Written by Amanda Lee
Homecoming is one of many American traditions that are celebrated in high schools and colleges across the country. It is an event that brings together friends, classes, schools, families and communities, just to celebrate and honor their school. The name “Homecoming” reflects one of the key reasons for the event; it is the weekend when alumni “come home,” returning to their alma mater and reuniting with old friends. Homecoming is almost always centered around a big sporting event, typically a football game, but the game is only one of many festivities. Students compete in class competitions, vote for their homecoming king and queen and show their pride for their school.
The date of the very first homecoming is still disputed, with records of schools inviting alumni back to their alma maters going as far back as the 1870s, when Harvard and Yale each invited their respective alumni to their showdown game. In 1911, the University of Missouri held the first offcial homecoming recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The university’s athletic director held events such as parades and pep rallies, welcoming alumni back to the university in preparation for Missouri’s big game against University of Kansas.
Gunn was founded in 1964, and the first homecoming at Gunn was in 1965. Since Gunn had only been founded the year before, there were no alumni. It was only the next year, after the Class of 1966 graduated, when alumni attended Gunn’s homecoming.
Like most homecomings around the country, one of the main activities at Gunn’s first homecoming was the selection of a king and queen, where students elected seniors they believed exemplified important traits of their school identity. Each class also built a float for the float competition, which the seniors won. Only later did class games and dress-up days come into play.
Now, these traditions are often modified to adapt to modern society. For example, last year, Student Executive Council (SEC) abolished the king and queen tradition to make the homecoming court more inclusive. Student Activities Director Lisa Hall says that SEC tries to keep traditions intact and only improve them. “We try to enhance traditions more than completely change them around…there always have been floats, there’s always some kind of a halftime show, we’ve had Homecoming Court for a really long time and there always were some kind of class competitions,” Hall said.“They might not be as intense as they are now, but [past classes] did do them before.”
Hall said that the current homecoming class games have been played for almost two decades. “Balloon Stomp was probably brought in as a relatively new game in the early 2000s,” she said. “We introduced Bucket Head maybe two or three years ago. Games that we have been doing for a really, really, really long time include Tug of War, Stuff-a-Bench and the Scavenger Hunt.”
Due to its rich history and importance to both students and alumni alike, Homecoming is one of the biggest events of the year at Gunn. “I think that people generally regard it as the best week of the year and really look forward to expressing their pride in their school and their class,” Hall said.