Updated: Homecoming Week ends with parade, pep rally

Student members of the Homecoming Court dance during Friday night’s Homecoming parade.

Paulina Firozi, Campus Editor

Northwestern students, staff and alumni paraded down Sheridan Road on Friday night, gathering at Deering Meadow for a pep rally to celebrate the culmination of Homecoming Week.

The parade began at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion and proceeded to The Arch and eventually Deering. Evanston residents and NU students gathered on the sidewalk to watch marching bands, student groups and grand marshal J.A. Adande (Medill ’92) pass.

University President Morton Schapiro and Burgwell Howard, the assistant vice president for student engagement, addressed the crowd to get them excited about Homecoming and about Saturday’s football game.

“It is my great pleasure to be on this meadow once again,” Howard said. “This is a place where we celebrate the best moments at Northwestern. We’re so excited to see our alumni back. We’re so excited to see our family and friends back here.”

Schapiro reminded students that although the Homecoming festivities are fun, he was more excited for NU’s football game against Iowa on Saturday morning.

“Homecoming’s always a wonderful part of the academic year. You make new friends, revisit old friends, support an alma mater that you love,” Schapiro said. “All that stuff’s important, but I’m not thinking about that right now. I’m thinking about one thing — winning a football game.”

Adande, an ESPN.com columnist and panelist for ESPN’s “Around the Horn,” took the stage and shared his reason for wanting an NU win.

Before he introduced the 2012 Homecoming Court and this year’s king and queen, he held up a press pass from the 1996 Rose Bowl, when the Wildcats played against the University of Southern California Trojans. 

“From every event, I keep all my credentials,” he said as he held up the pass. “It’s about time to add to the collection. Let’s make it happen.”

Finally, Adande announced Communication senior Kirk Vaclavik and McCormick senior Kyra Woods as Homecoming king and queen.

“Really, it’s amazing that I can be Homecoming king of such an incredible school,” Vaclavik told The Daily. “It’s where I’ve felt most at home in my life and I’m so happy I get to keep coming back every year.”

Woods told The Daily she could hardly put into words how she felt about winning queen.

“This is is so phenomenal,” she said. “It is truly an honor because this is such a great school, great people, and I feel really honored that people thought enough of me to let me be a representation of the student body.”

The pep rally finished with football coach Pat Fitzgerald pumping the crowd up for Saturday’s game. 

“We’re kicking it off at 11,” Fitzgerald said, “which means in about 12 hours from now we need you at Ryan Field booing anything with black and yellow on.”

The Cats closed Homecoming week with a victory on Saturday, taking down Iowa 28-17.

Gram Bowsher, vice president of promotions for Wildside, said it was a particularly important win after last week’s defeat by Nebraska.

“Coming off of such a tough loss in the final minutes to Nebraska, coming back from that and being able to see how much support the students rallied and how the students are willing to come back out and support the team is not something we’ve had in years past,” the SESP sophomore said. “Being able to win a Homecoming game and a game against Iowa with so much student support is one of the better football moments I’ve had a Northwestern.”

McCormick junior Aaron Frank said he loves going to games early to experience the atmosphere, but added that he he especially enjoyed seeing alumni join the crowd in the excitement for NU football. He said he was happy not to see the Cats give up a big lead at the end.

“The players want to do especially well on Homecoming,” Frank said. “They know people are coming back and they are proud of the traditions that go along with Homecoming. They just want to play well and just give something for everyone to be excited about.”

This story has been updated to reflect student reaction to Saturday’s football game between Northwestern and Iowa.