The cost of coming home

Alumni from across the country will be returning to Eastern this weekend to enjoy numerous events such as the football game, the Tent City tailgate and the Alumni Awards Dinner. Although Homecoming is a bittersweet time for reunion, it has its costs.

Steve Rich, director of the Alumni Association, said that the cost depends on how many events the alumni are involved in.

One of the events is the Scholarship Scramble, which is a golf tournament held at the Charleston Country Club.

Participation in this event could set an alumnus back $80 per person or $320 per foursome, Rich said.

Other events that will rack up an alumnus’s bill will be the football game since tickets cost $15, as well as the Alumni Awards Dinner, which is held at 6 p.m. on Saturday in the Grand Ballroom and costs $25 per person.

With alumni coming from many places it’s not always easy to make the trip back to Charleston. One of the alums that are making the trip this weekend is Nancy Elwess from the class of ’76, who lives in northern Vermont, just 15 miles south of the Canadian border.

“It does take a bit of an effort and cash to return for Homecoming,” Elwess said.

Elwess said she has to purchase airline tickets, rent a car and do so two to three months prior to the trip.

Car maintenance will be key for alums. A simple oil change and a car checkup cost $31.72 at the Charleston Service Center on 1718 Lincoln Ave.

The average price of a plane ticket through Southwest Airlines is $114.61, followed closely by its top competitor JetBlue at an average price of $130.41, according to Southwest Airlines.

Renting a car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, located at 2009 Lake Land Blvd. in Mattoon, can cost anywhere from $50 to $80, depending on the year and model.

On top of booking airline and car rental, alumni will need to find accommodations during their stay. Many of the hotels in Charleston and neighboring Mattoon fill up quickly for Homecoming week.

“I stay at the Hampton Inn in Mattoon and when I mention I am with EIU, they give me a discount,” Elwess said.

The Hampton Inn, located at 1416 Broadway Ave East in Mattoon confirms that members of the Alumni Association do get discounts that vary depending on the time of year and if any special occasions are happening such as Homecoming.

Kristin Wick, General Manager of Days Inn located on 300 E. Broadway Ave. in Mattoon, said she can give a special rate of $59.99 to Alumni Association members.

David McGrady, owner of McGrady Inn on 803 6th St., gives Alumni Association members a 5 percent discount on their rooms. He said the inn is fully booked for Homecoming weekend.

Not all alumni have to make quite as long of a trip or face as much cost. Hugh O’Hare, class of 2001, currently lives in Joliet, Ill. and is able to simply drive down, cutting out some costs that other alumni face.

O’Hare, who is on the board of the Alumni Association, said he does not have to worry about booking a hotel because the Alumni Association reserves rooms for members of the board.

Despite what costs the weekend may total up, O’Hare said it is worth it.

“My favorite part (about the Homecoming weekend) is going to the tailgating and to the Alumni Tent City,” he said. “I get to see so many old friends ands have a great time.”

Elwess agreed. “I love coming back for Homecoming,” she said.

She will be taking part in the breakfast Saturday morning, the parade, the game, and Friday night she will be attending the Alumni Foundation’s Campaign Kick-off Event.

“I am a college professor and Eastern’s homecoming has the university that I work at homecoming’s beat hands down,” she added.

Kaylia Eskew can be reached at 581-7942 or [email protected].