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Behind the Scenes of Homecoming

by Elizabeth McCarthy and Nina Howard

Homecoming is a week-long celebration at UT that is composed of multiple events to help get students excited about the upcoming football game and being a Vol. This year Homecoming will be held from November 7 through 13

Many student organizations participate in Homecoming week, as it is a great way to get involved with the campus community.

The Students Who Make It Happen

All Campus Events student leaders

All Campus Events student leaders

ACE is the university’s oldest student-run organization, responsible for several student competitions during Homecoming.

“We start planning for Homecoming the spring before, where it starts with alumni working to select a theme that reflects the chosen values for the academic year,” said Sarah Melton of the ACE staff. “This process requires feedback analysis from participating groups and ACE members as well as looking through past event archives for successes and failures.”

For the students in participating groups, Homecoming is a fantastic way to get plugged in on campus and leave their mark on the school.

“In this post-but-not-post-COVID world we are living in, Homecoming is giving students the opportunity to reignite their love for the University of Tennessee and help carry on its legacy,” Melton said. “Once fall rolls around things move quickly; registration process, a rules packet, schedules, and jobs for each event are created, along with planning meetings for participating groups.”

In partnership with the Center for Student Engagement, the Student Government Association is hosting the Homecoming bonfire at 8 p.m. in Fraternity Park on Thursday, November 18 (postponed from November 11 due to weather). The event includes s’mores, games, giveaways, and other activities.

“Because we are using public property, there is a specific time frame to have the fire lit,” said Nia Myrthil, student services director for SGA. “We also have to have the fire department present to monitor the fire.”

Along with ensuring proper management of the fire, there is also the logistics of ordering s’more ingredients and tools for about 300 students, accommodating dietary restrictions, securing a DJ and lights and other decorations, and making sure there are funds to pay for every detail.

The Homecoming bonfire is one of UT’s many traditions. Many organizations partner to participate by setting up booths and tents, allowing for community involvement.

“It’s just a fun night just to kind of relax and hang out with your friends around a nice, big, warm fire,” Myrthil said.

Going for the Win

The four councils advised by the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life are heavily involved in Homecoming events. Throughout the week, the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, and the Multicultural Greek Council participate in a series of competitions.

Three large-scale events involve float making, banner painting, and Smokey’s Howl, a dance competition at the Student Union Auditorium. The presidents of both IFC and Panhellenic shared some insight on what these competitions mean to their organizations.

“Homecoming is an opportunity for teamwork and leadership within each chapter, paired with the chance to compete against other chapters within IFC through a spirit of camaraderie,” said Will Rice, IFC president. “The competitions and events provide members of the organization the chance to construct an imaginative and collaborative body of work as well as the ability to get to know the other members of the partnered organizations.”

“The impact Homecoming week has on students is a promotion of teamwork, vision casting, and pulling off events that require a lot of brains and people to execute,” said Hadley O’Hara, Panhellenic president. “Students come away from this week with various skills based on the events they choose to be involved with and usually walk away with new friendships and memories as well.”

Both MGC and NPHC participate in Homecoming events, partnering for some events much as Panhellenic and IFC do. This year, they are focusing on two primary events: the Fiji Island tailgate, held in Fraternity Park, and a monument dedication. Both are scheduled to begin three hours before kickoff on Saturday, November 13.

“The Fiji tailgate is an unwritten tradition and a staple event each year for the minority community,” said Abigail Saulsberry, NPHC president. “For the NPHC it is an opportunity for members new and old to gather in strength.”

The monument dedication event is a ceremony special to NPHC, as each of its organizations—known as the Divine 9— will unveil a monument in honor of its founding. The monuments are a symbol of the university’s commitment to celebrating diversity and inclusion. The university broke ground on the project in 2019, and construction was completed this past summer.

“Many aspects of this event, from seat placement to a menu to provide the caterer to an appropriate balloon selection—there is a lot that has gone into the monument dedication,” Saulsberry added.

For more information, including a full list of the events sponsored by ACE, OSFL, SGA, Multicultural Student Life, Black Cultural Programming Committee, Alumni, and other offices, visit the Homecoming calendar or the Homecoming website.