Although events have been changed to fit COVID-19 regulations, Pittsburg State University will host the annual Homecoming celebration, October 12-17. Homecoming is one of the oldest traditions on the Pitt State campus. The Homecoming tradition began in PSU’s early years as reunions associated with teachers’ meetings each fall. By the ‘20’s, fraternities and sororities were hosting reunions. By the ‘30’s, it was an important and permanent part of the campus culture.
The theme this year is “Pitt State Together.” Jon Bartlow, director of Alumni & Constituent Relations, said the theme stemmed from the current pandemic.
“Pitt State Together” has been the theme of PSU’s reopening since this summer,” Bartlow said. “…meaning we can all do this and make it work if we do the right things, together. We thought it was logical to do a continuation of that theme into Homecoming, since we are still in the midst of a pandemic.”
Bartlow said that much like most of 2020, this week’s celebrations will look different, but it is all about bringing people together to celebrate the long-standing Gorilla-tradition.
“We are thankful that we have alternative avenues to reach out to our alumni and friends,” Bartlow said. “Making and maintaining those connections, no matter how we do it, is what is important right now. We all need some sense of normalcy…even though we are unable to host Taste of Pittsburg, enjoy the Homecoming Parade, or cheer on the Gorillas at Carnie Smith Stadium, we still want to celebrate our alma mater and connect with you at home.”
Bartlow said that even though what they are doing is not what they hoped to be doing, by having it virtually rather than in person, Pitt State Alumni have been incredibly receptive and appreciative.
“We kicked off the week with a virtual presentation by PSU Archivist Steve Cox last night, where he presented the ‘History of PSU’ to alumni from Virginia to Brazil,” Bartlow said. “(Tuesday) afternoon we are on our way to Overland Park to deliver 350+ Chicken Annie’s Original Dinners to alumni in the Kansas City area. This is not the kind of close interaction we are used to, but it shows our alumni we care, and we are thinking of them. It will be great to see them, although briefly.”
Thursday, ‘Paint the Town Red’ judging will take place. That event is a joint effort between the university and the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce.
Julie Reams, Special Events and Membership Director at the Chamber, said the ‘Paint the Town Red’ contest usually coincides with Pitt State’s first football game of the season, but everything has changed this year.
“For the past 15 years, we have put together ‘Paint the Town Red,’ which is a collaborative effort between the community and the Chamber,” Reams said. “Businesses decorate and they pay an entry fee. Part of that entry fee goes to support two students for scholarships that we award in February.”
Reams said the response from the community has been wonderful. Pittsburg business leaders are supporting the ‘Paint the Town Red’ scholarship event in light of the changes the pandemic has imposed. Normally, there are 30-35 participants. This year, almost 20 businesses entered the annual contest.
“What is so beautiful about our community is, even though many businesses are still remotely working, we had businesses step up and say, ‘You know what? We can’t decorate, but we’re still going to pay that fee because we believe in the purpose, and we believe in this event, and it supports Pittsburg State University,” Reams said. “You can drive down Broadway and see all the different businesses that are decorating their painting their storefronts, and it’s just really a good vibe, it’s a good feel.”
Bartlow said on Friday, October 16, he will emcee a live, virtual Homecoming convocation on pittstate.tv at 11 a.m., where people will hear from PSU president Steve Scott, PSU’s Cheerleaders, Dance Team and Marching band.
Doug Whitten, professor of music and director of athletic bands, said they used half the Pride of the Plains Marching Band, Gorilla cheerleaders and dancers, and pre-recorded music for the virtual pep-rally event.
“Homecoming this year is very different because it’s not live,” Whitten said. “The kids did great though. We kind of did the same old, same old, and treated like we would a normal pep rally.”
Meranda Belew, freshman in graphic imaging technologies, will perform with the Pride of the Plains Marching Band during the virtual pep-rally event.
“We first started out practicing in sectionals outside, but now we all rehearse together on the practice field,” Belew said. “With the pandemic, we have to make sure to keep distance from others, and we also have to wear masks when we are not playing our instruments.”
As a Pittsburg High School graduate, Belew has participated in Homecoming tradition for years.
“In high school, they would let the students dress up every day of the week that Homecoming was on,” Belew said. “There would be a football game, and they would have a special pep-rally, and of course have a ballot so you could vote for who you wanted to be Homecoming king and queen. In college, there would normally be a football game and parade for Homecoming. We are not doing either of these because of the pandemic, but we are going to be performing at the football game on October 31.”
Bartlow said that Homecoming week would normally end with the Homecoming Parade downtown and a Gorilla football game attended by crowds of students, alumni and community members. However, due to the pandemic, that is not possible this year.
“These events were deemed not to be safe at this time…as much as we miss them, it was decided that this would not be in the best interest of our campus community or the Pittsburg Community as a whole,” Bartlow said. “Although this is not what we wanted, we know we sometimes need to make tough and unpopular decisions as leaders in the community.”
Saturday highlights from the 1991 Championship Football Season will be aired on pittstate.tv at 1 p.m., and highlights from the 2011 Championship Football Season at 2 p.m.
“In closing, this has been a tough year,” Bartlow said. “We all miss the way things used to be, and we miss seeing our alumni in person. Gorillas are a resilient bunch though, and our love for this institution and each other cannot be smothered even by this pandemic.”
Schedule of Events:
Monday, October 12–History of PSU, 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Zoom; Online voting for Homecoming King and Queen opens at noon on Monday (PSU students only) through Gorilla Engage; T-shirt swap from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Kansas Technology Center, on Cleveland Plaza, and on the steps of Axe Library while supplies last. Participants may exchange a non-PSU shirt for a limited-edition PSU shirt; The Cutest Pitt State Pet Contest opens. Use the hashtag #PittStatePet on Instagram to submit a photo of a Pitt State-loving animal.
Tuesday, October 13–Taste of Home, 5-7 p.m., PSU-KC Metro Center Parking Lot, 12345 West 95th Street, Lenexa, KS.; T-shirt swap continues from 5 to 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 14—SMASH event, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., on the Oval. Students are invited to let go of their stress at this interactive activity in which they write their frustrations on a plate and smash it.
Thursday, Oct. 15–online voting for Homecoming royalty closes at noon, as does the Cutest Pitt State Pet Contest; Judging for the annual ‘Paint the Town Red’ will be done from 9 a.m. to noon; The Student Door Decorating Contest also will be judged; A movie on the lawn of the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts will be held at 8 p.m. for PSU students.
Friday, Oct. 16–a virtual pep rally is planned for 11 a.m. at pittstate.tv. Alumni, employees, students, and PSU friends are invited to tune in to watch a livestreamed, virtual pep rally; Homecoming royalty will be announced and crowned; Winners of the Paint the Town Red, Student Door Decorating, and Cutest Pitt State Pet contests will be announced.
Saturday, Oct. 17–Pittsburg State Alumni & Constituent Relations host a virtual watch party featuring highlights from 1991 and 2011 Gorilla Football national championship seasons. Tune-in at 1 p.m. CST for the 1991 season and at 2 p.m. CST for the 2011 season. Both seasons will be aired online at pittstate.tv.
Alumni may order PSU Pride Packs to be mailed by visiting pittstate.edu/alumni. The packs are filled with limited edition Gorilla-themed goodies.
For more information, visit http://www.pittstate.edu/alumni or call 620-235-4758