Being part of a huge Gator Family (16 of us went to UF including my 89-year-old uncle when it was an all-boys school); I have been to my share of Homecoming both as a student and a parent to a student. The years I chose to not attend was because my daughters had positions working on the Gator Growl staff (see our blog on getting involved so I wouldn’t have seen them. Many of the sororities and fraternities are paired together for a week of events so my daughters wanted to spend their time at these events. As an alumnus, even if I only saw them during the parade, a few meals and before the game, I was good with that. I would recommend experiencing Homecoming at least once during your student’s time at UF.
What exactly is Gator Growl and Homecoming all about? Homecoming takes on national holiday status in Gainesville with schools closed for the day. From the tailgates that lead to the big football game (this year we are playing Missouri on November 3rd) to the big parade filled with floats and bands and all that jazz; there is plenty to do.
Gator Gallop – The SunTrust (can’t forget the title sponsor)is a family-friendly two-mile run that starts at James G. Pressly Stadium and ends in the Plaza of the Americas. I ran in my first Gator Gallop in 2010. Back then pre-registration was $15 and $20 the day of the race. It included a race t-shirt and a bib number. This was my first organized run and got me started in participating in future long runs. Hearing the crowds cheering the runners on, most dressed in orange and blue, was a great way to kick off a weekend of Homecoming activities.
Homecoming Parade – Who doesn’t love a hometown parade? Think the football team, high school bands, cheerleaders, clowns, the Mayor, UF’s President, the Homecoming Court, hundreds of floats, twirlers and of course, the Pride of the Sunshine, The Gator Marching Band. The route follows University Drive to Main Street where over 100,000 people watch from locations lining both sides of the street.
Gator Growl – Tracing its beginnings to 1924, this pep rally is considered to be the largest student-run pep rally in the nation. As a student and up until my older daughter graduated in 2014, it was held at Florida Field. It is where I saw Bob Hope, George Burns, and Robin Williams to name a few. I was in my early teen years and some of the material may have been a bit raunchy by my parent’s standards. And that has been the constant struggle of Gator Growl, how to appeal to the large alumni supporters and the parents that come up as well as appealing to the students, who want more current performers.
Today, it is now more of a festival and moved to Flavet Field with acts such as Snoop Dogg and Daya (last year’s performers). Whether you attend Gator Growl or not, there are still a lot of events going on around town that may be more appealing as a parent. And, with this year’s game against SEC rival LSU, I would still recommend attending Homecoming weekend. This being a huge game, getting a hotel room for November 1st through 4th) may be challenging as well as getting tickets to the Homecoming football game. See our blog on hotels and start planning now. And see our blog on sports for information on getting a non-student football ticket.
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