Francia Henriquez Benson, Adam Rubin and Marisa Nelson all also contributed to this story.

Homecoming events didn’t escape the changes COVID-19 guidelines have imposed on fall 2020. Many of the events were different than previous years, but students still had plenty to keep them busy.

It’s all about tradition

Each homecoming event is a tradition at WSU; they occur every year — pandemics permitting — and students can document their moments and become tradition keepers as well.

It doesn’t have to be homecoming for you to become a WSU traditions keeper, but it may help you win prizes faster.

The Weber State Alumni Association has created a program to keep Weber State traditions alive. Using a mobile app, students, alumni, faculty and staff are able to upload photos and share experiences of the 50 different university traditions and claim prizes for different incentive levels.

There are eight incentive levels. The prize for completing your first tradition is a pop socket for your phone; if a student completes all 50 traditions, they receive a silver “WSU Traditions Keeper” stole to wear at graduation.

The program highlights little-known facts and legends about Weber State history and encourages activities, from locating campus time capsules, to eating purple pancakes, to capturing a selfie with Waldo.

Also, according to campus lore, only sharing a midnight kiss beneath the bell tower with your beloved will make you a “true” Wildcat.

“The WSU Traditions Keeper program links students — past, present and future — through shared involvement in Wildcat Traditions and activities,” the alumni section of the Weber website said.

Don’t forget: pics or it didn’t happen.

The free app is called “WSU Traditions Keeper,” available on Google Play and the App Store.

The screen that The Great Gatsby movie played on for the movie on the football field. (Paige McKinnon/ The Signpost)
The Great Gatsby was shown on the big screen on the field of Stewart Stadium. (Paige McKinnon/ The Signpost) Photo credit: Paige Mckinnon

Run WSU, run!

The Homecoming Recycle Run, held by WSU’s Campus Recreation Department, took place during Homecoming Week. Students, faculty, staff, alumni or anyone who wanted to participate in the community were encouraged to join the “Virtual Edition” of a 5K run, where runners could run anywhere they chose, during Oct. 2–10.

Runners registered for the event online. Rebecca Mabile, the Aquatics, Safety and Special Events coordinator, came up with this innovative concept this year. She wanted to provide a cost-effective events for students/alumni and to promote sustainability.

“We have a bunch of medals from old races that we can’t reuse for those races, so we decided to “recycle” them for this race,” Mabile said. “And then also further promote sustainability by encouraging people to pick up trash while they do their run.”

Campus Recreation holds many races each academic year for the Weber State University Race Series. The first ever Recycle Run registration fees were $10 for students, $15 for alumni, $20 for WSU faculty and staff and $25 for community members.

All Campus Recreation’s races are on for this academic year, which, according to Mabile, is important to be able to offer the community.

“This is my third virtual race this year,” Mabile said. “The most uplifting aspect of all three is that people appreciate that we aren’t just canceling events.”

The 16th Annual Turkey-Tri and 5K trot — one of the most popular races each year — will be held on Nov. 1–6; registration is currently open for that race.

Flaming W

Light the W continued into its 9th decade via Zoom and Facebook Live Oct. 5. Since the 1930s, during Homecoming week, students from WSU have hiked up to Malan’s Peak and celebrated the beginning of the academic year.

According to tradition and documented in the book, “Hillside Letters A – Z, A Guide to Hometown Landmarks,” by Evelyn Corning, “In 1991 the school changed its name to Weber State University, and the W’s Shape changed to the Flaming W, which is presently used.”

Jim Maughan, WSU’s coordinator of student affairs maintenance and facilities, said the W is lit during homecoming week, from 7 p.m. through 11 p.m. weekdays or 7 p.m. and through midnight on Friday and Saturday.

“If the football game is held at night, we try to get it lit as soon as the game starts,” Maughan said. “But it can’t really be seen until the sun goes down.”

This year, the lighting of the W was not celebrated like it had been traditionally due to the current social restrictions. WSUSA held the event on their social media channels and through Zoom. Hannah Olsen, student body legislative vice president, hosted the Zoom session.

“One of the things we hope for in the future is a permanent W that can be celebrated for more than one event during the year,” Maughan said. “But the students, alumni and community are really what will drive the ability of a permanent W coming to fruition.”

Casino and Trivia night

The WSUSA C&O Team organized the Casino Night event. There were four rounds of casino games and trivia, and the magician hosting the show performed 15 minutes of magic before each match.

Four lucky winners won Amazon gift cards. There were also drawings for Weber gear and club funding.

Heather Cimino, the coordinator of clubs and organizations for Student Involvement and Leadership, said that there was a decline in the number of attendees. She said last year around 100 people attended, while this year, only 50 did. She said WSUSA sent a survey to the attendees to get feedback and know if they liked the virtual experience.

This information will be used to decide how the event will be hosted in 2021.

