By KATIE DOUGLAS (WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – Fall not only marks the beginning of football season but it also brings homecoming, a tradition that is highly celebrated among University of Central Missouri students.
The meaning of homecoming varies from person to person and students Maggie Quinn and Mike Clark are no exception.
For Quinn, it is the most important and busy time of the year.
For Clark, it is a time to relax, drink and enjoy what he hopes will be a good game.
For both, it is the first homecoming they will experience being 21.
Quinn chose to meet in a library study room for her Muleskinner interview, an appropriate place since Quinn is working to stay on top of her studies during homecoming week.
For the most part it’s quiet, except for the laughter coming from a group of students in the next room over. Quinn, a senior at UCM and member of Delta Zeta, walks into the room wearing a gray and white striped Panhellenic T-shirt, black sweatpants, and brown and tan Sperry Top-Sider shoes.
She makes herself comfortable in the plastic black chair she explains how homecoming is one of the most stressful, yet fun times of the year. Adding to the chaos of preparing for homecoming, Quinn is working toward graduating in May with a double major in Spanish and public relations, all while devoting 15 hours a week at an internship.
“Homecoming week is so hard because you’re balancing school and homecoming activities and teachers don’t see it as any different week,” Quinn said. “You still have tests and things to do for homecoming. And what sounds like more fun, going to the library and studying for a test or going to the fraternity house to work on your float?”
Quinn, who joined Delta Zeta as a sophomore, spends the weeks leading up to homecoming campaigning, building their float, working on their spirit window, participating in the blood drive and other homecoming activities. She does all of this while keeping up on her homework.
“I refuse to let my school suffer because of homecoming,” Quinn said, laughing. “Yes, it makes it harder to do your homework but you have to pick your battles. You can’t go to everything because you would just die.”
Danielle Meyers, 23, a graduate student at UCM, Delta Zeta alum and runner-up for homecoming queen in October 2010, prepared for her senior homecoming months in advance.
“I did a lot of planning during the summer, so all I really had to worry about was executing everything in October,” Meyers said. “Usually, everything works out and falls together in the end anyway. I think that is what a lot of people should realize when it comes to planning something.”
This year, Quinn plans to attend her first Breakfast of Champions with her boyfriend and then head over to catch the parade at 9 a.m.
Breakfast of Champions is an event that begins at 6 a.m. the day of homecoming. Students hit the bars to load up on breakfast and alcohol.
Next, she will attend the Delta Zeta-sponsored alumni lunch at 11:30 a.m. at Fitter’s, immediately followed by the tailgate from noon to 1 p.m. Then on to the football game at 1:30 p.m. to hopefully support her Delta Zeta homecoming candidate.
“If our candidate wins it is going to be insane and everyone is going to go out that night and go crazy,” Quinn said. “And if she makes it that far and doesn’t win, we are still going to go out that night and go crazy.”
Mike Clark, a junior marketing major at UCM, also acknowledged that his homecoming night is going to be a crazy.
When you walk into his apartment, the far wall is covered by a 46-inch flat screen TV tuned to ESPN. The side wall displays UCM and Mizzou flags, and another wall is lit by a neon Budweiser sign.
Clark, dressed in a white V-neck T-shirt and black Nike gym shorts takes a seat on his couch and discusses what he did at last year’s homecoming.
“I went to the parade but skipped out on tailgating because all of my friends were busy with other club activities before the game,” Clark said. “So I went back to my apartment and grabbed lunch before I headed to the stadium where I met up with other people. After the game I went to a friend’s house a few apartments down to celebrate the end of homecoming.”
This year is going to be different for Clark now that he is 21. He also plans to attend Breakfast of Champions and tailgate before the game. Unlike Quinn, Clark doesn’t feel the need to participate in homecoming events such as the blood drive or attend the pep rally.
“I plan to do Breakfast of Champions since I will be 21, possibly attending the parade because last year’s was boring since there was like 900 floats. OK, maybe an exaggeration, but it sure felt like it,” Clark said. “Tailgate with a lot of people, attend the game and then whatever happens later that night happens.”
When deciding whether to join a fraternity, Clark said he opted out because he transferred to UCM last fall. He said it was too late to join and that he doesn’t regret not being more involved in school activities.
This is Clark’s second year as a member of the UCM Club Baseball team.
When he is not playing ball, he is working on his integrated business experience class. This is a class where students are divided into groups to create a real product to sell to the students and the community. His team created a Mo the Mule 4GB flash drive that they hope to presell this week.
No matter how you celebrate homecoming, the seasons have changed and homecoming 2012 is here. So, it’s time to pull out the red and the black and continue the tradition of celebrating the past, present, and future at UCM.