Once every fall, high schools and colleges across the nation unite their student body to celebrate sports teams and school spirit, but thanks to COVID-19, 2020’s homecoming celebrations were a lot quieter this year.
Aviation sophomore Stephen Culbertson feels Homecoming is “a time for coming together and uniting as a community.”
Last year, Culbertson and his friends joined most of the Ellensburg campus at the annual Homecoming football game.
“The football game was a really cool experience,” Culbertson said. “I was just shocked at how everyone was so united and how many people had come together to celebrate being Wildcats.”
Culbertson is hoping that perhaps next year there can be more formal events.
“I would really love to see some dancing,” Culbertson said. “We do have a ballroom upstairs in the SURC, and it would be so much fun to meet [new people] at a line dance or something like that.”
For computer science freshman Blake Nixon, high school Homecoming was a big deal.
“I knew that college Homecoming was going to be different,” Nixon said. “But I was still excited to meet new people at events and to show my school spirit.”
Aviation senior Jackson Collins has fond memories of the past Homecoming events he has attended.
“I always was taken back by the rowdiness and spirit the Homecoming games created,” Collins said. “I wish I could have attended one more game, although I know I will return when I am an alumni.”
Collins also enjoyed the Homecoming events that didn’t just involve sports.
“My first year, a group of friends and I went to see the actor who played Ron Swanson on ‘Parks and Rec’ at the SURC,” Collins said. “It was a terrific experience and I wish we could do something like that again.”
This year, CWU students had to settle for virtual or socially distant experiences. Intramural Sports & Special Events Coordinator Shana Kessler and the Recreation Center worked to compensate for the missing Homecoming football game.
“We have the flag football skills challenge which is an unofficial event that’s happening during Homecoming week,” Kessler said. “When we planned it, we actually didn’t even think of the time matching up with homecoming. That was just a coincidence.”
Students were welcomed to come and watch the skills challenge and were encouraged to cheer on their friends.
“It isn’t the same as watching the game, but it looks like it will be a fun and safe alternative,” Culbertson said.
The Recreation Center’s official Homecoming event was the virtual 5K or 10K.
“Any person involved in the University is able to participate in this virtual run, walk, hike or jog and can earn prizes,” Kessler said. “They can sign up through the Recreation portal, and then they join the CWU Recreation Club on Strava, which tracks their distance.”
Kessler hopes the Homecoming events will do more than spark school spirit in the student body.
“My goal and hope for these programs is to be able to allow [students] to do something active that is specifically designed to support [them] and their health and wellness and to socially connect with others who are doing the same activities,” Kessler said.