Virtual Service day

Teresa Martinez, the coordinator of the Student Engagement Coordinator Center for Community Engaged Learning, explained that the service event hopes to honor those who embody service in the community or those who have passed away.

This year, the two benefited organizations were OWCAP and the American Red Cross.

The center held both service activities virtually. Martinez noted that there was a higher number of attendees because the projects were more accessible. Last year 145 people volunteered; this year the number of volunteers went up to 218.

Map-a-thon with the American Red Cross and the Virtual Storybook Kit Drive were the service projects students participated in during the virtual service day.

Swimming in purple

Swenson gym dyes their pool purple for homecoming week (Sarah Earnshaw/The Signpost)
Swenson gym dyes their pool purple for homecoming week. (Sarah Earnshaw / The Signpost) Photo credit: Sarah Earnshaw

On Oct. 7, WSU’s Swenson pool was dyed purple for the first time as part of Homecoming week festivities.

In previous years during homecoming, the pool would host a “dive-in” movie night, with plenty of inflatables and a movie projected on the wall.

“One reason we did the dive-in movie is so people know where the pool is,” Clara Clark, a student aquatic manager, said. “And so they can see how nice the facility is. This is a really nice pool.”

Mabile was disappointed when she realized that the dive-in movie, a five-year tradition, would be canceled.

“I think that homecoming is one of the most important things a university can do for their students and for their alumni, faculty and staff,” Mabile said. “Having those traditions, having those events and things to make people more connected is so important. I think that it just makes life more meaningful.”

This year, Mabile decided to try something new. She had heard of a pool that was dyed pink for Easter.

“I did a poll with my students,” she said “Should we dye the pool purple? Everyone said yes.”

Bright clouds of dye were poured into the pool around 5:15 a.m. The pool was a deep purple for about six hours, before slowly turning to a light blue and fading due to the filtration system. Next time, Rebecca plans to buy twice as much dye and re-dye the water at midday, meaning this could be the start of a new homecoming tradition at Weber.

Most of all, Mabile wants students to feel welcome and comfortable at the pool.

“We have a basketball hoop; they can work out, there are group exercise classes, there are paddleboard classes,” Mabile said. We have so much to offer students, and it is all free to them.”

Open swim is Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., Fridays from 4:20 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from noon until 4 p.m. Students can learn more about events and classes at the pool on the Weber State website.

Purple pancakes at home

Stack of pancakes being handed from President Mortensen to Student Body President Ben Ferney
Stack of pancakes being handed from President Mortensen to Student Body President Ben Ferney. (Steven Clift / The Signpost)

To top off homecoming week traditions, WSUSA posted a video on their social media of President Brad Mortensen making purple pancakes and passing them to Benjamin Ferney, WSU’s Student Body President, who just happened to show up at President Mortensen’s front door right on time for a presidential purple pancake breakfast.

The purple pancakes started as an annual event where WSU’s president and other top administrators would gather together, make purple pancakes and hand them out at the Steward Bell Tower Plaza. According to WSU’s Alumni Association, the event attracted many students, faculty, staff and community members, estimating around 1,500 students gathered a year.

The breakfast became a homecoming tradition in 1999, according to the Alumni Association; however, the breakfast assimilated into the Block Party celebration in 2002.

This year, one element in keeping with the Purple Pancake tradition is that just like in the early 2000s, the Purple Pancake mix was available for students who wanted to make their own at home, like Mortensen did on video the morning of Oct. 10.

One student, Alexandria Favela, who is earning a Bachelor of Business Administration with an Associates in Health Sciences, made her own pancakes with the help of WSU.

“I think that giving the students the mix and spatulas and aprons and letting us go home and make them really was a touching way to bring us the homecoming spirit even if we were home this year,” Favela said.

Another student, Shaylee Stevens, a senior at WSU who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Communication with an emphasis in PR and Advertising, has attended the annual purple pancakes breakfast each year she has been at WSU.

“I know it might be challenging to approach this school year with an upbeat attitude,” Stevens said. “But so many fun and innovative things are happening on campus, and the pancake breakfast was definitely one of those things.”

Homecoming royalty

Homecoming royalty honors students who excel in leadership, service and academics. Announcing royalty has been a tradition for over half a century, according to Becca Gibson, Engagement Coordinator for the WSU Alumni Association and advisor for the Student Alumni Association.

This year’s homecoming royalty were Kamryn Eden, Ben Ferney, Nathan Hole, Rylie Howard, Tyler Jewell and Whitney Olson. All royalty received a sash that reads “Homecoming Royalty 2020,” a declaration from the Alumni Association President Clint Costley and Alumni Association Executive Director Nancy Collinwood. The women also receive crowns.

Although there have been innovations and new ideas to keep old traditions going, who knows what impact this year, 2020, will have on homecoming traditions in the years to come.

“I know it might be challenging to approach this school year with an upbeat attitude,” Stevens said. “But so many fun and innovative things are happening on campus, and the pancake breakfast was definitely one of those things.”

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