100th Homecoming parade brings community out


Jason Howell

Homecoming Little Prince Noah Daugherty throws out candy during the Homecoming parade on Saturday along Sixth Street.

Lynnsey Veach and Mackenzie Freund

In a year marked by many challenges faced by the University, the Homecoming Parade was a visible sign of Eastern and the Charleston community unifying to celebrate its past, present and future.

As children waited anxiously for candy, generations of Charleston residents, Eastern alumni and current students sat watching the marching bands walk down Seventh street toward the downtown square as the Eastern Homecoming Parade began.

The 2015 Homecoming Parade revolved around the theme of “100 Years Never Looked So Good.”

Each community group and registered student organization decorated their floats and vehicles, highlighting the historic years for the Homecoming parade.

Nanci Newstrom, a Charleston resident, said she likes how the parade brings spirit to the community.

“I think over the years we have lost school spirit so its one way of rekindling that spirit and bring(ing) people together,” Newstrom said. “It’s also exciting to see alumni come back and take pride in the institution.”

The parade included over 100 campus and community oriented entries, Billy the Panther was featured as the grand marshal, Eastern President David Glassman and Charleston Mayor Brandon Combs were riding after the band.

Eastern’s Royalty, including the 100th King and Queen Darien Ghostone and Kelsey Hosea who rode with Shaun Hughes and Astoria Griggs-Burns the prince and princess.

Many other Eastern alumnus and community members also marched with different organizations in the parade.

Eastern faculty, staff, and various other campus unions also came together in the parade, walking behind a banner that said “EIU works because we do.” They handed out candy and 1,000 first aid kits to people on the parade route.

The Homecoming parade featured local marching bands including Charleston and Mattoon High Schools. The Panther Marching Band lead the local bands, entertaining the audience with the “Fight Song” throughout the parade route.

Melinda Mueller, a political science professor at Eastern, said she used to march in the parade when she was in high school.

“I actually walked in the parade with the Charleston High School band, now my children are in the band,” Mueller said.

Mueller said she wishes there were more marching band entries since it is her favorite part of the Homecoming parade.

Sean Coyle, a Charleston resident for over 33 years whose daughter is also an alumna, said the bands bring a special element to the parade and wishes there would be more bands included in the parade.

“I’m wondering if budget cuts are causing schools not to show up,” Coyle said. “It’s always one of the best parts of the parade.”

Newstrom said she also liked seeing the different bands perform and that she is glad Eastern is beginning to build up more bands to come and march.

Kathryn Finney, a Charleston resident who has come to the Homecoming parade for over 30 years, said the parade is a positive chance for the students and community members to get together.

Juleigh Miller, a resident of Champaign, said she has come to the last two parades because her daughter is in the Panther Marching Band.

Miller said she thinks the parade is a good thing for community because it helps gather support.

“I think the more that we can raise awareness of what a wonderful school this is the better it will be,” Miller said. “I think it’s one of the friendliest campuses I’ve ever been on, especially for a state school.”

Miller said she also brought socks to give the Blue Crew while they marched to support the “Socktober campaign.”

For the campaign, the parade goers were encouraged to bring socks to the event to give to Eastern’s Blue Crew, which were donated to homeless.

The Eastern Homecoming Parade brings together numerous people of the Charleston Community along with students and staff from Eastern.

Jackie McCord an Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity member and alumnae said “Well, some people kind of have a bad view of Eastern as a party school,” McCord said. “It shows people that Eastern supports Charleston, they bring in lots of revenue.”

The parade also showcased many community organizations, like the Grand Ball Costume shop and Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Allen Finney, a Charleston resident, said he has been watching the parade as well as being part of it since he was in junior high.

Finney said his favorite part of the parade is the marching bands, but he was excited to see his daughter and granddaughter walk with Prairie State Bank.

Jori McCollum, an Indiana resident and Eastern alumna, said she liked seeing all the floats and helping her son collect candy during the parade.

“This is actually the first year I got to bring my son so it’s kind of reliving what I use to do when I was little,” McCollum said.


Lynnsey Veach and Mackenzie Freund can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected] and [email protected]