Students and alumni alike will be celebrating homecoming with a football game Oct. 13 against the Hawkeyes. Food, drinks, tailgating and lots of Hoosier spirit are sure to be in attendance, but homecoming wasn't originally intended to be about the sport.
With over 690,000 living alumni worldwide and more than 40,000 current students attending class on Bloomington’s campus, IU has become home for many people. Creating a life within the time spent at IU is part of what it means to go to school here, yet IU’s history of home goes further back than just four short years of undergrad.
IU organized its first homecoming 110 years ago. Back then it was called “Gala Week.” It was during the month of June, and it wasn’t centered on sports. Instead, alumni returned to campus, and the school hosted a banquet and a circus. Gala Week’s purpose was to begin a tradition to “cement that wonderful college spirit,” according to an article written in the Indiana Daily Student on June 10, 1908.
“IU was the first school in the Big Ten and one of the first schools in the country to designate a weekend to honor alumni,” according to a 1996 IDS article.
A year later, in 1909, the gala event was moved to the weekend of the IU vs. Purdue football game. When IU beat Purdue, 36-3, hundreds of students rushed onto Jordan Field to celebrate the victory. The excitement from winning the game ignited a spark that turned Gala Week into homecoming, according to the 1996 IDS article.
“Homecoming not only brings people back; it gives them a reason to come back. It gives them a sort of identification with the University which they normally wouldn’t have,” said 1969 graduate Fred Wingert, in an IDS article written in 1973. “Most people in college and college towns still get nostalgic about events like homecoming. It’s this nostalgia that makes homecoming special.”
In an IDS article published in 1987 titled “IU Homecoming finds some at home studying,” it was reported that homecoming was considered one of campus’s best-kept secrets, yet many who knew about it, could have cared less.
“Is it this weekend?” said junior Cathy Bowman who lived in Ashton Center in 1987, according to the IDS article. “I don’t know of anything going on here, I don’t know if anyone here even knows about it.”
Even if people don’t know or care about what happens during homecoming, IU will be celebrating this year’s event with the 60th annual Homecoming Parade and Homecoming Block Party at 4 p.m. Oct. 12 on the intersection of 17th Street and Woodlawn Avenue. Welcome back, alumni, because Indiana, we're all for you.