In a crazy night filled with Homecoming floats, burning boats and first-class performers, students, faculty and alumni gathered on campus last Friday night for Hurricane Howl, the culminating night of a week’s worth of Homecoming events. It was a jam-packed event that began with the annual homecoming parade, followed by the boat burning ceremony and finished off with a concert featuring Wyclef Jean and the Refugee All Stars.
At about 7:30 p.m., the steady beating of the drum of the Iron Arrow Society – the most prestigious honor society on campus – signaled the beginning of the parade. Student-designed floats proceeded down Stanford Drive as onlookers marveled at student organizations’ creative efforts. The parade theme this year was “Traditions Through the Decades” and a panel of alumni and faculty members judged each float as they passed by.
Leading the parade this year were the UM student athletes and coaches who participated in the summer Olympic games in Athens, followed by President Donna Shalala. Sebastian the Ibis also joined in.
Finesse Mitchell, a 1994 UM graduate and a regular on Saturday Night Live, introduced each float.
As soon as the last float passed by, spectators were led to the banks of Lake Osceola for the boat burning ceremony, where they were handed candles and led in the singing of the school’s Alma Mater.
Soon after, a raft-like boat was sent into the middle of the lake and set on fire. Tradition holds that if the mast hits the water before the boat sinks UM will win its Homecoming football game. Everyone watched as sparks shot out of the boat before a sudden, unexpected explosion set it on fire, making the call on the mast a bit indecisive – perhaps an omen for the next day’s Homecoming game loss.
A large fireworks display followed the boat burning and everyone crowded along the banks to catch a glimpse of the colorful sparks that lit up the clear night sky.
“The fireworks were beautiful once I got a good view away from the trees that were blocking my view,” Shani Simpson, senior, said.
This year’s Homecoming event was a work in progress since last semester.
“Months and months of blood, sweat and tears went into planning and preparing for Friday’s event,” Erin Jenkins, Homecoming Executive Committee [HEC] member, said.
Many of the months were focused on revamping homecoming and giving it a different feel. Organizers said they tried to create a carnival atmosphere that had something to offer everyone.
“We completely renovated homecoming this year, but kept in tack all the traditions of the past,” Asgar Ali, HEC member, said.
Some of these changes included having bumper cars and laser tag set up for students and others to enjoy. Another change this year was the addition of ‘Canes Kidsville specifically for children. Kidsville included a petting zoo, bouncing house and sea of balls.
“Kidsville was nice because it gave the parents a chance to have their kids entertained and allowed them to do their own thing,” Natalie Rico, HEC member, said. “The kids were happy, they had candy and they were entertained.”
While students, parents and members of the community were enjoying these changes, alumni were enjoying reuniting with old friends at the different reunion dinners for those who graduated from the university 25, 30 and even 50 years ago.
“It’s been a fun evening. We saw the parade earlier and that was really well done,” said Bill Weymer, a 1954 graduate who came down from North Carolina with his wife to celebrate his 50th class reunion.
“My wife went to Clemson and that’s who we’re playing in the homecoming game – I don’t know, we might end up getting a divorce,” Weymer said jokingly.
The Wyclef Jean concert started shortly after 10 p.m. on a packed Green.
Jean performed some of his hit songs, and students from the audience were called up to dance on stage or sing a chorus from his songs. One lucky student won a signed guitar by Wyclef Jean from a raffle sponsored by Hurricane Productions.
“Wyclef is a very good performer and he served a diverse crowd,” Jazmane Morgan, junior, said. “That’s what I really enjoyed about it because everyone was able to appreciate his music.”
Students and alumni agreed that Jean’s performance and Friday night’s event overall was a success compared to previous years.
“This was actually my first Homecoming event even when I did attend the University of Miami,” Mitchell said. “They were never this big, first of all. We had different acts but nobody who really made you come out because back in the day, it’s wasn’t like this.”
Hurricane Howl wrapped up at midnight, but many didn’t want the festivities to end.
“I think school spirit was high than in most years,” Simpson said. “Sometimes we can seem a little apathetic, but when it’s Homecoming time you pull out all the stops to make sure your spirit is shown.”
Angelique Thomas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.