Clinton Kelly to lead Homecoming parade

Elise Foley

It’s not every day that television hosts visit Northwestern’s campus, but thanks to Homecoming it might be every year.

This year’s grand marshal, alumnus Clinton Kelly, is the host of The Learning Channel’s “What Not to Wear.” Last year’s parade was led by Stephen Colbert, Communication ’86, of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report”.

The grand marshal, who leads the Homecoming parade, is meant to draw students to the event and get people excited about the week, said Jenny Cota, Homecoming co-chairwoman.

“We have a lot of high-profile alums, so we want to make students aware that they’re fellow Wildcats, and also thank them for giving us such a good reputation,” the Weinberg junior said.

Kelly was chosen as grand marshal by the Homecoming committee, which makes a list of choices. The Alumni Association contacts the people on the list and finds out who is available and willing.

Most grand marshals are alumni because they are more enthusiastic about NU and are more likely to come back, said Katie Wesner, Alumni Association Assistant Director and advisor of the Homecoming committee.

“We really felt strongly about keeping it with the alumni, because they can really get involved in the pride of Northwestern,” Wesner said.

Kelly was available and agreed to do the event for free because he had another appearance planned in Chicago this weekend, Wesner said. Colbert also appeared for free because he was in town for his reunion, she said.

Cota said Kelly was one of the group’s top choices, especially because they wanted to bring someone who could attract crowds like Colbert did. With Colbert as grand marshal, last year’s parade had one of its largest turn-outs, Wesner said.

“We wanted to pick someone from Northwestern who was famous, well-known and respected in his field,” she said. “Obviously he’s respected, people love his TV show. People live and die by his TV show!”

In previous years, grand marshals have been more “local” and less famous, Wesner said. The 2005 grand marshal was football player Darnell Autry, a member of the 1996 NU Rose Bowl Team and former NFL running back. In 2000, journalist Sander Vanocur, a 1950 graduate, led the parade.

Kelly will not make any other campus appearances this week, and Colbert did not either. Wesner said the Alumni Association leaves it up to the individual whether to agree to any appearances.

Derek Linkous, who has organized the Homecoming parade for the past three years, said he thinks last year’s grand marshal raised the profile of the parade.

“Last year was great because it got a lot of people excited about and interested in the parade,” the Weinberg senior said. “This year I expect the parade will be just as big or bigger, because we’ve gotten people to think of it as a big deal.”

But some students said Kelly would not be enough a draw to convince them to attend the parade. Tim McGovern said he went to the parade last year to see Stephen Colbert but he is not sure whether he will attend this year.

“I actually have no idea who (Kelly) is, but the people who know of him say it’s a good choice,” the Communication sophomore said. “Since I don’t know him, I might as well be seeing some random student.”

Others are more excited. Mary Dwyer, a Weinberg sophomore and “really big fan” of “What Not to Wear,” said she will miss the parade this year because she has tickets to a concert that night.

“I was really excited (when I found out the grand marshal), because last year I didn’t start watching ‘The Colbert Report’ until after Colbert came to campus,” she said. “I thought it would be cool to be able to see someone I had been watching on TLC. I’m really, really upset that I have to miss it.”

Reach Elise Foley at [email protected]