Homecoming Week features combination of in-person, virtual events
October 6, 2021
The Homecoming celebration will feature in-person as well as virtual events following last year’s well-attended virtual celebration.
The transition to a hybrid format will capitalize on the broad accessibility of virtual events while also offering alumni an opportunity to return to Champaign and take in the traditional homecoming experience.
Jennifer Dillavou, associate vice chancellor for Alumni Relations, expects this year’s celebration to be a success, combining many of the traditional in-person events with the virtual components of the 2020 celebration.
“I think that we’re gonna see a lot of excitement,” Dillavou said. “Our numbers are looking good. The pre-registrations that we’ve taken are consistent with what we were looking at two years ago, and (2019) had some record numbers.”
Dillavou also noted that the 2020 Homecoming celebration was very successful in drawing larger numbers of international alumni, and that future homecoming celebrations will continue to offer virtual components. David Bambrey, assistant vice chancellor for Alumni Relations, noted the wide reach of the virtual components.
“The offerings are up this year as well,” Bambrey said. “As we’ve brought in this big virtual component, the number of ways to engage for our alumni has increased over past years.”
However, the five-person Homecoming Steering Committee has also emphasized doubling down on ties with the Champaign-Urbana community.
“I grew up in the Champaign community, and it’s very important to me that the Champaign-Urbana community sees the University’s Homecoming as their Homecoming as well,” Dillavou said.
The new Thursday Night Live event on Oct. 7 will be held in downtown Champaign and feature a variety of bands performing on two different stages.
Friday’s events will include a band concert in the Krannert Center featuring the Illinois Wind Symphony, Wind Orchestra and the Marching Illini.
The homecoming parade will follow a different route this year, taking place at 11 a.m. on Saturday rather than Friday evening. It will begin at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center and move past the tailgating areas along First Street before ending at Memorial Stadium.
Mary Henson, wife of recently deceased former men’s basketball coach Lou Henson, will serve as the grand marshal of this year’s parade. The parade will be livestreamed from a variety of different camera angles, solidifying the committee’s aim to make popular events such as this more accessible to alumni across the world.
“I don’t think we’ve ever live streamed a parade before… not all alums can come home to Illinois, but we can bring Homecoming to their homes,” Dillavou said.
Class of 2018 alumna Julia Ghering is set to travel back to Champaign for homecoming to participate in the Alumni Band. She is a former member of the Marching Illini trumpet section who majored in Interdisciplinary Health.
“I’m really excited to come back and see my band friends,” Ghering said. “We’re all in different places now and Homecoming is always a great opportunity to get back together.”
The return of in-person events to Homecoming is certainly important for groups of friends such as this. At the same time, virtual components expand the reach of Homecoming, giving those who can’t return to Champaign a chance to enjoy the celebrations.