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Monday, February 26, 2024

Gators looking for something to do on their day off this Friday have plenty of options.

This year’s Homecoming theme, “Celebration of The Gator Nation,” commemorates the university’s accomplishments in academics and athletics.

“The theme is supposed to encompass everyone involved with The Gator Nation, including students, the football team, alumni and even future students,”said Gracie Faulkenberry, the associate general chair of communications for Homecoming 2010. “It’s supposed to connect The Gator Nation.”

Florida Blue Key, a leadership honorary organization at UF, organizes and funds Homecoming and Gator Growl, the largest student-run pep rally in the nation.

Since kicking off on Sept. 27, the celebration has included a pageant, an education celebration recognizing contributions made by professors and undergraduate research mentors, a concert and Soulfest, a multicultural extravaganza showcasing performances from student organizations.

Gator Gallop, a two-mile fun run that escorts the Homecoming Parade, is the first event on Friday. The route starts at the Percy Beard Track at James G. Pressly Stadium, runs along University Avenue, and ends near Southwest 13th Street. University Avenue will be blocked off from the President’s House to Main Street an hour before Gator Gallop and until the parade ends. The race will start at 11:30 a.m.

The 87th annual Homecoming Parade will follow the run at noon on University Avenue between Gale Lemerand Drive and Main Street. More than 100,000 spectators are expected to attend, according to Dara Schopp, the Homecoming director of public relations.

The parade will be led by former Gator and Olympic gold medalist Steve Mesler, who will serve as grand marshal, and will feature floats made by student organizations, local businesses, and UF cheerleaders and football players.

“The parade is one of those events that really showcases UF’s tradition and spirit,” Schopp said. “It gives you a sense of what being a Gator is all about.”

On Saturday afternoon, visitors can tailgate at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center starting at 4:30 p.m. at the Game Day BBQ & Alumni Celebration. There is no charge for admission, but meal tickets cost $10.

“Little kids are welcome. Alumni are welcome,” Schopp said. “It’s really an event for everyone.”

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