By Courtney Westlake
The University of Illinois at Springfield kicked off the 2007 Homecoming festivities with a Monday evening bonfire and pep rally. A few hundred students gathered near the campus pond to make s'mores, get their UIS Homecoming T-shirts and cheer on the Prairie Stars athletic teams.
Senior Rachel Dasenbrock, president of the student activities committee, said she was impressed by the turnout of students at the bonfire and pep rally.
"It gets students out and active and excited about homecoming," she said. "The bonfire is meant to be the kick off and start of the week to get students thinking about homecoming even though the game isn't until Saturday. So it just gets us in the mood to have school spirit."
Mary Umbarger, a sophomore who is coordinating many of this year's student homecoming activities, said a lot of work goes into planning and preparation for homecoming events.
"We moved things around a little bit, but we kept pretty much the same general line-up," she said. "We did add some of the other teams coming to the bonfire to give it a stronger kickoff. I think a lot more people stayed around this year to support our teams."
During the pep rally, students gathered around as each of the Prairie Stars teams were introduced, and the cheerleading and dance teams performed. Several nominations for homecoming court representatives were also announced.
Students said they enjoyed the night out on campus and the opportunity to celebrate the new tradition of Homecoming at UIS.
"I decided to come out because it's a good opportunity to show my support for UIS programs," said junior Ian Beall. "I like the overall atmosphere of all the students coming out. I think the turnout was pretty good from past years; now that I'm a junior, it's interesting to see how the campus has grown and become more involved."