This year’s Homecoming parade will have an Olympic twist.
Olympic gold medalist Claire Donahue will be the grand marshal for the parade, Ginny Hensley, director of Alumni Programming and co-chair of Homecoming Activites said.
“It’s kind of neat that we have a patriotic theme,” Hensley said. “She just finished the Olympics, and it all sort of ties together.”
This year’s theme is “Red, White, and WKU.”
The parade starts at 5 p.m. on Friday at the intersection of Avenue of Champions and College Heights Boulevard, then turns left on State Street and ends at Fountain Square Park downtown.
Construction has not affected the route, but has affected the staging for the parade.
“The floats will come up Avenue of Champions the wrong way from the bottom, and we’ll have to leave that section open, so it will be tight,” Hensley said.
Despite the logistical problems with staging, she said there are more float entries this year.
“We’ll make it happen, though,” she said. “We always do.”
Once the parade ends, it will be followed by Big Red’s Roar, a pep rally at Fountain Square to get students excited for Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe.
This is third year the parade route has gone downtown, and Hensley said emphasis was placed on involving the businesses there.
Hensley said some of the businesses are giving discounts on red and white items Friday night.
“The downtown community has been so incredibly generous to us,” she said. “They encourage you to come down and literally bring a lawn chair and enjoy the festivities and shop.”
To prepare campus for the parade, Joshua Twardowski, manager of Campus Services, said his team has been sweeping the streets of the parade and making sure contractors doing construction stop work and clean up the day before the parade.
“It’s very important for returning faculty, staff and alumni to be impressed as much as possible,” Twardowski said.
Julie Denton, a parade volunteer, said in an email that Big Red’s Roar has improved each year.
“Each time we’ve learned something different about how to make it work better with the number of students and spectators on the square,” Denton said.
She said the stage has been moved to accommodate more students this year.
At the end of the parade, the Homecoming Queen candidates will be introduced.
Hensley said there would a few surprises at this year’s parade — but wouldn’t reveal any.