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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Community gathers for traditional Homecoming parade

Dressed in an orange-and-blue tutu and orange Gators bloomers, 2-year-old Vanessa Pearce found herself a new friend at the Homecoming parade.



At 11:30 a.m., half an hour before the parade began, Vanessa and 15-month-old Arabelle Kolb crawled and walked together near the Gator Wesley Foundation on University Avenue under the watchful eyes of their mothers, Camille Valenzuela, 26, and Danielle Kolb, 24, both Gainesville residents.

Families braved the cold weather and lined University Avenue on Friday morning to watch the Homecoming parade, which began at noon and lasted about two hours. There were high school marching bands, local businesses, floats from UF and Gainesville organizations and fire trucks with sirens blaring.

Valenzuela couldn't wait for Vanessa to see the fire trucks.

"Hopefully, they'll keep her entertained," she said.

Small dogs ran with their owners in the Gator Gallop that preceded the parade. The two-mile run was first held in the 1970s.

Comedian Joel McHale, who performed at Gator Growl on Friday night, sat atop a convertible in the parade and took photos and videos of the crowd as the car drove down the street.

The Homecoming court waved to the crowd, Chipotle had a large burrito balloon and Occupy UF supporters chanted, "The rich got bailed out, we got sold out" as they marched the parade route.

The parade was part of the 88th UF Homecoming celebration.

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UF alumnus Lee Burrows, 52, who graduated in 1981, said the parade has remained relatively the same.

"It's longer now, but we had all this back then, too," he said.

Jason Bontrager, a trumpet player in the Gator marching band, marched in the parade for the first time.

"It was great going through the student sections," said Bontrager, a 20-year-old music education junior. "I'd do it again."


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