The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s University Program Council put up a parade at the end of Homecoming week on Saturday, Nov. 2, in celebration of all that the university, its students and its alumni have achieved.
The parade was the beginning of the end of a week’s worth of Homecoming activities, with tailgating and the actual Homecoming game happening later that evening. It ran from Blackham Coliseum down Johnston Street, down West St. Mary Boulevard all the way to the alumni center.
“I loved this parade; we had a lot of people,” Karlie Sherman, UPC assistant director, said. “Just a lot of floats, a lot of honorees and a lot of people connected that just came out, which I think is super cool. So, the people in the parade really brought a crowd, which was really nice.”
The parade featured exclusively UL Lafayette entities; outstanding alumni and the Homecoming court led the parade in cars, the band played the fight song and a few other fanfares, and several student organizations threw beads and candy from atop their floats.
Sherman has been working with UL Lafayette’s Homecoming for four years, and she described the value a tradition such as Homecoming has at the university.
“Homecoming, the whole idea of it, is very American higher education — that’s where it started,” Sherman said. “I think the idea of tradition is very important, especially in higher education, because we have such history and we have so many things to celebrate.
“And most of the time a college campus is focused on what’s right there, then and there, so that’s students, faculty and staff. Homecoming is the thing that is really about bringing the alumni back, and celebrating the alumni, and celebrating what we’ve done to get to where we are now,” she said.
Whether they were flying in from out of town or just driving down the block, UL Lafayette alumni made up a large portion of the parade’s attendees.
One alumna, 29-year-old Brittany Shepard, said she has been coming to the parade every year since her freshman year back in 2008. Shepard said she enjoys the parade so much she makes the drive from her current home in Texas just to see it with her family.
“It’s fun every year; we come out every year — it’s fun for the kids, it’s fun for the adults, it’s just a really good time for everybody to come together,” Shepard said, later adding, “There’s something new every year, something new, something to look forward to, the floats are always exciting, the bands always great to hear, it’s just so much fun.”
According to Shepard, the parade alone costs about $4,000 to put on, and this money goes towards closing the roads, securing the barn where organizations could build their floats and any other small expenses.
April Pruitt, 2019 Homecoming queen, said she felt that actually being in the parade was wonderful. Pruitt is also the UPC president, and she has been in some way involved with the production of Homecoming for the past four years as well.
“It’s amazing to see the community support for the university,” Pruitt said. “Being able to represent the university at this capacity is a major honor, and seeing all the children and their parents and alumni, current students, all just coming out for Homecoming to really celebrate the greatness of the university and the progress that we have made is incredible.”
Pruitt then went on to describe her hopes of staying involved with the university through it’s alumni chapter wherever she may end up after graduating.
“The alumni and community dedication to the parade really warms my heart because I love this place, they love this place, they’ve loved this place for years,” Pruitt said, “and I’m hoping that when I graduate I can still be involved in the alumni association and just actually give back to the community even more.”
Even though there was a large crowd at the parade, there were very few students there actively watching; most of the crowd was made up of alumni and family members of those in the parade.
Shepard noticed this lack of students as well, and she said it might have been possible because most of the students at the parade are in it — either on a float or marching along otherwise — not many students go to watch the parade. Shepard added why it might be in students’ best interest to attend:
“This is the perfect example of getting involved that’s not joining a student organization. Every time we talk about ‘#GetInvolved,’ people think ‘join a club.’ And, that’s one way to be involved, yes, but just attending events, just going to stuff, you don’t have to pay anything, you don’t have to sign up, you don’t have to go with a group of people.”
“You can just walk out of your room and walk on St. Mary and enjoy some school spirit and have some fun and participate in one of our traditions. So, that’s what I would say, is it’s so easy. And UPC tries to make our traditions really accessible and easy so that you don’t have to have a student organization, you don’t have to have money or pay to go, you can just show up and have a good time.”