Bursting with spirit: Penn State homecoming parade unites town, gown

“The Button Man” from the Penn State Club of Wyoming Valley waves during the Penn State homecoming parade on Friday, Sept. 26, 2014.
“The Button Man” from the Penn State Club of Wyoming Valley waves during the Penn State homecoming parade on Friday, Sept. 26, 2014. CDT photo

The call boomed out from the tent in front of the Allen Street gates.

“We are...”

The answer filled East College Avenue, loud as a lion’s roar and thick with pride. Students, parents, children who aren’t students yet, alumni who remember a campus and community far smaller than the one they visit, all called out “Penn State!”

Welcome to the 2014 homecoming parade.

“It’s like a family reunion for the alumni, for the whole town and gown community,” said State College mayor Elizabeth Goreham. “At homecoming, we’re all together in a very positive way.”

She hopes that students see the support of the area, and how many graduates live in the Centre Region so that they might decide to keep their talents and ideas in the community when they graduate.

Jonathan Dehoff was seeing plenty of support from alumni. He said many came up to him before the parade, telling him how fascinating they found him.

It might have been his gregarious personality. It might also have had something to do with the “a-peeling” banana costume he was sporting as he danced in the crowd, paper Nittany Lions in hand while gyrating.

Why would there be a dancing banana at homecoming?

“Why wouldn’t there be?” Dehoff said.

For him, it was a way to embrace the fun of the event, his first on campus, since coming from York as a junior studying history, but he also loved the interaction with the crowd and the alumni. In fact, he found it educational. He wants to teach, and thought the costume showed him how a little pop of the unexpected can break down walls and bring people together.

Togetherness was not a problem on College Avenue.

The atmosphere was much like a home football game stretched the length of the street instead of packed in the stadium. As “Build Me Up Buttercup” played, the Foundations were drowned out by the crowd, singing as one and rocking to the beat from seats on the curb.

Gretchen Schultz, a junior majoring in elementary education, loves homecoming, especially the football games, for that kind of feeling.

“There’s even more school spirit,” she said.

Dad Ken Schultz, a class of 1983 alum from Connecticut, thinks its hard to top Penn State spirit anytime.

“I’m very proud of this school. I’m very proud to be a part of it,” he said.

“We are very proud,” said Angie Bonilla. She and husband, Angel, came all the way from Puerto Rico to take in the spectacle, but the pride isn’t so much for the school as it is for the hostess of the party. Their daughter, Claudia, a senior studying business, is the executive director of this year’s event.

“We came last year and saw the parade,” Angie Bonilla said.

For her, the best part is what any mother would relish.

“Just being with my daughter,” she said.