A look at homecoming traditions in Mid-Missouri.
photos by Judy Layher & Jefferson City Public Schools
Mizzou homecoming — there’s nothing quite like it. Between the colorful floats, the beautifully decorated city, and the enormous amounts of campus pride, MU sets the bar high for homecoming celebrations.
What is Homecoming?
Glad you asked. Homecoming was originally created to be a celebration that brings all alumni back to their alma mater. According to the Mizzou Alumni Association, the core elements of homecoming are pep rallies, a parade, a bonfire, and a football game. MU happens to have the largest student-run homecoming in the nation.
Homecoming has become a huge, campus-wide competition. Dorms, organizations, sororities, and fraternities all compete to “win” homecoming — the groups with the most participation in a series of events earn points, and the group with the most points wins.
MU’s homecoming begins with a blood drive, one of the largest in the nation, for the American Red Cross. Last year’s donations totaled 4,374 units of blood, saving about 13,122 lives.
The city of Columbia gets involved when students are invited to “Decorate The District.” Each student group or organization partners with a local business in downtown Columbia and decorates the windows and storefront of that establishment. Everything is on-theme, of course, with plenty of Tiger Pride.
The parade occurs the morning of the homecoming game. Student groups and organizations all march together and show off their Tiger spirit. The floats are made by students and count as a big part of their final score.
Finally — game time! Students and alumni alike watch eagerly as the Tigers take on their opponent. During the half-time show, the Homecoming King and Queen are announced. The candidates are nominated by the student body and are considered royalty candidates once they pass the interviewing process.
Homecoming in the SEC
MU isn’t the only school that goes all-out for homecoming.
The University of Mississippi, for example, has homecoming festivities like those at MU, but it also has some of its own unique traditions. Along with a talent show, parade, and pep rally, Ole Miss has a homecoming formal for all students. Tailgating in The Grove, at Ole Miss, is said to be one of the best spots in the SEC.
Texas A&M hosts a homecoming fashion show and an alumni golf tournament as well as a door décor contest for faculty and staff.
Vanderbilt University celebrates homecoming a little differently — they’re more focused on the “coming home” part. The night before homecoming, the school hosts parties for all the different graduated classes. Afterward, there is an “all-class” party that goes through the night prior to the homecoming football game and tailgate.
The University of Alabama also incorporates many of MU’s traditions, including their version of Decorating The District called “Paint the Town Red,” as well as a blood drive. They also host dodgeball, bowling, choreography, and trivia competitions the week leading up to the big homecoming game.
Who Invented Homecoming?
There’s some debate over who started the homecoming tradition.
“Jeopardy,” Trivial Pursuit, and the NCAA have supported MU as being the first school to host homecoming. The school claims they began the homecoming tradition back in 1911, when former athletic director Chester Brewer invited all alumni to “come home” to their alma mater for the long-awaited Missouri–Kansas football game.
However, the University of Michigan is one of the many schools who have challenged the idea that MU invented homecoming, saying that their first homecoming was in 1897. Northern Illinois University also claims to have beaten MU in the homecoming race, dating their first homecoming back to 1903. There’s speculation by many other schools as to what constitutes a homecoming celebration and whether MU was the first to host it. We’re going to side with the Tigers.
This year, homecoming is October 21, and the Missouri Tigers will be playing the Idaho Vandals.
Homecoming in Jefferson City
Fall is a particularly special time for Jefferson City. Our community loves to go all out with parades, bonfire, tailgating, and much more to celebrate our local students, football players or not. And we have plenty of reasons to celebrate. Every year, current students and alumni from Helias, JCHS, Blair Oaks, and Lincoln work hard for weeks planning and creating floats and routines for the amusement of all ages. And win or lose, the football games are never ones to miss. The school spirit portrayed is infectious, from the entire week leading up to the game to the final whistle.
This year, Helias students and fans will have something extra to cheer about. With the completion of their new sports complex, the Crusaders will have true home field advantage for the first time in the school’s history for their game against the Rock Bridge Bruins.
Whether you’re a Crusader or a Jaybird, a Falcon or a Blue Tiger, you won’t want to miss out on any of the 5Ks, bonfires, football games, parades, and more. Don your red and black, navy and gold, green and white, or blue and white and RAH-RAH-RAH!
Parades & Pigskins
Welcome to the Jungle: Where the Wild Jays Are
6:30 p.m.: Homecoming Parade in downtown Jefferson City.
7 p.m.: Homecoming Game at Adkins Stadium.
Saders Across America
6:30 p.m.: Homecoming Parade in downtown Jefferson City.
7 p.m.: Homecoming Game at Ray Hentges Field at the Crusader Athletic Complex
Home Sweet Homecoming
1 p.m.: Homecoming Parade on Falcon Lane
7 p.m.: Homecoming Game at Blair Oaks Stadium
There’s No Place Like Homecoming
9:30 a.m.: Homecoming Parade from downtown to Lincoln
2 p.m.: Homecoming Game at Dwight T. Reed Stadium
Read more Jefferson City history here.