This year’s Homecoming and Family Weekend was unique in that there were a variety of curveballs thrown at it due to the current global pandemic. However, our Marlin community was able to make the best of the situation, and fun ran rampant as old traditions were carried out and new traditions introduced.
The festivities started off with Marlins Spirit Week. Each day had a certain theme that students could dress up for. There was “My Hero Monday,” “Twin Tuesday,” “Wacky Tacky Tourist Wednesday” and “Throwback Thursday.” Friday finished out with the traditional Marlin Spirit Day which highlighted the weekend’s official beginning.
There were a variety of other events scattered throughout the week to get students excited for the upcoming festivities, such as Make Your Own Stuffed Animal and a mask-making spirit event.
Hannah Carmona, an Off the Hook student event supervisor, talked about how these events would get students excited. “Since sports aren’t happening, it’s the Student Activities’ job to get students pumped up for fun!” Carmona said.
The events were able to follow all COVID-19 guidelines by having supervisors prevent large clusters of people. Hand sanitizer was available and flyers promoted social distancing and mask wearing.
Off the Hook also hosted a tailgating and kickball home run derby event on the University Commons Friday afternoon to “kick off” the weekend. Food and music from the newly assembled homecoming Spotify playlist were provided, and the first kickball pitch was thrown by our very own Coach Joanne Renn, Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Renn talked about how she was excited about “the chance for us to have a little bit of normalcy in our life.” Although things would look different with the COVID-19 regulations, “at least we’d be in an environment where we’d be able to actually see each other and enjoy some fellowship.”
Something to look forward to that she also discussed was the Spring Alumni Weekend, occurring sometime in mid-April. As of right now, it is expected to be held in person. With this hope in our minds, we should enjoy the opportunity we have to enjoy all the virtual events happening now.
The fourth-annual Chili Cook-Off was held virtually by contestants posting their creations on either Facebook or Instagram and tagging the Virginia Wesleyan alumni pages. The person with the most likes, comments and shares was chosen as the Grand Champion.
A new tradition in regards to the Chili Cook-Off was also started. The first Virginia Wesleyan University Chili Recipe Book was created. If contestants submitted their recipes to Kamryn Clairmont, Coordinator of Alumni Records and Events, then they were able to receive a free copy of the recipe book.
Clairmont talked about how planning virtual events like this was a huge challenge. Thankfully, there were webinars and collaborative calls with other colleges happening that she was able to tune in for and bounce ideas off of. The idea for the recipe book came from one of these calls. She said she “thought it would be a unique way for alumni and friends to connect and try each other’s chilis since we’re unable to be together in person.”
Another new tradition embraced this year was the Virginia Wesleyan University Homecoming Virtual 5K. Contestants registered online, completed their run anytime between Oct. 2-4 and then uploaded a picture of themselves completing their run onto social media using a specified hashtag.
Participants of Virtual 5K received a collection of VWU merch as a prize for their efforts as well as a finisher certificate. There were challenges and extra merit given out for those who completed the “Most Creative,” “Most Intense” or “Fastest Marlin” run.
A positive benefit to the virtuality of everything is that it was able to foster a sense of community nationwide. Clairmont said “alumni located in California, for example, are able to participate this year and be reunited with classmates whereas in years past, they may not be able to travel to attend.”
She also expressed her pride in the Marlin Family for being able to come together in the midst of these trying circumstances and host a variety of events for both the current students and the alumni.
Although the actual homecoming dance was canceled, Marlins were still able to get their groove on with the virtual homecoming event hosted by the Fine and Performing Arts Department and VWU eSports team. It was broadcasted from the Joan and Macon Brock Theatre at the Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center and was streamed and hosted on the ESports Twitch account.
Even with all the differences this year, the weekend was able to be an enjoyable time where fun times flourished and spirits ran high. As Renn stated, it’s important for a small community like Wesleyan to come together, and we need to remain vigilant as individuals in our fight against COVID-19 in order to be a part of the solution.
By Phoebe Cox