JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

It Simmers It Smokes.
It's Homecoming at JSU!

Abby Knight
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 bond together.

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 Student Activities.

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.


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