Homecomings is here

The making of a U.Va. tradition

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Homecomings features a week of events planned for both current and returning Wahoos. 

Cavalier Daily

Each year, students both past and present join together to celebrate the University during Homecomings. This year’s events kicked off on Monday, Oct. 10 with the First-year Kick-off and will wrap up on Saturday, Oct. 15 with the Homecomings football game against Pittsburgh.

Homecomings, like the Grounds or Academical Village, is a term unique to the U.Va. lexicon. The exact origin is a mystery but there is deep meaning behind the term.

“Virginia Homecomings is plural because it’s multiple homecomings,” Homecomings Committee Chair Madison McWithey, a fourth-year College student, said. “You’re coming back to school. You’re coming back to your friends. You’re coming back to the University. You’re coming back to your sorority or fraternity. It’s kind of a multifaceted homecomings. That’s why it’s plural.”

Homecomings, in its current capacity, is a relatively new tradition. In 2003, it was reinstated after a long hiatus following a large donation from the Seven Society.

Although Homecomings originated in the early 20th century, the tradition has evolved significantly over the course of the University’s history. Wayne Cozart, vice president of development and director of Jefferson Trust, said Homecomings has existed since the 1930s, but was traditionally not a major weekend.

In the past, the four big weekends at the University were Openings, which was the opening of the fraternity season; Midwinters, which occurred in late January or early February; Easters, which occurred sometime in April; and Finals, or what is now known as Graduation Weekend.

“Today only Finals exits, but back then it meant that Homecoming was not a major weekend for the University,” Cozart said. “Only after Openings, Midwinters, and Easters are canceled that we begin to see any interest in Homecomings at all.”

Cozart said a reason for low rates of return among alumni for Homecomings weekend was due to a weak football program. The Alumni Association, however, is anticipating a strong turnout for Young Alumni Reunions this year, especially due to new football coach Bronco Mendenhal.

“Traditionally, we have not had strong football team, so there has not been great interest among alumni in coming back for Homecomings Weekend,” Cozart said. “Between 1958 and 1961, we did not win a single game, so there was not much motivation to come watch a football game. There has been renewed interest, especially with Bronco this year and I think we should have a good crowd.”

Undergraduate students have also become increasingly involved in planning events for Homecomings Weekend.

“Around 1998 or 2000, Student Council became interested in trying to build something, and then about four years ago a group of students created a CIO for Homecomings for undergraduate students,” Cozart said.

The CIO to which Cozart referred is the Homecomings Committee, which became independent of Student Council in 2012.

“We’re still in that revamping stage of trying to get the name out there since it wasn’t a thing for so long,” Nicole Fogel, fourth-year Commerce student and co-head of the fundraising committee, said.

The board starts planning the week six months prior to Homecomings to ensure the events run smoothly.

“Ever since six months, we hit the ground running,” Homecomings Marketing Committee member Alyson Johnson, a third-year Curry student, said. “We stayed in contact over the summer and then picked [up] a lot when we got back to school with logistics and getting first years involved.”

The First-year Kick-off opened the week with free food and an obstacle course on the McCormick Quad.

“This year we’ve had more first years involved which is exciting,” Johnson said. “We just continued to get the word out and let people know what Homecomings is.”

Wahoo Wednesday on Oct. 12 gave students a chance to get free goodies and show off their school spirit by wearing orange and blue. The Homecomings Committee also hosted a spirit dinner Wednesday night at O’Hill.

“We [had] a spirit dinner at O’Hill on Wednesday,” Johnson said. “[It was] our Wahoo Wednesday so we [gave] out cups and stuff to people wearing blue and orange.”

On Thursday, Oct. 13, the largest event of the week — Hoos Under the Lights — will take place in the Amphitheatre from 6 to 8 p.m.. The event features music, food and community. Later, Homecomings and Pancakes for Parkinson’s are teaming up to host a bar night at Crozet from 9 to 12 p.m. with all proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

“There [will be] booths from different CIOs, free Wayside Chicken, Duck Donuts and Sweet Haus,” McWithey said. “It’s time for students to come together and get free food and talk and mingle around.”

Saturday kicks off with Pancakes for Parkinson’s featuring free pancakes, music and a silent auction from 9 to 12 p.m. on the South Lawn. At 12:30 p.m., U.Va. football faces Pittsburgh at Scott Stadium. The Young Alumni Reunion wraps up the week with its yearly party for the last four graduating classes with food, drinks and dancing from 8 to 11 p.m.

“I get most excited for the Homecomings football game because it’s [Young Alumni Reunions] and all the alumni come back that have only graduated a few years ago so it’s fun to see all of our friends come back,” Johnson said. “It’s just exciting to see the current U.Va. students and alumni come together and celebrate this place that they all love so much.”

In addition to the events, the Homecomings Committee will raffle gift cards to restaurants such as Lemongrass, Boylan Heights and Crozet Pizza at the Buddhist Biker Bar. They also tabled all week selling t-shirts for $15.

“There’s a ton of opportunities to show your spirit and show how much you love U.Va., especially since our football team is getting better,” Fogel said. “I think this is a good way for people to get more involved and kind of do something different. And it is on the ‘117 Things to Do Before You Graduate’ list to attend the Homecomings events.”

Cozart said as the University has grown larger, the interest in Homecomings has increased.

“When I first came [to the University in 1984] we considered ourselves an Ivy League institution. The concept of Homecomings, with a Homecoming King and Queen was too ‘State U.,’” Cozart said. “Now there is a greater interest, as students have had Homecomings at their high schools and want to build a greater phenomenon.”

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