Rally kicks off Homecoming weekend

Once the Homecoming parade winds itself around campus, the procession continues to the Quad where the pep rally will begin. Though the pep rally was not started until the 1940s, it is still a historical tradition that gives students a connection to the University, especially during this year’s celebration of Homecoming’s 100th year.

“It’s a very colorful, lively event,” said Ellen Amberg, associate director of alumni relations.

“It’s really an event that’s for alumni and students and the community.”

And while Homecoming may be a series of fleeting events to some students, those involved in the process have put in many hours of preparation for the week.

“We started planning this back in April,” said Molly McKiel, sophomore in Business and co-director of the pep rally. “Homecoming is just one week and a weekend, but for us it’s been months of planning.”

McKiel is a member of Student Alumni Ambassadors, an organization that collaborates with the University of Illinois Alumni Association to create Homecoming events.

“The motto for the Student Alumni Ambassadors is ‘Students now, Illini forever,’” said McKiel. “I want other students to realize we’re always going to have a connection to the University, and Homecoming is such a fun time to think back on what we’ve done so far and what we have to look forward to.”

As a pep rally co-director, McKiel said she got to plan the itinerary of the event.

The lineup includes performances from the Marching Illini, Illinettes, University cheerleaders and Xtension Chords. Illini Pride will lead the audience in cheers as President Hogan introduces Coach Ron Zook and his football team who will throw footballs into the crowd.

A slideshow of fall sports will be played on Foellinger’s patio, a montage of Homecoming through the years will be presented, and refreshments will be handed out to the audience from Teach for America. Winners of the parade float contest, Greek house decoration contest and the iHelp group with the most participants will also be announced.

Distinguished alumni from the Student Alumni Ambassador’s Comeback program will be recognized and awarded, and the pep rally will end with a fireworks show.

“It’s all about getting people pumped up for the next day, for the game,” said Jessica Ponticelli, junior in Business and VP Homecoming in Student Alumni Ambassadors.

“I think everyone should come out to pep rally this year and get immersed in the 100th Homecoming pep rally. It’s the longest tradition for Homecoming,” Ponticelli said. “To be at that pep rally, you’re really making history right there because no one can say that they’ve ever been at the 100th Homecoming.”

Not only do students attend the pep rally to show their spirit, but alumni who have returned to campus can experience the pride the University makes them feel.

In 2009, the pep rally was rained out, so good ideas from last year were used for this year as well, said Ismail Umer, junior in LAS and Homecoming co-director in Student Alumni Ambassadors.

If there is bad weather on Friday, alternate plans have been arranged for pep rally to be held in the Union.

The pep rally is is scheduled to begin tonight at 7 p.m., but it will start whenever the parade finishes and arrives at the Quad.