University fans flood street for Homecoming parade

Brookelyn Mengel

Inflatable air-force pilots, solar-car engineers and Middlebrook Hall residents looking like maroon-and-gold raspberries rubbed shoulders as they marched down University Avenue on Saturday morning.
The University Marching Band and the alumni marching band — each wielding bellowing brasses, piercing winds and thumping drums — led the 95-unit Homecoming parade to pump up the community for the football game against Purdue.
Despite overcast skies, the University community showed up with school colors and Gophers spirit for the 86th annual Homecoming parade.
“(The parade) is a way to get people back onto campus before the game,” said Sue Denzer, Homecoming Parade Committee co-chairwoman.
University President Mark Yudof noted “a lot of enthusiasm” despite the rainy weather and early hour. Yudof said that the parade had to start early to finish in time for the football game.
“I worked on that but couldn’t get it changed,” he said.
Last year, the parade overlapped the Homecoming game kickoff.
The spectators and participants who did brave the early-morning hour and the weather fought hard for the candy, Mardi Gras beads and pens that were tossed off the floats.
One group even tossed cigars at spectators.
Some parents urged their children to dodge the pens so they wouldn’t get their eyes poked out.
Kelly Johnson, 8, dove for candy. Her older sister Michelle said she “liked when the marching band came.”
Alumnus Ted Radintz was happy to wake up early, attend the parade, see old friends and walk around the campus again. Each year, he watches the parade because it “shows off what the University has to offer.”
Spectators crowded three main portions of the parade route with people scattered in between. Stretches near the Dinkydome and the University Avenue fraternity houses were packed with cheering people.
However, with only 95 groups the parade was smaller than last year’s 110.
Among other factors, Denzer attributed the lower participation rate to this year’s semester transition and the late distribution of the parade participant information packets. Some groups did not reply in time, she said.
“Last year was a better turnout,” said Ryan Marsch, an Institute of Technology sophomore. “The weather was better then, but this year the (football) team is much better; it’s kind of ironic.”
Greeks showed off their University pride with decorated floats and housefronts. Nichole Kedrowski recalled working on the Delta Chi housefront, titled “Millennium Masquerade,” for many late nights.
As the greeks who worked on Delta Chi’s facade — Goldy Gopher sitting on an hourglass — the day before the parade, they were constantly reminded that Homecoming was only one more late, rainy night away.
The floats and housefronts were part of a competition among the University’s fraternities and sororities. Delta Tau Delta placed third in the housefront competition last year but won overall. This year’s winners will be announced tonight.
“If you win spirit, you pretty much win,” said Peter Schuna, a fraternity member and a senior in biology.