Return of cherished Homecoming Week brings students together with new experiences

Members of Federacion Estudiantes Cubanos celebrate during the homecoming festivities on the Foote Green on Nov. 5, 2021.
Members of Federacion Estudiantes Cubanos celebrate during the homecoming festivities on the Foote Green on Nov. 5, 2021. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Thousands of students finally crowded around Lake Osceola, many for the first time, for the annual Hurricane Howl, an event that features the Boat Burning and fireworks to cap off the University of Miami’s Homecoming Week. Performances from UM cheerleaders, the Frost Band of the Hour and members of the Frost School of Music kept the crowds energy high.

Together, current and former Canes counted down the seconds until the boat was set ablaze, chanting down from ten. The boat exploded with a spectacular pop and burst of flames. The mast quickly burned, broke off the boat and fell into the water, signalling that the Hurricane’s will win at the Homecoming game against Georgia Tech, according to UM tradition.

The crowd erupted into applause, followed by a singing of the Alma Mater and an extended fireworks show that illuminated the heart of campus and all the faces watching.

In the tradition of Homecoming, alumni typically return to enjoy the celebration of their alma mater once again. They bring their family, see their friends and relive what it means to be a Hurricane. As the finale of the week, Hurricane Howl holds a special place in the heart of many alumni.

“This sums it up. This is the closest you can come to physically putting into perspective what it is to be a Hurricane,” said Jared Zemantauski, a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law and current professor at the university.

Last year, because of COVID-19, the was no in-person Homecoming, everything was virtual. This year, the Homecoming Executive Committee (HEC) aimed to make up for lost time and “bring the beat back” to UM.

“It’s been an honor to plan,” said Gustavo Tovar, a member of the Hurricane Howl subcommittee of the Homecoming Executive Committee. “I think so many people have been looking forward to this and it clearly shows with the crowd.”

Students valued the opportunity to return to a normal Homecoming, particularly sophomores who didn’t the chance to celebrate

“This is my first time getting to experience it as a student, said Marcel van Hemert, a sophomore and local Miami resident. “I get to hang out with my friends. I get to have a great time. Getting into what Homecoming is all about has been excellent.”

COVID-19 is still present on UM’s campus, but to a much lesser extent than last year. As of Nov. 5, only five students were in quarantine or isolation. This time last year, however, COVID-19 cases were on the rise as the university approached it’s record high of the Fall 2020 semester of 68 positive cases reported on Nov. 19, 2020.

This year’s Homecoming was about celebrating the return of students, festivities and normal after a year that was too quiet.

“I thought because of COVID, it was going to be kind of bad,” said Nathaniel Valentine, a sophomore. “But I saw the boat burning ceremony and fireworks and I was like, UMiami really goes all out.”

Freshmen who didn’t know what to expect particularly enjoyed the festivities.

“It was very big, very grand, I really liked it and I was very impressed,” said Griffin Mason, a freshman. “I loved it.”

That is the goal of Homecoming. The week brings students, alumni and anyone else connected to the U together to remember what it’s like to be a part of the UM family.

“Hurricane Howl means family, tradition and trying to pass something on,” Zemantauski said.

“We’re in Miami, Florida, so a lot of people are independent in things. But when we have big events like this that bring people together, I think that emphasizes what being a Cane is. It brings us together under the U,” said sophomore Aliyah Beverly.