The evolution of K-State homecoming

Women of Alpha Delta Pi leap during their Wildcat Request Live performace in Bramlage Coliseum in Tuesday night, Oct. 21, 2014. WRL is homecoming event in which teams perform dance numbers in front of judges and spectators. (Hannah Hunsinger | The Collegian)

Since the tradition began in 1916, K-State’s homecoming week events have evolved and experienced many changes over the years. However, the values and pride in our school have always remained the same.

Two years after K-State celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1913, a celebration to welcome home alumni began called “homecoming.” Events included a football game between the then-Kansas State University Aggies and University of Kansas Roosters, preceded by a pep rally welcoming back former Aggie athletes.

“Alumni have always supported the homecoming football game and athletics in general,” Amanda Lee, K-State Alumni Association’s assistant director of student programs, said. “Many of them constantly check our different social media accounts to stay in the loop when they can’t come participate.”

In addition to her work with the programs at the Alumni Association, Lee is also the all-university homecoming chair. A former K-Stater who graduated in 2008 with a degree in family studies and human services, Lee said now that she works with the Alumni Association, she views homecoming as an exciting tradition that affects not only students and alumni but also the Manhattan community at large.

“Students are more heavily involved in homecoming than ever before,” Lee said. “They put so much time and effort into each event and it does not go unnoticed.”

Looking back at the history of homecoming, there are some events that have evolved into new events and some that are no longer around.

Body Building was a popular event up until the late ’90s when the homecoming committee decided it was getting too dangerous. It consisted of students building human pyramids, and the tallest pyramid with the most people won. The event was discontinued in 1999 and replaced by Wildcat Request Live in 2005.

“Greek Follies was my favorite homecoming event during my time at K-State,” Robert Svec, ’84 alumnus, said. “Each sorority and fraternity group would put on a skit. It was similar to Wildcat Request Live, but more acting and singing instead of just dancing. The event was held at McCain Auditorium.”

According to Lee, there has always been a large amount of greek students that get involved in homecoming. However, there are also a decent amount of non-greek student participation from residence halls, campus clubs and student organizations.

In 1965, sororities and fraternities began pairing together to make teams instead of competing individually. The first “pair” winners were Alpha Delta Pi and Alpha Tau Omega.

Robin Smith, ’93 alumna, reminisced about her junior year when members of her sorority practiced three days a week for a month to get ready for the series of homecoming events. Events consisted of Pant the Chant, then called “Yell Like Hell,” Body Building, float, window painting and parade spirit.

“I remember homecoming being especially exciting that year because K-State played KU and won 16-12,” Smith said. “It brought unity among the whole university, especially between the greeks and non-greeks, because we’re all going toward the same goal – beat KU.”

Until 1997, the senior honor society Blue Key was in charge of all homecoming events. That year, the Alumni Association took over responsibility of the events and made some changes to the homecoming schedule to the format still used today.

A service project for United Way, called Paint it Purple, was discontinued in 1999. The project encouraged each homecoming pair to do their own service project in Manhattan. However, it was replaced by an all-university philanthropy project, a 5K to benefit one cause. This year, the 5K benefits Special Olympics Kansas.

One of the biggest changes to the schedule in 1999, though, was moving the homecoming parade from Saturday to Friday. Lee said the decision was made to better adjust to the variable times of televised football games – i.e., the parade was no longer impacted by the time the game was played.

Kristen Svec, senior in chemical engineering, said Wildcat Request Live is her favorite event both from a performer and audience member’s perspective.

“Each pairing puts in a lot of time and effort and it definitely shows during everyone’s performances,” Svec said. “Everyone gets really creative with all aspects from the choreography, costumes, and set design.”

Lee said the Alumni Association is always looking to improve homecoming activities and events, but there are no new plans yet.

“We leave it up to the student homecoming committee to decide because they are the voice,” she said. “We want homecoming to be current with student life and what’s happening right now.”