Morgan said his group has bonded with the Pi Beta Phi sorority in developing a Toy Story-theme parade float and skit for the Iowa Shout event at 6 p.m. today at the IMU.

“We are constantly battling, but it’s all in good spirit,” Morgan said. “In the end, we all come together to see each others’ skits and have a great time. It’s a team-building week and means a bigger sense of brotherhood.”

In addition to uniting over their “Despicable Me” float and skit theme, Alpha Chi Homecoming representative Jessi Brower said her group also formed its interpretation of this year’s general theme, “Countless Hawkeyes, One Spirit.”

“There are so many different people and unique parts of Iowa, but one thing we have in common is spirit for our school and love for the Hawkeyes,” she said. “We’re all competing, but we’re all major components in Homecoming Week.”

Murphy said the creativity and camaraderie spawned by this friendly competition “epitomizes” Homecoming culture.

“A lot of it has to do with showing school spirit and getting involved,” he said. “For alumni coming back, it shows that these traditions are still important to the university.”

But the tradition of Homecoming goes beyond parade marching and football watching. Comedy fans can see intellectual comedian Emily Galati at 10 p.m. today at the Wedge, 136 S. Dubuque St., hosted by the Campus Activities Board, as well as the board films The Lone Ranger and Pacific Rim shown every evening between today and Oct. 6.

Friday will also be the 10th time SCOPE has coupled with Homecoming to put on a free concert in the Main Lounge of the IMU after the parade. Past acts have included Kansas, Chuck Berry, Three Dog Night, and the Temptations, while last year Matt and Kim performed with Grand Funk Railroad.

Friday night, the San Francisco-based alternative rock group Third Eye Blind — with such distinctive ’90s hits as “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Jumper,” and “How’s It Going to Be” — will take the stage following the pop-rock band Basic Vacation at 8 p.m. after the parade.

“For the past couple of years we’ve gotten older classic rock bands, and this time we were trying to go for acts the alumni who just graduated or did a few years ago will know,” said SCOPE marketing director Emma Vodick. “College is a great time to get to know music, so people who were in school during the ’90s will have heard Third Eye Blind.”

While Basic Vacation will provide a chance for current students to discover an up-and-coming band, and the familiar tunes of Third Eye Blind will stir “ ’90s nostalgia” for all ages, Vodick said the concert’s location in the center of campus enhances the community’s experience.

“It’s fun to watch after the parade and see everyone pull into that concert area,” she said. “The energy is really high, and you’re surrounded by beautiful outdoor scenery. It’s a real University of Iowa feeling.”

And despite the competitiveness that may be stirred up by the week’s activities, Mujais said, it doesn’t inhibit Homecoming’s mission of “Countless Hawkeyes. One Spirit.”

“Homecoming is really about the entire community, not just one specific group,” she said. “It’s important to look at how amazing our university is and to celebrate that we can be a part of it, and I think Homecoming is the best way to do that.”

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