Nearly 14 months removed from the last Homecoming Week, Ball State is preparing to hold the annual event again April 26-May 1 with some significant changes.
Other than the obvious rescheduling of Homecoming from the fall semester to the spring, the 94th annual week-long event will be held in a hybrid virtual and in-person fashion.
Senior advertising major and Homecoming Steering Committee General Chair Kelly Asiala said she remains excited about the latest rendition of the event despite a long wait and the many changes made to the programming of it.
“It's been really both heartbreaking and amazing to be one of the leaders of this Homecoming because, of course, I wanted to give Ball State the Homecoming they know and love, but, without that being possible, we were able to create something amazing for them,” she said.
Asiala, along with Homecoming Steering Committee Advisor Michelle Johnson, learned Homecoming would play out differently shortly after concerns of COVID-19 sent students home and national lockdown orders were imposed.
What will Ball State’s Spring Homecoming look like?
April 26, 7 p.m. — Homecoming Kickoff
- This virtual event will feature speeches by the Homecoming Steering Committee, athletics coaches and President Geoffrey Mearns.
April 27, 7 p.m. — Student Scholarship Talent Search
April 28, 4 p.m. — Virtual Alumni Panel- Feedback from our Most Engaged Alumni
- Several successful donors and alumni will hold panels open to questions from viewers about their careers post-Ball State.
April 28, 7 p.m. — Alumni Chapter Night
- Held on Zoom, this event will include a town hall with Mearns, a student showcase and a panel with the alumni chapter leaders.
April 29, 7 p.m. — Air Jam
- Air Jam will be held virtually on the Ball State Homecoming YouTube page. According to Ball State’s website on Homecoming activities, “Judges award points to groups that build Ball State pride and spirit in their act. For Spring Homecoming, participants will be scored on how creative their dance is and how well they perform their dance.”
April 30, Noon — Bed Race
- The annual bed race tradition will be held in person, with spectators getting access to the race virtually. Teams of four will race down University Track at the Briner Sports Complex in assigned timeslots. Registration is due by noon April 28.
April 30, 1 p.m. — Homecoming Alumni Golf Outing at The Player’s Club
- Alumni will participate in a golf outing at 1 p.m.
April 30, 7 p.m. — Alumni Association Virtual Awards Reception
- This virtual event will honor the accomplishments of members of the Alumni Association.
April 26 - May 1 — Cards in the Yard Decorating Contest
- Students and alumni can decorate cards and place them in select locations to be judged on their design and appeal to Cardinal pride. Submissions close April 26 at 5 p.m. and will be judged in the following categories:
- Alumni house lawn
- Department (campus department)
- Faculty/staff lawn
- Greek organization lawn
- Home office
- Independent student house lawn
- Muncie business
- Residence hall room
Source: Ball State Homecoming Steering Committee
Neither knew the extent to which they would have to adapt the event, Johnson said, so they made plans for various Homecoming scenarios that could create a suitable experience regardless of the conditions.
“Kelly and the Committee came up with a plan A, plan B and plan C for our events,” Johnson said. “Plan A would be to have [the events] the way we normally do, plan B was a hybrid-type model and plan C was all virtual, and I would say we were able to hit a mix between B and C with most of our events.”
The Steering Committee finalized its plan near the beginning of February 2021. Many of this year’s events will be either conducted virtually or reimagined to fit a socially distanced format.
Certain events from previous years, like the food truck festival, were removed entirely from the program due to their specific inability to adapt to the pandemic’s conditions.
Other in-person events that draw large crowds, like Air Jam, the Talent Search and royalty coronation, have been pre-recorded and will be broadcast live on Zoom or the Ball State Homecoming YouTube page.
“Talent Search and Air Jam [are] hybrid events because the participants got to participate in person, but they were in time slots, so they came and got their recording [done] and then left,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have any spectators, so that’s kind of how the hybrid part worked for that.”
Looking forward, the 2021 Homecoming Steering Committee has already been selected to facilitate a smooth transition to the next time the event will take place. Johnson said Asiala and her team are a special case as far as Steering Committees are concerned.
“Kelly and the others are the postponement from the 2020 Homecoming Committee, so they stayed on with us to help plan the Spring Homecoming, for which we’re so grateful,” Johnson said.
For Asiala, the Spring Homecoming will be the end of a year-long passion project that has faced its share of delays.
“My attachment [to Homecoming] comes through the growth opportunity that it’s given me, and the sentimental meaning that it has to me and, of course, the people,” she said. “The people are the best part of it every year.”
Contact John Lynch with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @WritesLynch.