Children sat on curbs with maroon and gold pompoms in their hair, students shouted to friends passing by on floats and politicians shook hands.
For an hour Saturday, a big university was transformed into a small community as students, alumni and families lined University Avenue for the University’s annual Homecoming parade.
But there was a different flavor to this year’s festivities.
Usually a form of a pep rally for the Homecoming football game, the parade took place as a single event this year, after the game was rescheduled to accommodate the Twins’ playoff series at the Metrodome.
Despite the schedule change, Homecoming program adviser Erich Martin said he thought the parade’s atmosphere was no different than previous years.
“I think we’re really looking at the parade as not so much of a preparatory thing for the game like we usually do but as a celebration at the end of an excellent Homecoming Week,” he said.
“(The parade) is one of the few times where our campus really comes together to show school spirit and pride for the University,” said Megan Van den Berghe, Homecoming program coordinator. “Everyone wants to be in it – it’s the thing to do this month.”
The parade featured a variety of entries from University student groups including residence halls, sororities, fraternities and political groups. The University marching band played Gopher fight songs, and the houses along fraternity row were decorated in accordance with this year’s theme, “A Legacy of Heroes.”
To go along with the theme, University police Chief George Aylward served as the parade’s grand marshal.
Although the parade’s appearance was similar to those in the past, some students and alumni in attendance said they noticed a difference in school spirit this year.
“There is a smaller turnout this year,” said alumnus Chris Martin, who has attended the parade with her husband Tom for 20 years.
University junior Kristina Grand agreed.
“It sucks, basically, this year,” she said. “There’s a lack of quality of the floats and the house fronts on frat row, a lack of people and a lack of spirit.”
However, not everyone was disappointed. Senior Erin Steele said she enjoyed the parade and would miss the annual celebration after her graduation.
“I’ve been attending the parade since I was a freshman. My parents come every year and we have brunch at my house,” she said. “I’m sad that this is my last year.”