Alumni traditions left behind in Richardson revitalization

(Left) Engineers of the class of 1933 leading the Homecoming parade in 1988; (right) an alumus waving to the crowd during the 2015 halftime parade.

I remember going to my first Homecoming football game at Queen’s when I was 10 years old.

My brother was playing in the game and the crowd was roaring. I couldn’t believe the spirit and enthusiasm that emanated from the students and alumni in the stands. 

But for me, the best part was yet to come. I’d never seen the halftime parade before so I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that I should be thrilled. My parents waited in eager anticipation and their excitement carried onto me. 

Then suddenly, my 10-year-old self was shocked to see an army of incredibly excited purple students and their friends take the field and slam their jackets in salute of an older looking group that was moving around the stadium. I saw the alumni march by the crowd that saluted them and waved back with pride. My father told me it happened every year; it was an incredible sight and the  best part of an amazing day. 

Growing up in Kingston, I dreamed of going to my hometown school and the Homecoming parade was just more incentive. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my family. They went to Queen’s and immersed themselves in the remarkable school spirit and I wanted nothing more than to be able to do the same. I knew from that day on I wanted to be part of a school that so passionately celebrated the people who attended it.

When they were students, my family members each got their turn to salute alumni at the Homecoming football game. Years later they would march around the track in pride with their classmates. In fact, five years ago during my mother’s 40th reunion football parade she met a friend of hers she hadn’t seen since she lived on her floor in Adelaide Hall in first year. 

But now my mother isn’t going to her 45th year reunion, because, without the parade during the football game, she sees no point in returning. 

With nothing more than a brief article on the Queen’s Alumni website, entitled End Of Homecoming Half-Time Parade Brings New Opportunities For Alumni-Student Interaction, that tradition was scrapped. The parade through campus will continue, however, it will stop short outside the gates of the newly revitalized Richardson Stadium.

The article provides little-to-no reasoning for the decision, masking the issue in seemingly more positive changes to Homecoming tradition — like new stadium seating arrangements. 

Due to the lack of any explanation, I’m forced to speculate as to why the University made this decision. 

I’d imagine there are a few concerns regarding the parade. However, in the eyes of this alum, I don’t see how they can justify ending this essential tradition.

The most likely cause of the cancellation is the new field and the fear that a parade may damage it. Surely a 25-minute parade will not cause significant damage? Regardless, this seems absurd; a field is literally meant to be tread on. 

Secondly, it’s possible that they don’t want the parade because there isn’t a track anymore. While this is true, I’m confident that logistically this can be overcome. In fact, I’m fairly certain that the football team will have a rubber mat under-foot to protect the sidelines of the field. Could the University not position more of these mats so alumni can walk on them? That way you have both room for alumni and protection of the turf. 

Turf should not overrule one of the most cherished Queen’s traditions.

Third, the University is likely worried about the personal security of students and alumni. However, this never prevented the parade before, so why now? Anyone who attended knows that while students did rush the field to salute alumni, they also quickly vacated the field before the start of the second half. It was never out of hand, students and alumni respected that fun was had and it was time to watch the rest of the game and cheer on their Gaels. 

Further, and no disrespect to Queen’s' great athletics program, the parade is probably the most important 25 minutes of the Homecoming game.

The great irony here is that the stadium improvements were mostly paid for by alumni, including “a lead gift of $10 million from Queen’s alumni Stu Lang, Sci ’74, and Kim Lang, ArtSci ’76” as stated on the school website. 

That generosity is truly incredible and yet the University saw fit to reward such a contribution, along with many others, by denying an alumni-specific event which is steeped in tradition. It’s immensely disappointing and confusing. 

I’m left to wonder if the alumni would’ve been as supportive as they’d been had they known that the new stadium would end a tradition that they themselves have likely participated in for many years.

The Queen’s website also states that donations for the revitalization of the stadium from alumni or alumni-driven funds was around $17 million while the University invested an additional $3 million for infrastructure support. 

With 85 per cent of the stadium paid for by alumni and all the countless other reasons, it’s easy to tell that the decision to eliminate the Homecoming parade from its inclusion in the football game was made by someone who didn’t take into consideration the magnitude of what exactly they were denying. 

Queen’s needs to bring back the Homecoming parade in its original fashion so we can continue to honour our alumni who have always done so much for the University in one of the most unique traditions possible.

David Sinkinson is a Queen’s ArtSci ’11 and MBA ’13 alumus. He was the Municipal Affairs Commissioner of the AMS for the 2011-12 school year.

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