Each year students, alumni and professors alike anticipate the family games at Morning on the Green, the organized chaos at Airband and the bands and creative floats of the parade.
Okay, so maybe there aren’t any parades other than the parades of people headed to cheer on the Red Raiders. However, this hasn’t always been the case. While many Homecoming festivities are no longer practiced, past Beacon issues reveal that the activities we still enjoy today are simply building on tradition.
The Oct. 24, 1947 Beacon issue described a few of NW’s earliest Homecoming traditions. The snake dance was one of the most enjoyed traditions at that time, and choosing partners for the dance was a unique process.
According to the Beacon article, “Partners were selected by auctioning off the girl’s shoes to the boys, and then the boys matching their shoes to the shoes still on the girls. One shoe turned out to be worth $1.25, at least that is what was paid for it.”
During the Homecoming week of 1949, there was a ground breaking ceremony for a new girl’s dormitory. The sketch that appeared with the article shows a building that bears a striking resemblance to Heemstra Hall.
In the fall of 1957, students prepared for their “Aces of Diamonds” Homecoming. They anticipated their annual victory bonfire preceded by a high school band concert on Thursday night. The next day they celebrated coronation, which was followed by a parade of floats created by the students. First prize for the best float was presented during half-time of the football game.
Two years later, 1959, the weather was not cooperative, nor was the parade trophy.
The float created by the girl’s dorm won the parade contest. However, when it came time to present the award, the trophy was found to be missing. The November 4, 1959, Beacon issue reports, “As the crowd waited, people searched frantically under seats and on the float,” and though it was never found, “a handshake adequately expressed the congratulations.”
That year, the Homecoming festivities also included a variety show with acts by both students and faculty, a “picnic” in the dining hall, a pep meeting (which replaced past years’ bonfires, made impossible by weather conditions) and the snake dance. The snake dance began at Windmill Park, where cheerleaders shouted and students gathered. From there they paraded toward campus.
In Oct. 27, 1961, the Beacon Homecoming issue gave details of the traditions of the 60s. The snake dance took place once again on the Friday of Homecoming week.
Led by the cheerleaders, participants made their way from the Orange City Park to campus, then through the dormitories, before coming to a halt near the football field. The annual victory bonfire took place immediately, and a dummy dressed in the opponent team’s jersey was thrown into the fire.
On Saturday, students decorated their dorm rooms to show off their school spirit–and also for the chance at winning five dollars for the best room.
Then, the Homecoming royalty were crowned and Red Raiders fans enjoyed the Homecoming parade. Just before the homecoming football game that evening, the YWCA/YMCA received their trophy for the best parade float.
In 1974, the variety show, parade of floats, coronation and bonfire were once again included in the Homecoming activities.
New to the festivities was the Homecoming dance and a Sunday morning worship service. In addition, the NW theatre department produced the musical “Godspell.”
Almost ten years later, in 1985, the Homecoming theme was “NW, Instrument of God,” which was chosen in celebration of the Symphonic Band’s 25th anniversary. That year, they no longer had a bonfire, parade, or variety show, but instead held hall decorating contests and adopted the idea of Airband, which they titled, ‘Puttin’ on the Hits.”
The October 3, 1997, issue of the Beacon recapped the events of that Homecoming week. Activities featured fun, sun and sand: “The sound of volleyballs pounding into real imported Malibu sand could be heard across campus,” the article reported. Fun food and photo night gave students the chance to take snapshots with their friends and their favorite beach toys. While they waited in line, students caught up with each other over discounted cheese crisps at the snack bar. This gave roommates the chance to find out last minute tidbits about each other before they participated in the Roommate Game (which began several years before in 1992).
Coronation was once again part of Thursday night festivities, and Friday featured the ever-popular Airband competition. Saturday’s activities included the Raider Road Race, Morning on the Green and a picnic lunch on the green. The Homecoming game, in which Raiders took on Midland began at 1 p.m.
The festivities continued Saturday night with the Homecoming Dance in the minigym. After a week of flip-flops, sunglasses and high spirits, students and alumni worshiped together Sunday morning in Christ Chapel.
Though the variety and nature of activities has changed over the years, Homecoming continues to be a week of school spirit, fellowship and fun for students, faculty and alumni. Happy Homecoming!
For more information about this year’s Homecoming festivities, see today’s headline story.