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Breaking down Homecoming traditions U need to know

By: Dan Buyanovsky // InSight Editor

Issue date: 7/8/08 Section: Insight
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A perfect balance of academic excellence, social events and a pristine location make the University of Miami not only unique, but also one of the most prestigious institutions in the nation. Every year, homecoming celebrates and honors this amazing institution. But homecoming is more than just a parade and organized cheer competition. It is more than an event designed to showcase UM spirit. It is a tradition, and inside that tradition exists dozens of rituals that few of us have yet to understand.

The University of Miami first opened its doors in 1926, but it wasn't until 1931 that the University saw its first homecoming celebration. The homecoming football game is the culmination of the week's festivities, which have riled up students over the years in support of their alma mater. This year, the Hurricanes will be blowing away North Carolina State.

Now that we know the ending, let's examine the journey leading up to the game. Homecoming has two big service events: Hurricanes Help the Hometown, which is the largest community outreach event of the year, and a blood drive. Other activities throughout the week include the Homecoming King and Queen competition and Organized Cheer.

Homecoming is designed to foster a feeling of university spirit and is open to the participation of all campus organizations.

"For Greek Life organizations, homecoming is the equivalent of Greek Week [which occurs in the spring], and every organization wants to win homecoming events," Interfraternity Council chair Daniel Solomon said.

Homecoming events allow everyone to showcase their different talents. Organized Cheer is a mix of dancing, cheering and acting. The following day, vocals take the lead with the finals of the Alma Mater singing competition.

"The Alma Mater singing competition and spirit tree are the most traditional events [of Homecoming], because they show devotion to the university and are linked with Iron Arrow," said Krizia Giambanco, chair of the Homecoming Committee.

The night before game day, UM student organizations, communities and administrators showcase their floats and decorations during the parade that goes through Stanford Drive. Traditionally, the boat burning on Lake Osceola, fireworks, pep rally and Hurricane Howl directly follow the parade. Hurricane Howl is a concert which features a prominent national music artist. Last year, Talib Kweli and Robert Randolph performed.

In the boat burning ceremony, "we put a boat in the middle of the lake and pretty much blow it up. If its mast hits the water before the boat sinks, the prediction is we will win the game," Giambanco explained. This tradition came about when the Canes played Navy in their homecoming game, and to signify Navy's looming defeat, UM placed a boat in the lake and blew it up. Fireworks blast off from the lake to "honor the students, and seniors especially, as one of their last major events before graduating. Each student gets a candle and sings the Alma Mater, and the fireworks commemorate all that students have done for the university," Giambanco said.

Homecoming week at the University of Miami incorporates both the university's incredible history and its bright future. There is a reason UM alumni come back to celebrate their alma mater 20, 30 and 40 years after they've graduated. They stand to prove that it is indeed great to be a Miami Hurricane because on "Biscayne's wondrous shore," its traditions will stand forever.

Dan Buyanovsky may be contacted at d.buyanovsky@umiami.edu.

Need a little brush up on your homecoming traditions since attending orientation events? To get U ready for game day, EDGE put together a little cheat sheet about UM traditions.

School Colors

Selected in 1926, UM's school colors represent Florida's orange tree. Orange symbolizes the fruit of the tree, green represents the leaves and white represents the blossoms.

Sebastian the Ibis

The Ibis is a symbol of knowledge found throughout Florida's Everglades. It is also the last sign of wildlife to take shelter before a hurricane and the first to reappear afterwards.

Four Fingers

At the beginning of the fourth quarter at every home football game, Miami fans hold up four fingers to indicate their belief that a game is won in the final period, while die-hard Hurricane fans know that it really means that the U dominate the last quarter.

"Alma Mater"

Southern suns and sky blue water,

Smile upon you Alma mater;

Mistress of this fruitful land,

With all knowledge at your hand,

Always just to honor true,

All our love we pledge to you.

Alma Mater, stand forever

On Biscayne's wondrous shore.

- Compiled from miami.edu
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