TERRE HAUTE —
One of the most energetic weekends each year in Terre Haute centers around the Indiana State University Homecoming. That slice of local culture has all the signs of being at its best in 2012.
The university’s annual Blue and White Homecoming Parade always draws a large crowd as it winds through the downtown district and campus. Undoubtedly, weather permitting, the crowds will return this coming Saturday, when the parade kicks off at 9 a.m. Even before the marching bands and floats hit the streets, a weeklong agenda of activities is planned on campus, including the Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony Thursday night, and the 50th annual Sycamore Tricycle Derby on Friday afternoon.
On Saturday, though, the university, city and Wabash Valley communities come together downtown. The atmosphere surrounding that experience has grown more enjoyable and festive in recent years. In addition to the lively sights and sounds and candy offered by the parade, two other elements of the college-town happening have strengthened.
Along with alumni and student get-togethers during the weekend, a prime element of an ISU Homecoming should be the university’s home football game that day. The struggles of the Sycamore football program in the 21st century have been well documented, but the days when Indiana State ran up one of the nation’s longest Division I losing streaks have passed, thank goodness. Coach Trent Miles’ squad has reversed the long tailspin, posting two consecutive winning seasons. The current team has occupied the Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 rankings.
That improvement bolstered the size of last year’s Homecoming crowd, drawing 8,255 fans to Memorial Stadium at Wabash and Brown avenues. At least that many people should turn out for Saturday’s 3:05 matchup between ISU and Missouri State, a Missouri Valley Football Conference opponent. What a refreshing change that is from past years when the audiences totaled around 3,000.
The buzz from an entertaining football showdown permeates other Homecoming traditions. The team generates spirit. Parade-goers are now more likely to also know who ISU is playing that day, and to actually attend the game.
That spark also sharpens another unofficial Homecoming ritual — The Walk. That routine, started years ago by students and not sanctioned by the university, features students and some alums walking the 25 blocks from downtown, in the morning, to the stadium, in the afternoon. Along the way, the majority stop for drinks in bars and restaurants. For many, it is a fun chance to socialize and have some food and a few beers before the football game. A few fail to moderate their imbibing. Some reach the stadium, enjoy the tailgating and food tents, and see the game. Some don’t make it to the game. Some don’t make it to the stadium.
Realizing The Walk has become a part of the tradition, ISU has worked hard to educate the students and encourage responsible drinking through its SoberRide and Designated Walker programs. Both have grown in numbers and effectiveness in the past three years. Of course, with so many involved, the community must remain vigilant. A strengthened police presence has helped control misbehavior, and the placement of portable toilets along the route by the city (in Gilbert Park) and private businesses has lessened unseemly incidents.
We applaud those steps by ISU, law enforcement, businesses and the city, and look forward to a memorable 2012 Homecoming.