JSU News Bureau
JACKSONVILLE -- October 17, 2002 --
It simmers. It smokes. Hardwood creaks and groans against the heat. The
fire wins the battle of resistance and consumes the wood. Fueled flames
climb higher and higher into the night sky, white-hot tips licking at the
stars. The crowd is too mesmerized to cheer. Intense heat burns against
their faces while autumn cold bites their backs. The light of the fire
beats out the moon, beats out even the brightest star.
Jacksonville State University students, along with university students
nationwide, partake in the ancient rite of a bonfire as the blaze of the
alma mater, the nurturing mother, signals her children to return home. And
that they will, on Saturday, November 9.
For nearly 400 years, bonfires have burned on the fifth of November in the
United Kingdom and Canada. Bonfire Night celebrates the defeat of a
conspiracy to blow up the House of Parliament with the then-king James I,
and his wife and heir, inside. The conspiracy was uncovered on November
5th, 1605. On November 6th, 1606, Parliament made the date of November
5th, a day of public thanksgiving.
But there's more to it. The British Bonfire Night is thought to have
origins in the Celtic New Year's tradition. November 1st marked the Celtic
feast of Samhain, which means summer’s end and, for the Celts, the year’s
end. The focus of each village's festivities was a great bonfire. With the
flames roaring, the villagers extinguished all other fires. Each family
then solemnly lit their hearth from the one great common flame, bonding all
families of the village together.
On this side of the Atlantic Ocean, the bonfire has been a part of college
traditions since long before the first homecoming was held in the early
1900s. Dolls built to resemble rival team players were burned in effigy
before big football games. Historians cannot agree on whether the first
homecoming was held at the University of Illinois in 1910 or the University
of Missouri in 1911. Regardless, the first homecomings were held to lure
alumni and former students back to campus to watch football games and give
their continued support of their institution.
In modern times homecoming is far more than a commercial endeavor. It is a
chance for alumni to return home and share their successes, relive memories
and create new ones by participating in reunions and an array of other
activities. Most alumni return with their families, showing off favorite
old haunts, pointing out the history of a site where a new building stands now.
It is also a chance for the University to make its alumni proud, to show
off new facilities, new faculty and new accomplishments.
On November 9th, Jacksonville State University’s homecoming week will
culminate in an exciting football game against Northwestern State. But
the game is only the climax of a series of thrilling events that will
happen on campus in the days, weeks and hours prior to the game.
Mardracus Russell, a sophomore from Dadeville, Alabama, heads the Student
Government Association's Homecoming Committee this year. Brimming with
enthusiasm, he sees the event not as a university event, but as a community
event. Like the Celtic festivals in villages of old, Russell sees
homecoming as an opportunity for the Jacksonville community as a whole to
Homecoming week activities actually start 17 days prior to the football
game with the Homecoming Pageant in the Leone Cole Auditorium at 7
p.m. There, homecoming queen contestants will compete for a spot in the
coveted Homecoming Top Ten.
One of Russell’s and his committee’s goals is to involve more “non-Greeks”
in activities. They are actively encouraging other student clubs and
organizations to sponsor nominees for Homecoming Queen.
On October 31, the top ten will be narrowed down to five with voting held
open to the entire student body in the TMB. After voting, the committee
urges students to see how real beauty queens dress by watching Tim Curry in
the annual showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on the quad.
Homecoming Week official runs from November 4 through November 8. This
year, the SGA will be sponsoring a days of the week campaign with a
different dress them every day. Monday is “Old School,” wear your high
school clothes. Tuesday is a day to "Strut Yo Stuff,” dress up and look
your best. Wednesday is “PJ Day,” an opportunity to wear pajamas to class
(and try to stay awake). Thursday is “Cocky?” day, a time to show school
spirit and wear your "Cocky?" shirt. Friday is about “Hoedown,” the theme
of Homecoming -- time to wear your Homecoming T-shirt. Russell said that
Homecoming tees would be for sale the week of homecoming in the Office of
The focus on decorating this year will be on the parade floats. A $1000
prize will be awarded to the winning float. A $500 prize will also be
awarded to the Jacksonville area merchant with the best Hoedown Homecoming
themed window display. As part of the parade, area high school bands are
being invited to compete in a Street Marching Competition. The winning
band will win $400.
November 7 marks J-Day with fun activities in front of the Theron
Montgomery Building. There will be homecoming queen elections and
Karaoke in the Café’ at lunchtime.
At 8 p.m. the flames will be lit for the bonfire and the Homecoming Queen
will be announced. The parade starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday and kick-off
versus Northwestern State is at 4 p.m.
Russell has high hopes that Homecoming will be the community event that he
has planned for.
“This year it’s going to be a Hoedown homecoming,” he said.
For more information about Homecoming festivities, call the SGA at 782-5490
or the Alumni Association at 256-782-5404.