As night fell on State College, onlookers packed the streets from the Intramural Building on Penn State’s campus to the Allen Street Gates downtown for the latest iteration of a long-standing annual tradition.
Penn State’s 2017 homecoming parade on Friday wound down a productive week of events from one of the country’s largest student-run homecoming organizations. More than 50 handmade floats and 200 organizations proceeded down the streets, representing nearly every niche of the university and the community.
The parade fell on an especially cold day, as this year’s homecoming week ran later than the traditional early- to mid-October dates of the past two years. Yet, this didn’t stop crowds from showing up to the parade as they did in the past.
“I’ve probably been to about 45 of (the parades),” said John Row, a State College resident and member of the Class of 1974.
Row added that his favorite homecoming week of all was in 1982, the same year the Nittany Lions won their first consensus national championship.
The parade featured a thoughtfully sequenced lineup of organizations, with the State College marching band providing momentum for the start of the procession and the Blue Band (and its alumni) appearing at the very end. All throughout, there was no shortage of colorful floats, as well as appearances from dancers, mascot characters and Centre County notables, to round out the festive mood.
The crowd in attendance was a diverse one: Students, alumni, children and family members gradually filled both sides of College Avenue and soaked in the atmosphere.
“Talking to people I stand next to, getting to know them, you kind of (start to feel) like you’re part of the community, even if you just started coming here,” said Jordyn Kosienski, a sophomore studying meteorology.
Kosienski was joined by Brenner Ferringer, a freshman and fellow first-timer to the parade, who said he liked the “small-townish” atmosphere and sense of spirit.
“It’s interesting to see people from all different backgrounds gather, and the alumni coming back to where they went to school and expressing their pride,” Ferringer said.
Among the many floats on display were a towering pumpkin, a miniature CATA bus and a giant cutout of “The Incredibles” logo.
For Sergei Stepanoff, a sophomore studying materials science and engineering, the highlight of the night was seeing the crowd in good spirits.
“They seem happy,” he said. “I like to see people having fun.”
Penn State’s homecoming week is the culmination of a year-long engagement coordinated by students, alumni and community members that starts with State Day of Service in the spring, said Sophia Nitsolas, media relations captain for Penn State Homecoming.
“I really love seeing the community and the students all lining the streets of College Avenue together,” Nitsolas said. “I’m always excited to see what Penn State has to offer, from its alumni to its current student (organizations) to outstanding acts that come.”
Hyun Soo Lee is a Penn State journalism student.