'Pride, Power and Bears' – UCA plans homecoming festivities

A year’s worth of planning has gone into homecoming week activities, which kick off on Monday, Oct. 29, at the University of Central Arkansas. Organizers promise something for everyone.

UCA invites alumni, students and the community to celebrate “Pride, Power and Bears” during homecoming festivities planned through Sunday, Nov. 4.

“By the time [homecoming] gets here, we are exhausted but so excited about it,” said Jan Newcomer, director of alumni services.

“There’s No Place Like Home” is the theme for the annual event, which begins with a pep rally on Monday and culminates with UCA vs. Northwestern State University at Estes Stadium beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3. Homecoming T-shirts will be available prior to and during homecoming week.

The week will be filled with reunions, parties, concerts and tailgating for alumni, students and supporters.

One of the more impactful events is the dedication of the Legacy Walk, a walkway made up of bricks with names of alumni and friends of the university, on Saturday afternoon. Newcomer said the walk itself inspired this year’s theme.

“One of our tag lines is ‘Follow the Gray Brick Road,’” she said. “We expect a large number of alumni to come back to see the Legacy Walk dedication. It is important for alums to be able to leave their mark on the campus.”

A pep rally at College Square Retirement Community opens the celebration week, followed by another pep rally on Tuesday at the Farris Center, a bonfire on Thursday and a concert by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, whose hits include “Woman, Woman,” “Young Girl” and “Lady Willpower.”

Monday’s pep rally at the College Square Retirement Community will allow more community members and alumni to be included in the homecoming celebrations. Newcomer said many alumni, retired professors and university friends reside in the community and some are not able to participate fully in other events.

Newcomer said Bruce D. Bear, cheerleaders and members of the pep band will be “bringing part of homecoming to them.”

Friday will bring golf fellowship and a meeting of Greek alumni, a reunion for the Class of 1962 and other events for students, alumni and friends.

The Ultimate Homecoming Party is a continuation of last year’s celebration, which was the 100th anniversary of the Alumni Association, and follows the tradition of a Friday night party for alumni, friends and UCA supporters.

“To celebrate Alumni 100 last year, we had this party for alumni and friends,” Newcomer said. “People were talking about that party for months afterward, so we knew we had to do it again, but we had to take it up a notch.”

Light refreshments were served last year, but this year the menu will include steaks grilled to each person’s preference by Whole Hog and side dishes. Newcomer said the same show band, “The Ultimate Oldies Show,” a crowd favorite, will be performing again this year, but with a new show featuring music from the ‘60s, ‘70s and some from the ‘80s. A photo booth for the partygoers will also be available.

About 200 attended the event last year, but Newcomer is expecting nearly 300 at this year’s event.

“As long as the alumni want this party, we will have it,” Newcomer said. “They love this party.”

The Ultimate Homecoming Party begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, at Centennial Events Center at Centennial Valley.

Purple Reign, now in its fourth year, is the place for some late-night celebrations on Friday, Nov. 2, with partying continuing until the wee hours of Saturday. The event is presented by D. Wynne Productions and Sandstone Real Estate Group.

Game day happenings include reunion events for the Class of 1962, which will be inducted into the Half-Century Club; Nursing alumni; Pi Kappa Alpha; UCA Band; and Sigma Sigma Sigma. The homecoming parade begins at 3 p.m., followed by tailgate parties galore for Bears fans on Bruce Street.

UCA will play Northwestern State at 7 p.m. at Estes Stadium, with coronation at halftime.

“Homecoming is a special event on every college campus,” Newcomer said. “It is a chance for friends to reconnect and to see how their college has grown.”

But the game is not the end of the night. A Young Alumni Bear Bash will begin at 9:30 p.m. at Kings of Conway Dueling Piano Bar, and Iota Gamma Alumni and Black Alumni will be hosting after-parties following the game.

The Delta Zeta annual breakfast, a church service from the Black Alumni group and a founders potluck are scheduled for Sunday evening.

The Conway and Central Arkansas community, too, whether alumni, friends or supporters are invited to the events.

“UCA is a big part of the Conway and Central Arkansas community,” Newcomer said, adding that the university enlisted the help of community leaders to invite all of Conway and Central Arkansas to celebrate UCA Homecoming. “We had a reception for 50 of our community Homecoming Ambassadors, and they left excited about homecoming. They are the real leaders in this event.”

Newcomer reported that the ambassadors had been hard at work, drumming up support and excitement about UCA’s homecoming festivities. Ambassadors also got a tasty preview of the menu for the
Ultimate Homecoming Party and the chance to become homecoming patrons.

Homecoming patrons give a tax-deductible gift to the alumni association and get special reserved seating at the homecoming party, a special name badge to wear throughout the week, recognition at each event and a special individual photo with a guest UCA celebrity who is yet to be announced, along with the chance to purchase tickets to events in advance.

Following the week of homecoming, Newcomer and her staff will begin planning next year’s event.

“We are working and concerned about it all year long,” she said. “Just one person saying they had a great time is worth all the effort. The people who come back truly love the university and the students. They reconnect with old friends and usually make some new friends that they keep for years. This is my favorite time of year.”

More information and tickets are available at uca.edu/homecoming.