By Monica Chapman
The theme of this week's Homecoming celebration -- "Get Your Green On" -- encourages both school spirit and environmental awareness, and organizers say they're excited about how well those two causes dovetail.
The observance officially begins today and ramps up as the week progresses, peaking on Saturday with the annual Homecoming Parade and a 2 p.m. football matchup at Peden Stadium between the Bobcats and Virginia Military Institute.
"I'm excited about the theme," said Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations Graham Stewart, who is looking forward to his first OHIO Homecoming after joining the university in July. "It's a great way to tie in the university's history -- the residential greens, our green and white colors -- with an important university effort to encourage people to be more environmentally friendly."
A variety of efforts and events will play off the green theme. Among them: Campus Recycling will assist with dismantling and recycling all Homecoming floats at the conclusion of the parade. And, for the first time in Homecoming history, Adopt-a-Game volunteers -- a common sight at home basketball games -- will be milling about Peden Stadium to collect and sort trash during halftime and after the game in an effort to divert recyclables from the waste stream.
"It's a good theme because it appeals to a wide community cross-section," Recycling and Refuse Manager Ed Newman said. "We all have different ideas about how to 'get your green on,' but in the end, we all want OU to be the best it can be for everyone."
Cristie Gryszka, Alumni Relations' director of outreach and engagement, said a strong lineup of activities will make this year's Homecoming memorable.
"This year, we're starting things a week out and really trying to build that connection between students and alumni," Gryszka said. "We want the students to take part in that tradition and feel like they're part of what we're doing because they're our future alumni."
Beginning today, "Paint the Town Green" encourages local businesses to demonstrate their school and philanthropic spirit by collecting food for the Athens Food Pantry. Businesses have been asked to paint their storefronts in green and provide a drop box for food donations. Prizes will be awarded to the business that collects the most food as well as the one that sports the best decorations.
Lunches on the College Green, Bobcat gear days, hayride and historical walking tours of The Ridges and the by-invitation Alumni Awards Gala honoring notable alumni will keep the momentum going through the week. (See related story on alumni honorees.)
On Friday, the Student Alumni Board's annual "Yell Like Hell" pep rally, featuring performances by the Marching 110, the cheerleaders and the dance team, will follow the women's volleyball match against Akron at the Convocation Center.
Project Manager Samantha Setterlin said the pep rally has gained momentum in recent years, and this year's event won't soon be forgotten, due in part to the inaugural Big Mama's Burrito-Eating Contest.
The competition will pit Big Mama's top 15 burrito eaters against Volleyball Coach Ryan Theis. The winner will receive two free burritos per week for one quarter, compliments of Big Mama's Burritos.
For Setterlin, the pep rally's highlight comes when the football team performs alongside the dance team.
"They really work at it. And last year, everybody was dancing along with them," she said. "(The goal is) just to get everybody pumped for the Homecoming game and to get everyone in the school spirit."
After the rally, the Marching 110 percussion section will continue spreading spirit on Court Street.
The city's main thoroughfare will draw crowds again Saturday morning as the annual Homecoming Parade makes its way through town to Baker University Center beginning at 10 a.m. In line with the green theme, reusable totes and recyclable key chains will be passed out along the route.
The Ohio University Program Council has upped the ante for this year's float and banner competitions. Winners of the float competition will receive $500, $400 and $300, and first-place winners can name up to four members from their organization to cheer the football team to victory from a field-side spirit couch. Prizes of $250, $200 and $150 will be awarded for the top three banners.
"We are hopeful that with the increase in prizes we will also see an increase in excitement and creativity from the students, alums and community members," said Jenna Markel, the event's co-chair for University Program Council.
Following the parade, alumni are invited to join the pre-game Bobcat Bash in Baker University Center and visit a "Come Home to History" exhibit on display from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"It's quite a production from beginning to end," Stewart said, "and I'm very confident and excited about the ability of our team to pull it off without a hitch."
For a full lineup of activities, visit www.ohio.edu/homecoming. Events in the green theme are listed at www.facilities.ohiou.edu/conservation/Homecoming_2008.htm.
Marisa Grill and Mary Alice Casey contributed to