Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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A celebration and a loss

It wasn’t New Year’s Eve, it wasn’t Mardi Gras, it wasn’t even Hugh Hefner’s birthday. But celebrate they did.

Following the theme “Celebrate we will,” 18 floats decorated in themes representing various celebrations paraded north on Sheridan Road on Friday night, followed by a pep rally for the next day’s football game, which Northwestern lost 41-28 to Purdue University.

At the pep rally, Josh Mitchell and Vernesha Williams were crowned Homecoming king and queen, which organizers believe is the first black royal pair ever at Northwestern.

Williams, a Speech senior, said the selection shows how far NU has advanced in race relations, because voters had to have been diverse enough to elect them.

“Diversity has been stressed in the past couple years,” Williams said. “This proves that Northwestern as a campus is embraced in diversity in every aspect.”

Mitchell and Williams met a week before arriving at NU as freshmen and became best friends shortly after. They participate in the African-American Theater Ensemble and the Northwestern Community Ensemble choir.

Education senior Domonique McCord, who has been good friends with the pair since freshman year, said they deserve the “royal treatment.”

“The two of them are very hard workers,” McCord said. “The quality people they are shows in the support that they got.”

Along with the Homecoming royalty, University President Henry Bienen, Evanston Mayor Lorraine Morton, alumni, student group members, sororities and fraternities strutted their stuff down Sheridan.

Delta Chi and Delta Sigma Theta — Williams’ sorority — won first place in the float competition with a representation of the Chinese New Year that had members of the houses dressed in a large dragon costume.

Kim Baglien, co-chair of the parade, said the number of students watching the parade increased from past years, probably because of the success of this year’s football team. The floats reflected the team’s then-5-1 record, with one float predicting a 56-0 NU victory over Purdue.

“A lot of (the floats) had messages about beating Purdue, which we never had in the past,” Baglien said.

And while homecoming weekends typically are meant to boost support for football teams, Baglien said NU’s parade also generates spirit for student groups and Greek organizations.

“It’s the first big event of the year that everyone from the campus gets together to see,” Baglien said. “It’s a way to individualize it and really show your own organization’s spirit.”

Homecoming organizers this year gave float builders flexibility in the themes they could use for their floats, but Baglien said only one float may have gone too far. Phi Delta Theta and Delta Delta Delta held a birthday party for Hugh Hefner — founder of Playboy magazine — complete with sorority members dressed as Playboy bunnies. Baglien said a few alumni asked her about the float’s theme before the parade, but they didn’t complain.

“It would have been inappropriate had people not found it funny,” Baglien said.

The parade stopped for about 15 minutes to let an ambulance pick up a senior citizen who fainted in the Technological Institute. Parade Co-chair Ayan Bagchi said organizers were told that the person recovered.

But organizers said the delay made the parade 30 minutes longer than they had hoped. Baglien said next year’s parade probably will begin later than this year’s 8:30 p.m. starting time because of Evanston residents’ concerns about its timing.

The parade’s grand marshal Sander Vanocur, Speech ’50, on Thursday received the Minow Visiting Professorship in Communications. He also spoke at the pep rally after the parade.

Though the football team could not attend the rally because of its curfew on nights before games, cheerleaders, the Lady Cats and the Northwestern University Marching Band worked to raise the spirit of students gathered at the pep rally.

Students packed the student section at Ryan Field on Saturday, and though their cheers grew fainter during the team’s subpar second-half performance, Williams, the Homecoming Queen, said she hoped the loss wouldn’t spoil the weekend’s celebratory spirit.

“Everyone has to have a not-so-good moment now and then,” she said.

The Daily’s Lisa Glass, Dan Murtaugh and Ben Winograd contributed to this report.

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A celebration and a loss