There will be a mix of in-person and virtual activities for MTSU students, alumni and friends of the university as the 2020 Homecoming Week approaches, with public health remaining a top priority.
All of the activities will lead up to the 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, Homecoming Game against Conference USA rival Western Kentucky University in Floyd Stadium.
Activities such as the traditional Homecoming Parade are very different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading a number of events to be moved online and others to observe MTSU’s mask mandate, social distancing and other requirements to maintain Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health protocols.
Homecoming is a way for everyone connected to the university to celebrate decades of traditions. This year, there’s a virtual twist to a number of activities, including the virtual shoebox parade, dubbed the “MTShUbox Parade,” and “M(ask) Me Trivia” in collaboration between the Student Government Association and MTSU Alumni Association.
MT Athletics recently adopted game-day guidelines, which can be found here. To mitigate COVID-19 risks, they include no tailgating, the wearing of masks, social distancing and a limit on the number of fans admitted to games.
Realizing that it was unable to host its annual Mixer on Middle parade-watching party because of safety concerns, the Alumni Relations office pivoted to the shoebox parade, “bringing a new opportunity to produce a parade filled with shoebox float entries from Blue Raiders everywhere,” said Rhonda King, Alumni Relations assistant director.
The Alumni Association also is featuring a homecoming photo contest, homecoming keepsake photos, a “MOO-ving Happy Hour” featuring MTSU Creamery milk for sale and virtual homecoming photos.
So what’s a “shoebox parade,” and how will it work?
“We invite students, alumni, family, friends and community members to create a float from a shoebox or similar structure and be a part of this year’s historic Homecoming Parade,” King said.
Entrants will then submit a photo of their shoebox float to be included in the virtual parade. Complete entry details are available at www.mtalumni.com.
Chip Walters, voice of the Blue Raiders, will announce the parade entries along their virtual parade route. The event will be broadcast live from the Alumni House at 10 a.m. Oct. 3 onTrue Blue TV, Facebook Live and the MTSU YouTube account.
Walters will be joined by 2020-21 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, narrator and voice actor Pat Duke (’81) in announcing the parade. Among his many roles, Duke has narrated the History Channel’s “Swamp People” television series 12 years.
The homecoming photo contest includes categories for Baby Raiders (infant to age 2), Little Legacies (ages 3 to 8), Tween Raiders (9 to 12), Blue Raider Pets, Raider Family Photo and Best Blue Raider Homecoming Memory. Vintage and recent photos are welcome.
An outdoor movie, Kan Jam, Socially Distanced Picnic at the Rec, “M(ask) Me Trivia” and homecoming yard party are among the SGA-led activities, said Homecoming Director Caroline Haynes.
“We have a week full of events and competitions planned,” said Haynes, explaining that the committed planned events that “students would enjoy and allow our campus community to showcase their pride in MTSU.
“Despite the challenges we have faced due to COVID-19, I am excited to see all of the Homecoming Committee’s hard work and planning in action. It is going to be a great week.”
Haynes is a senior agribusiness major in the School of Agriculture. She is earning a minor in secondary education in the College of Education.
King said the Alumni Office and Alumni Association “are delighted that regardless of location, Blue Raiders can experience MT homecoming. You can participate from wherever you live and watch through True Blue TV (and the other broadcast platforms).”
Distinguished Alumni will be recognized next spring. The Golden Raiders, this year honoring the Class of 1970, will be recognized at a later date.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)