North Alabama homecoming sets ‘gold standard’

The Marching Pride leads the annual homecoming parade through downtown Florence on Sept. 28.

Audrey Johnson, News Editor

The University Programming Council and homecoming committee developed a week full of homecoming festivities to increase school spirit and university pride.

Events held included the annual window painting of the Guillot University Center, Tailgate Trivia at the Mane Market, Chalk the Walk at the Amphitheater, National Panhellenic Council Stroll Off at Norton Auditorium, the Homecoming Spirit Challenge Pep Rally on the Practice Field and tailgating on Spirit Hill.

As a regional institution with a high population of commuters, connecting students to their alma mater not only boots school pride, but also increases student retention.

“I think that people look at Florence as a retirement town, but I think we need to be more UNA,” said University Programming Council Spirit Coordinator Katelyn Olive. “This is a college town more than anything. We now have a D1 university in Florence and I think the downtown businesses need to promote that.”

Olive said whether that means having little window paint on their stores or selling more UNA gear or having the UNA logo showing that they support, having the little fabric signs that hang on the light poles, she thinks that would be a big thing.

“It would bring more of a crowd in also not just students but more of the community in to watch our games too,” Olive said.

University and local officials continue to talk about the importance of UNA’s presence in downtown Florence. This year, the annual SGA survey centers around student’s satisfaction with businesses downtown and their UNA pride.

“We need a bridge between downtown and the campus,” said University Programming Council Vice President Linden White. “I know that that’s kinda hard to do, but I think that with a full year between this year next year the homecoming committee can plan something but also get academics involved. Such as the teachers the deans. Maybe they just wear a shirt to class that is purple and gold instead of dressing up in a suit one day.”

After last year’s homecoming theme, Rock and Roar, the homecoming committee selected this year’s theme, The Gold Standard, to encourage school spirit.

“I’ve had a lot of RSOs and Greek life asking me what they should do for the theme. It needs to go towards school spirit,” White said.

Recognized student organizations, RSOs, participate in homecoming challenges like the GUC window painting, pep rally, and float contest in the parade. They can also nominate their members to be a part of the homecoming court.

“Especially this year, we tried to reach out to not just fraternity and sorority life because that’s who’s always drawn into homecoming,” Olive said. “We really tired reaching out to the NPHC fraternities and sororities or just regular RSOs, and we did get a lot of response back. And we’re reaching more students so I think more students will want to come and be included in homecoming and just raise the school spirit so we can get everybody hype for the game.”

The challenge’s three categories for judging, men’s, women’s and coed, have first and second place winners in addition to the overall winner. Last year, Lambda Sigma Phi won overall.

“I’m most excited to see the people that worked so hard during the RSO challenge, to see them at the end of the week,” White said. “They know they put themself, so much into it, and that the reward is at the end, and it’s a friendly competition.”

Even though homecoming creates events for students to have fun, sometimes academic and work obligations deter students from participating.

“It seems easy trying to get more people involved and on board with our ideas, but we’re in school,” Olive said. “We all have other things to do, we all have class, we all have jobs outside of this, so trying to get people just really involved was more of a struggle. That was probably the hardest part.”

The homecoming committee began discussing the theme, and planning events this summer. With enough time, the University Programming Council has worked to make events inclusive and accessible to all students.