In just under one month, Tech will host its annual Homecoming events for the 90th time. Homecoming week will take place Oct. 11- 15 this year; the theme is ‘Buzz Under the Big Top.’ Amid returning alumni, reveling students and the all the seasonal festivities of the Wreck Parade, however, attentive students will notice that there’s something different, something new about the festivities this year. Homecoming may be a well-loved and time-tried tradition, but here on its 90th birthday its caretakers have decided that change is order.
According to Heather Aquilino, fourth-year Inta and the Chair of the Student Center Homecoming Committee, the unspoken assumption has always been that Homecoming is an exclusively Greek event.
Though non-Greek student organizations have been allowed and encouraged to participate in the past, the emphasis always appeared to be on fraternity and sorority competition, leaving the rest of the student body to watch from the sidelines.
Though referred to as the ‘Housing Bracket,’ any group of students that wants to can register as a competing, whether or not they live in the same hall, the same dorm, or even on the same side of campus.
This year, homecoming week breaks a slew of changes in prpramming. New competitions include Powderpuff football and cheerleading, a syrup-chugging contest, a day of ‘clown competition,’ and – specially introduced for Housing teams – the ‘Homecoming Sprit Contest,’ an answer to the perennially popular pomp display contest.
“Usually the only people who participate have a house,” explained Ramu Annamalai, second-year IsyE, Homecoming’s Intra-Fraternity Council Overall Chair. “That just wasn’t fair for the Housing teams.” But, Annamalai said, “We can’t have them putting something up outside the Residence Hall. The RHA would flip!”
The solution is the Homecoming Spirit Contest, one of the weeks’ first events. Though teams can prepare before hand, the actual build begins on Sunday night, and will include students decorating any common interior space. Judging starts the next morning, and points will be awarded for creativity, attractiveness, humor, and relation to this year’s overarching ‘Buzz Under the Big Top’ theme.
In the past two year homecoming has featured the themes “Fight, Win, Rock&Roll” in 2008 and “Buzz and the Knights of Tech Tower” in 2007.
Aquilino is particularly excited about this new event, and the possibilities it presents.
“I think it’ll be a lot of fun, it’ll really bring the Homecoming spirit into the halls,” said Aquilino.
Even before the real competition kicks off on Sunday, though, Tech’s student body will have the opportunity to sample some of the whimsical ‘Big Top’ innovation the Homecoming team has been working so hard on.
GT Homecoming will begin its ninth decade in true circus fashion, with a full-fledged Carnival on Skiles walkway. Occurring alongside the annual Team Buzz event, the Carnival promises fun for all students, team-affiliated or not.
“The Carnival has been something that I’ve wanted to do since we chose the Homecoming theme. To make it the kind of event I wanted it to be, I knew I needed help from the IFC/CPC exec,” said Aquilino.
That such help materialized is, in fact, perhaps the most important change to this year’s homecoming of all.
“In the past, things tended to be very disoriented, very splotchy. There’s been a big push this year to put on a more cohesive effort… we’re all banding together to have a great homecoming,” said Annamalai.
Heather agreed, despairing of previous years’ efforts.
“Chairs never worked together. Until the event we’d never met, had no idea how things worked. Last year, I had no idea that a Mock Rock Chair even existed,” said Aquilino.
The new cohesion and communication has enabled the Chairs to create a homecoming of completely unprecedented proportions. As if all the other changes weren’t enough, this year’s Big Top has a last act that promises to top all the others. The brand-new Buzz Bash concert on Friday Oct. 16 is shrouded in secrecy and surrounded by a barely-contained sense of excitement. Aquilino could not reveal details, for “contractual reasons.”
“This is totally new for homecoming,” Carlson said, “nothing of this magnitude has ever happened before.”
That kind of grandiose dreaming – and grandiose achieving – seems to have come naturally to the chairs this year. The basic formula wasn’t hard, in any case; according to Carlson, the real trick was just asking, “what can we do to make this the best Homecoming for everyone?”
It remains to see if this year’s new events could be next future traditions.
“Hopefully this year will pay off,” Carlson said, “I really do think we’ve laid the groundwork.”