In preparation for Saturday night’s clash between the Nittany Lions and Michigan Wolverines, onlookers packed the streets of College Avenue and campus Friday to catch a glimpse of close to 50 handmade floats during Penn State’s 2013 homecoming parade.
This year’s parade saw representatives from more than 60 alumni chapters, as well as 100 student organizations. Special guests included Sue Paterno, who made an appearance riding with the Lion Ambassadors, and grand marshal John Amaechi.
The former Penn State basketball standout, who revealed his homosexuality after his retirement from the NBA,was decked out in a suit and tie and a baby blue “Grand Marshal” sash as he rode along the parade route.
Hundreds of students proudly showed off their themed floats, which included pirate ships, tropical islands, children’s cartoons and superheroes, while student organizations such as Penn State Glee Club, the Lionettes Dance Team, Urban Dance Troupe, Penn State Magic Club and the Penn State Thespians entertained the crowd with their performances.
Highly publicized student organization Lunar Lion, Penn State’s lunar exploration team attempting to land the first university-built spacecraft on the moon, also made an appearance, as did popular Thon groups Atlas and Ohana.
But while most of the attention was paid to the passing floats filled with students, alumni and community members, Penn State alums gathered with friends and family on the sidewalks to reminisce about their days on campus.
Marjorie Rohrbeck, a member of the class of 1953, talked about one of her first trips back to Penn State for the homecoming parade to see her son and granddaughter participate in the annual celebration.
“I don’t think I’ve been here in years,” Rohrbeck said. “I did come a couple nights and I would go up on Bigler and I would find a couple friends here and we would sit and watch the parade. My granddaughter, who’s a senior here, is in the parade, and my son has been with the Alumni Blue Band for the last couple of years.”
Rohrbeck recalled some of her previous experiences celebrating Penn State pride, including the school’s first national championship victory over Georgia in 1983.
“When they won the Sugar Bowl, they had a big parade. That was fun,” she said.
Cathy Reese, a graduate of the class of 1970, said getting her family to gather every year for homecoming has been hit or miss, but now that she’s newly retired from teaching, she hopes to find more time to gather with friends and family and see some of her old classmates.
“We’ve lived across the country, so it’s always great to come back and be home here at Penn State, but also with family,” Reese said. “When everybody’s back here, I’m back here, too.”
Penn State is set to continue the celebration Saturday when the Nittany Lions take on Michigan at 5 p.m. at Beaver Stadium before a sold-out crowd.
After the game, a candlelight vigil will be held by Penn State alumni and fans in honor of late head coach Joe Paterno at the former site of Paterno’s statue on the east side of Beaver Stadium.