Homecoming 2006 events light up week

University of Miami students, alumni and faculty as well as members of the South Florida community came together last week for the university’s Homecoming Week 2006.

The annual Homecoming Parade, part of Hurricane Howl on Friday night, featured floats furnished by Greek and other student organizations, with the theme of “Great Things to Come.” Floats showcased students’ visions of UM in the future, including NCAA football championships and meals at the new Rathskeller.

“We tried to make the parade a lot bigger this year,” said Andres Berisiartu, chair of the Homecoming Committee. “We worked with alumni to make it bigger and better.”

Sebastian the Ibis, stilt walkers, jugglers, vintage car collectors, Boy and Girl Scouts participated as well.

Camille Gabris, class of 1980, said she and her husband travel each year from Michigan for UM’s Homecoming and catch Miami football games around the country whenever possible.

Grand Marshall Michael Barrow, an alumnus from the class of 1993 and former Hurricane linebacker, told the crowd not to be discouraged by recent losses.

“It was good to see the energy in the crowd and the smiles on the children’s faces despite our football team’s poor record,” said sophomore Daniel Solomon, who marched in the parade with Alpha Sigma Phi.

Following the parade, a Pep Rally, fireworks display and Boat Burning on Lake Osceola took place. Legend says that if the boat’s mast breaks before the boat sinks, UM will win the Homecoming football game. The fire made it unclear whether the mast broke or not.

Grammy winning reggae artist Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, son of the late Bob Marley, performed a concert on the University Green.

“I typically only listen to metal but I have a new appreciation for reggae music after seeing Damian Marley,” Solomon said.

Homecoming weekend also doubled as Alumni Weekend 2006. Friday’s events featured Alumni Avenue, an area sectioned off for alumni to eat and mingle.

Alumni of Greek and other organizations also had reunions, such as for 40th and 50th class reunions.

Judson Dry, vice chair of Homecoming Committee, said the committee worked for 11 months to plan the activities.

“It’s been a very well run week,” he said.

Other Homecoming activities took place during the week, including the Hurricane Blood Drive, Homecoming King and Queen crowning ceremony, Organizational Cheer, Alma Matter singing contest and the Spirit Tree ceremony.

About 500 students participated in Saturday’s Hurricanes Help the Hometown, a volunteer event taking place at 19 locations around Miami.

During Friday night’s events, members of the Homecoming Committee handed out awards to student organizations for participation in the week’s events.

Organizations were divided into three teams, representing the school’s colors, orange, white and green, for competition and to give them a sense of unity, Berisiartu said.

“We wanted to have organizations that usually don’t communicate get together,” he said.

“Last year’s homecoming was essentially cancelled due to Hurricane Wilma. This year’s organizers came up with backup plans in case of rain.”

Stacey Weitz may be contacted at s.weitz1@umiami.edu.