Kean students, faculty and alumni filled the Harwood Arena parking lots to full capacity during the homecoming tailgate Saturday, Oct. 7. Music from the acclaimed DJ Nix in The Mix, food and an abundance of fun was all available to the many people who attended the homecoming festival.
With over 30 student organizations, fraternities, sororities and other funded groups at the university, attendees were treated to a morning of unforgettable experiences. There was something for just about everyone in attendance.
Food trucks that stretched throughout the entire length of both parking lots filled the stomachs of all who needed a snack during the festivities. Caricatures were drawn for students who wished to see their face in art. Children were entertained with multiple large bounce houses that were on both parking lots, as other carnival games were available for students and alumni to play. Additionally, the student organizations, sororities and fraternities competed to show the the most creative table.
"We are just here to show school pride, enjoy homecoming, see all of our alumni come back, come together and have a good time," said Tahjane Whitsett, senior business administration major and senior class president.
Since this year's theme centered around the idea of superheroes, all of the competing tables had superhero-themed table designs created to attract those who walked by them. Fraternities such as Tau Kappa Epsilon and Nu Delta Pi painted cardboard boxes of Batman and the Incredible Hulk designs, while other groups, such as sororities like Lambda Theta Alpha had an interactive Captain Underpants design where people could play a humorous game of throwing a roll of toilet paper into a bin. Certainly, a majority of the games played by the students walking to and from them gained a lot of participation and enjoyment.
"I know, for a lot of people that come here for the first time, they are like, 'I did not expect this event to be like this.' Our homecoming is a lot more welcoming and a whole bunch of other people from other schools come here to enjoy it," said Keani Esparra, a member of the Latin sorority Lambda Theta Alpha and a senior majoring in public relations.
The groups involved had a great time participating in the competition, but were passionate about making the best designs as the judges trotted through the tailgate grounds, searching for that one extraordinary creation from a group that would catch their attention. Throughout the competition, only three groups of tables were ranked as the best from the day.
For first place, the fraternity Nu Sigma Phi teamed up with sorority Delta Phi Epsilon to create a "Suicide Squad"-themed jail house, complete with references to the notable super-villain team in the Batman universe. In second place came the fraternity Nu Delta Pi and the sorority Theta Phi Alpha collaborated to create an all green representation of the Incredible Hulk, using cardboard boxes painted as red bricks and the green giant running through them. In third place came the sorority Omega Sigma Psi and fraternity Sigma Beta Tau, who worked together to make a larger-than-life Superman chair for students and kids.
Robert Riccio, a senior majoring in public relations and a member of Nu Delta Pi, expressed his opinions on how this competition inspired those partaking in it to get creative, not only to win, but to give back as well.
"I think that this year's theme is awesome. Everyone can relate to superheroes. Kids are accustomed to seeing 'The Amazing Spiderman' and 'The Incredible Hulk' and 'The Avengers', so the kids are going to love seeing them. Just like superheroes, no one is perfect, but they have a quality that stands out. I think that kids can definitely relate to that," Riccio commented.
As the event continued to unfold, several students were given the chance to sign up for a giveaway contest, where a Macbook Pro, a $500 Barnes and Noble gift card for use at the bookstore in the Green Lane Building (GLB), a reserved parking spot and free tuition for a semester. Students arrived in a large line to swipe their Cougar ID cards to not only check in to the event and get food and game tickets for the day, but also to enter their names into the raffle for the big prizes that were announced in the football game's halftime show.
Kean Expedition was in charge of the raffle contest. The organization, ran by members of University Relations, is specifically advertised for students to get involved on campus by way of interacting with the university via social media. They are responsible for major giveaways at events such as the homecoming tailgate and new freshman orientation every fall semester. Justine Henderson, a marketing communications specialist and advocate for the Kean Expedition program, helped sign in students to the campus-wide contest by spinning a wheel for students to win prizes.
"This is probably the biggest turnout that we have ever had, which is good. That is what we wanted to do. We always want to create a sense of community here at Kean," said Henderson. "For the Freshman, I hope this gives them Kean pride. I hope that it makes them want to be a part of the community here. And then, when they graduate here, they will feel inclined to come back and re-live homecoming again."
As the homecoming tailgate came to a close, it became time for the football game to begin. At around 1 p.m., the Cougars kicked off their homecoming game against William Paterson University in a 60-minute gridiron battle. The Cougars got off to a fresh start, scoring five unanswered touchdowns in the first half in a 56-0 win. Starting Kean quarterback Charles App put up a 142-yard effort through the air, tacking on four touchdowns on the day. Defensive pressure would force the Pioneers' offense to turn the ball over six times in Kean's second shutout in the past eight years.
During the halftime show, the game's attendees found out who won the coveted title of homecoming king and queen. As the stadium anticipated this year's winners, all of this year's participants were escorted to the field's 50-yard line for the groundbreaking announcement. While running uncontested, Kevin Macalos was awarded the homecoming king's crown to thunderous applause and cheers from the school's supporters.
Soon after, the announcement for the homecoming queen was made between seniors Gina Elwassemmi, Dominique Hagan and Fatizenebu Oyibo, as they stood side by side, waiting for the ultimate decision. To a crowd of hundreds, Fatizenebu Oyibo was pronounced the 2017 Homecoming Queen. A member of the Muslim Student Association and a representative for the senior class student council, Oyibu found that winning the crown meant more than just a title.
"What else can I say? I'm really excited! I just wanted to say that all of the contestants were absolute number one candidates and were all amazing people," said the senior public administration and psychology double major. "This means that someone who is just like me can win this as well."
Not only were the Homecoming king and queen announced, but the winners of the Kean Expedition raffle were announced to the crowd inside of Kean Alumni Stadium. The winners of each prize were announced, as well as the winner of free tuition. Katrina Jade, a Freshman, ended up taking the check for her rewards.
Another homecoming weekend saw more creative table designs, interactive games and a huge amount of students and alumni attending the event. It is safe to say that the 2017 homecoming was, indeed, one for the books. More pictures and a slideshow of Saturday's afternoon can also be found on The Cougar's Byte homecoming webpage.