CHESTERTOWN, MD—Who needs a football team to host a Homecoming? Not Washington College, where after a hiatus of some eight years, the students brought the tradition back with a vengeance, King and Queen and all.
Student Government president Andrew Antonio says the event, organized jointly by his group and the Student Events Board, exceeded even his own expectations. “We wanted to give the students a chance to celebrate their College and show pride it its athletic teams,” he says of the goal. “Attendance at the sports events was great, we had about 600 students show up for the dance, and people took the vote for the King and Queen seriously. People were chalking the sidewalks and putting up posters,” he says of the homecoming campaigns that ultimately crowned seniors Matt Keller, a business major from New Canaan, CT, and Tina Gardner, an economics major from Elkton, MD, as King and Queen.
“The whole experience was fun and exciting,” says Gardner who reports that being homecoming queen has not transformed her life: “I still have to go to class, eat at the dining hall, do my homework etc. However, it is fun having my friends call me ‘Tina Queena.’ I think this will be a fun tradition to continue in future years. Students enjoy having a reason to get dressed up.”
King Matt agrees. "It was a great way to start off the school year and for everyone to participate collectively as a campus," he says. "The feedback from all of my friends has been nothing but positive about the whole thing, and they were excited to see me win the crown." Keller told the student newspaper, the Elm, that his KA fraternity brothers gave him the promotional support that put him on top of the royal voting. They helped promote my name around campus and set up a giant bed sheet banner saying ‘Vote Keller 4 King’ outside of the chapter house,” he noted.
Without football to anchor the festivities (the last year Washington College fielded a football team was 1950), organizers encouraged students to turn out and support the teams playing at home that Saturday: women’s varsity soccer, field hockey and volleyball teams, and the men’s club rugby team. The men’s varsity soccer team and both sailing teams were competing out of town.
Student organizers printed T-shirts for the sports teams to wear that Friday to promote Homecoming, and the student athletes were recognized at the dance Saturday night. A fall harvest theme coincided with the College-wide Fall Family Weekend going on that weekend.
The new director of student activities, Emmanuel Lalande, credits Antonio and his counterpart at SEB, Ed Hoegg, for collaborating to bring back the homecoming tradition. The student leaders, in turn, credit Lalande for stressing the need for collaboration and for fully supporting their efforts.
Antonio told the Elm that he and Hoegg hope the return of homecoming will be a first step toward boosting school spirit. “Student apathy has always been a problem,” he told editor Alice Horner. “That mentality starts with not having a football team. But a football team is not a prerequisite for Homecoming.” And a homecoming celebration, he added, “can only add value to the student experience.”
Photo: King Matt and Queen Tina show off their sparkly headpieces as Homecoming's royalty.