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Sunday, September 24, 2023

UF Homecoming: A tradition evolving through the years

<p>UF's Homecoming celebration originated as Dad's Day in 1923 as an event where fathers could visit their sons at the all-male university.</p>

UF's Homecoming celebration originated as Dad's Day in 1923 as an event where fathers could visit their sons at the all-male university.

Gators fans decked out in orange and blue stream through the streets, giving "the chomp" to each other as they throw fists and "Go Gators!" into the air.

Barbecue and beer clutter the surfaces of every known form of collapsible furniture unless a wayward-tossed beanbag has knocked everything over.

Tailgating might be a Homecoming staple to the UF community now, but through the years in Gainesville, Gators fans have had entirely different experiences.

Homecoming officially began in 1925. It was previously called Dad's Day, an event for dads to visit their sons at school. Women weren't accepted into the university until 24 years later. The event was free until the 1970s, and spectators participated in an annual bonfire until it was deemed a safety hazard in the 1990s.

The first big-name band at Gator Growl, Lynyrd Skynyrd, performed at UF in 2007.

This year, Student Government Senate transferred $90,000 of reserve funds to Student Government Productions. Of that money, SGP put $71,000 toward bringing the Goo Goo Dolls to headline at Gator Growl.

As of press time, Aaron Heger, producer of Gator Growl, said 20,000 tickets had been sold, and he expected Thursday and today to generate the most ticket sales. He said yearly ticket sales average more than 15,000.

Students could vote for their music act choice on Gator Growl's Facebook page. About 3,600 students answered the question, "Who would you like to see perform at Gator Growl 2011?"

In the poll, 1,055 people voted for Maroon 5, 1,294 voted for Zac Brown Band, 485 voted for Kings of Leon, 402 voted for Bruno Mars and 369 voted for the Goo Goo Dolls.

Gators fans might notice other changes in Gator Growl this year.

The main stage has moved from its traditional place at one of the end zones to the front of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium's student section. The pep rally audience will sit on the alumni side to face the stage.

Fireworks, which were removed from the lineup in 2009, were also brought back for tonight's show. Gator Growl staff also resurrected live skits for this year.

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Gator Growl and the football game might be the most popular events, but Homecoming began Oct. 20 with the Education Celebration, which honors contributors to UF academics.

Soulfest showcased culturally diverse student performances and foods on Oct. 21. Homecoming Director of Public Relations Amanda Griffin said this year's Soulfest turnout was especially high.

"It was standing room only by the time it started," she said. "It was packed."

Homecoming staff added another student performance event to the Homecoming celebration. On Oct. 27, Swamp Symphony showcased student performances from the College of Fine Arts.

Griffin said the students played UF songs to get the audience in the Gators spirit.

"I think it was a great start to hopefully a really good tradition for the Gator Nation for the future," she said.

The two-mile Gator Gallop run will usher in the Homecoming parade this morning. According to a news release, Homecoming staff expects about 100,000 spectators at the parade.

Before the Gators take on the Commodores at Florida Field on Saturday, Gators fans can attend the Homecoming Game Day Alumni Barbecue at the O'Connell Center.

UF's Homecoming celebration originated as Dad's Day in 1923 as an event where fathers could visit their sons at the all-male university.

The parade was added to the lineup of festivities in the 1940s.

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