By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Planning an event in the middle of a pandemic isn’t easy.
Members of the Loper Programming and Activities Council (LPAC) can attest to that.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney students spent several months preparing for next week’s homecoming festivities and adjusting to an ever-changing environment.
“It’s a lot of work, but the outcome is definitely going to be worth all the time and energy we put into it,” said UNK junior Laila Saadi, who co-chairs the homecoming committee along with senior Emma Thede.
Although this year’s homecoming events may look a little different – face masks are mandatory and social distancing will be promoted – Saadi said attendees can expect the same great time while displaying their Loper pride.
“We want to make sure we keep people safe while also allowing them to have this experience,” she said. “Homecoming is important to UNK students and supporters. It’s something a lot of people remember and look forward to, and it’s a great way for people to get together and show their school spirit.”
The celebration, organized with a “Next Frontier” Wild West theme, begins Monday with a 3:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting at Discovery Hall. Chancellor Doug Kristensen, joined by special guest University of Nebraska President Ted Carter, will lead the grand opening ceremony for UNK’s newest academic building. This event can be viewed online at unk.edu/eventdashboard.
The annual lawn display competition and pep rally follow at 5 p.m. Monday near the Bell Tower, where eight finalists for homecoming royalty will be announced.
Saadi’s favorite homecoming event, the lip-sync contest, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in the Health and Sports Center, followed by the crowning of UNK’s homecoming king and queen.
“That’s always fun to watch,” Saadi said of the contest that’s sure to feature wacky costumes and energetic performances.
All lip-sync contestants will wear face masks and shields, and seating will be arranged with proper spacing for audience members.
Instead of the traditional downtown parade, UNK is hosting a Loper Spirit March beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10. The procession will start at the Health Science Education Complex on campus and continue along University Drive before ending at Cope Fountain.
Approximately 500 to 600 Lopers, including Chancellor Kristensen, are expected to participate. UNK’s homecoming royalty, fraternities and sororities, residence halls and athletic, cheer and dance teams will be represented, along with campus police, ROTC, LPAC and Christian Student Fellowship.
Fans also have the opportunity to see Loper student-athletes in action.
The UNK volleyball team is scrimmaging at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9, at the Health and Sports Center and the swimming and diving team’s “Blue-White” scrimmage is scheduled for 6 p.m. that evening at Kearney High School. The Loper football team’s annual “Blue-Gold” game will be played at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, at Cope Stadium, with the Pride of the Plains Marching Band and Sapphires dance team performing at halftime. There won’t be a Loperville tailgate area for the football game.
All UNK scrimmages are open to the public. Attendees are required to wear face masks, and social distancing will be promoted. The cost of admission is $5 per person for football and volleyball. However, fans get in free if they download the new UNK Athletics app on their smartphone. There is no cost to attend swimming.
Other homecoming activities include the Loper Feud, based on the popular TV show “Family Feud,” a canned food build supporting local food banks and Adventure Race.
LPAC plans to livestream several homecoming events on its Facebook page, and the UNK Alumni Association is presenting its Distinguished Alumni Awards during a live webinar at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at unkalumni.org/special-events.
“We’re super excited to bring this opportunity to campus,” Saadi said. “This has really been a community effort and we’re thankful for everyone’s help.”
UNK HOMECOMING HIGHLIGHTS
Monday, Oct. 5
3:30 p.m. – Discovery Hall ribbon-cutting ceremony (Discovery Hall east lawn)
5 p.m. – Pep rally, lawn display competition and royalty finalists announced (Bell Tower)
Tuesday, Oct. 6
5:30 p.m. – Adventure Race (Bell Tower)
Wednesday, Oct. 7
5 p.m. – Loper Feud (Nebraskan Student Union Ponderosa Room)
Thursday, Oct. 8
7 p.m. – Lip-sync contest and royalty crowning (Health and Sports Center)
7:30 p.m. – UNK Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Awards (Livestream)
Friday, Oct. 9
5 p.m. – Canned food drive (Nebraskan Student Union courtyard)
5:30 p.m. – Volleyball scrimmage (Health and Sports Center)
6 p.m. – Swimming and diving scrimmage (Kearney High School)
Saturday, Oct. 10
1 p.m. – Loper Spirit March (University Drive starting at Health Science Education Complex)
3 p.m. – Football scrimmage (Cope Stadium)