Gator spends year preparing for big celebration
This week, Jessica Clements will see the results of a year of organizing and preparation. As Homecoming general chair, she has overseen the work of 60 directors, 250 assistant directors and more than 1,000 staff members.
Homecoming is composed of multiple events ranging from Soulfest, a multicultural festival with the winning student performance playing at Gator Growl, to the parade, which draws more than 100,000 spectators. Each event is sponsored by Florida Blue Key and is under Clements’ guidance and direction.
“It’s been amazing planning an experience that touches so many people, from students to faculty to alumni … There is an event for everyone.”
As a junior, Clements was director of the VIP Reception, a function after Gator Growl for esteemed alumni, faculty and Gator Growl performers. Not only did she carry out a beautiful event, but the catering and entertainment for 800 guests also generated $12,000 in revenue. She also was an assistant director in 2008 and staff member in 2007, making her a part of Homecoming planning for the last four years.
Her experiences led her to take on the role of Homecoming general chair, where she is in charge of a $1 million budget, a week of school-spirited celebrations and welcoming back alumni to their alma mater.
“Coordinating 60 directors toward one common goal can at times seem daunting, but the group that I have been working with this year is unlike any staff I have seen before,” Clements said. “We have all worked so well together and along the way become good friends. I look forward to one day returning to UF as an alumna and seeing some of these same familiar faces that I have been working with on the 2010 Homecoming.”
The Friday of Homecoming week is so rooted in tradition that the university cancels classes to showcase these events. The day begins with Gator Gallop, a two-mile fun run down University Avenue preceding the parade, which starts at noon. Local businesses, high school marching bands and student organizations all participate to show their Gator pride. The night culminates with Gator Growl, where the 2010 Homecoming King and Queen will be announced in front of 40,000 attendees.
“Homecoming has been a tradition here since 1907,” Clements said, “and having the opportunity to direct these events has made me appreciate being a Gator all the more.”
- Photo credit: University Photography