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Parading a New Homecoming Tradition

Being the uber-Cornell nerd that I am, I've managed to make it to five out of my first six Homecomings as an alumnus. (This despite having only attended a handful of football games when I was actually a student.) The secret to Cornellian Homecomings is that it is just as much about reveling in the food and sights of early-autumn in Ithaca and the Finger Lakes as it is about tailgating, Glee Club concerts, and losing at football.

But apparently, (Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development) Charlie Phlegar is channeling my oft-remarked quip and is attempting to turn Cornell into something more akin to a Big Ten institution (and subsequently yield more alumni involvement and contributions for the capital campaign). He has charged his Alumni Affairs staff with "selling-out Schoellkopf for Homecoming in five years".

This is despite the fact that Ivy League football hasn't been relevant since the 70s, the alumni body is a good day's drive away, and that more people probably care about our national-runner up women's hockey team than our pigskin hunkers on the gridiron. Ivy League football is quaint to play and all, and I wouldn't want to do away with the tradition it embodies, but I don't think most people particularly want to watch missed blocks and blown defensive covers all afternoon. Unless of course, their team is winning. Which the Big Red is not.

All said, you could probably get more Cornellians back for a Homecoming that revolves around the Ithaca Apple Festival than the football team.

Which brings us to one of the better ideas Alumni Affairs has had in a while: The re-institution of a Homecoming Day parade in order to create more of an "event" around the football game. The great thing about parades is that everybody loves them. Music lovers! Right-wing goosestepping fascists! Left-wing mobbing Marxists! Apolitical architectural majors! Ethnic-interest organizations! Unicyclists, skate-boarders, and juggling engineers! Elderly alumni who want an excuse to ogle at the co-eds!

Last year (which I missed) was the first year of the new parade tradition, but apparently the parade grew by leaps and bounds this year with hundreds of students participating and lots of curious on-lookers. I must admit that it sent a chill down my spine as Cornell's diversity paraded past; I haven't been surrounded by so many interesting, unique, and diverse individuals since college, and it's amazing how much Cornell students take for granted in terms of the breadth of resources and opportunities on campus.

My favorite groups were the Korean drummers and the dixie-land jazz band, but the Chinese New Year Dragons probably win the award for best costume:

I first wrote about this last year, but one thing the parade definitely needs is floats. A parade without floats is just a stroll. Floats are fun to decorate, and in their abillity to induce one-upmanship, will entice additional student organizations to get involved with the event.

The second thing the parade needs is a later start time. (Perhaps even a different date? Friday evening before a Saturday football game?) But asking college students to round themselves up at 10AM on a Saturday morning is probably a bridge too far.

The third thing that would be cool to see would be for alumni to join the parade. Granted, this may be a complete rip-off of Princeton's P-rade, but imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? And we're more of a Big Ten school than the Tigers will ever hope to be, besides.

As for the football game, the Only Real Marching Band in the Ivy League sounded excellent. 'Pinball Wizard' is a joy to hear reverberate off of the Crescent and into Cayuga's hills. No comment on the score.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on September 27, 2010 (#)

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