As Central Michigan University alumni and friends return to Mount Pleasant for homecoming, many look forward to participating in some of their favorite campus traditions.
Events like the annual homecoming parade have been a part of celebrations since 1924, when CMU was still called the Central Michigan Normal School and the football team claimed victory against Alma College.
The first documented use of "Fire Up Chips!" dates back to the homecoming parade of 1967, when students living in Calkins Hall included the phrase on their parade float.
Alumni may fondly remember decorating their rooms, attending the pep rally, serving on the Homecoming Court or dancing the night away at a postgame social. While some long-ago traditions remain, a number of newer activities may delight and surprise those who haven't been back to campus in a while.
Here's a quick look at some of the ways CMU will celebrate this week.
Rocking into the weekend
Friday evening's Rock Rally kicks off homecoming weekend with a combined pep rally, mock rock competition, presentation of CMU's football team and the announcement of the year's homecoming ambassadors (see below).
It's one of the biggest events of homecoming week, drawing an audience of nearly 1,000 to Plachta Auditorium in Warriner Hall.
"It's a great event to showcase a lot of the talent we have on campus and get everyone excited about homecoming weekend," said student coordinator Grace Pawluszka.
This year's event takes place at 7 p.m.
Supporting Special Olympics Michigan
Earlier this year, CMU helped to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics Michigan at the State Summer Games. This weekend, hundreds of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members will continue to support athletes with special needs at the annual Homecoming 5K.
The race began as an alumni run sponsored by university recreation in the 1980s and evolved over three decades to become the Miles for Medals event in 2007.
Now in its 11th year, the race across campus from near Finch Fieldhouse raises funds to support children and adults with disabilities.
In 1997, homecoming ambassadors succeeded the homecoming queens and kings of decades past.
Damon Brown, director of student activities and involvement, said the change helps CMU spotlight students who embody the university's core values.
Ambassador candidates must be nominated by a registered student organization and often are highly engaged in campus life, volunteering and community service.
"We read more than 40 nominations for this year's ambassadors and were inspired by everything our students do for each other and for the university. These are some of our most service-oriented, committed students," Brown said.
From the pool of nominees, five ambassadors are selected. During homecoming week, they assist in pre-homecoming activities, serve as judges for the residence hall decorating contest, participate in the trivia competition and ride in the homecoming parade.
One winner — the gold ambassador — is named during the halftime break at the football game.
Hunting through CMU history
Student Activities and Involvement introduced the medallion hunt as a homecoming tradition in 2003, and it has been a student favorite ever since.
Each year, a homecoming medallion is hidden on CMU's main campus. The hunt begins on Sunday night of homecoming week as students, student organizations and even alumni race to find the medal. New clues are released each night on the medallion hunt Orgsync page.
"It's a great way to build community and engage students in CMU's rich history," Brown said.
Whatever floats your boat
Engineering students prepare for homecoming with cardboard and duct tape for their annual cardboard boat race.
This tradition of 20-plus years takes place at 10 a.m. Saturday at Rose Ponds. After working all week on the boats, the students take them out to the pond to test their skills and seaworthiness, rain or shine.
It started in 1998 as a project for the engineering technology freshman class. As class sizes grew and the engineering program was established, the race gained popularity. Competition now involves more than 35 boats and 160 students.
University Communications interns Abby Fischer, Anna Kendall and Olivia Tubaro compiled this report.