The excitement of another NIU Homecoming is being celebrated this weekend in DeKalb. Adding to the busy weekend will be the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival in Sycamore. These events make DeKalb County a prime place to visit. Throw in an apple orchard and local made whiskey, there is no better reason to return to the DeKalb area.
NIU will be celebrating its 103rd annual Homecoming celebration including 50 years as a Division I football (sports) program. There are a variety of events happening including the annual NIU Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony and inductions. THE HOF will have a Friday evening event and introducing the athletes and teams during the game on Saturday. There will be a rededication of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bust as well as a chance to see the nee “NIU” artwork near the Student Union.
There have also been some changes in the NIU Student Union with a 21 million dollar renovation of the ground level area. The new space will include a Starbucks and Qdoba (opening later this year) as well as the traditional lounges and study areas. The NIU Student Union has been the university hub for events, activities as well as student government organizations since 1968.
The big push to get alumni to return to NIU and DeKalb is the Homecoming game and activities related to the game. There will be a variety of tailgate parties, pre-game concerts and of course the game itself (NIU vs Akron).
Adding to individuals and groups coming back will be reunions and parties for fraternities and sororities, Black Student Alumni and NIU Silverette Alumni.
The one thing missing from this year’s Homecoming will be the lack of a Homecoming Parade. There has not been a parade in two years and this has been one event that is missed by alumni and locals. The Homecoming Parade is a function of the Student Government Association.
As important as the Homecoming week is to the university, it is equally if no more important to local businesses in the DeKalb area. Revenue from these types of events is extremely important to the longevity and survival of a business that rely on out-of-town visitors. According to Fatty’s Pub owner Jeff Dobie, “NIU Homecoming is the busiest day of the year for Fatty’s.” Events at Fattys start with an 8:00 AM breakfast, pre-and-post games activities. “We rely on events like NIU Homecoming, the ISHA Tournament, Drum Corps Show and special events to stay in business” said Dobie.
Vicki Torries, General Manager of the Red Roof Inn said the hotel is sold out for both Friday and Saturday evenings with a good block of rooms taken by the NIU Alumni Silverettes and Band. The owners of the Junction have added extra staff over the weekend to make the visit by alumni more enjoyable.
The one thing missing according to one local business owner is the lack of signage and visual information about Homecoming in the downtown area. “We use to have our business windows painted and this year nothing” said Bruce Melin, owner of Melin’s Lock and Key. Local DeKalb residence and NIU Alumni Paul Bolton commented, “you would never know it was NIU homecoming driving around the city … no signage, no Welcome Alumni signs and little activity around the campus”.
Let’s hope the alumni and fans return to Huskie Stadium and NIU. It is not always about the game, but renewing friendships and keeping that college spirit alive.
NOTE: A Welcome Back NIU Alumni message was issued by DeKalb’s Mayor Jerry Smith and DeKalb Chamber Executive Directo Matt Duffy.