Where’s the Love? — in Lot L

Posted: February 6, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Homecoming tailgate
No matter what the weather, the Homecoming faithful will turn out for the tailgate in Lot L.

By Colleen Kearney Rich

Each February, people at George Mason gear up for Homecoming. They don unusual outfits, decorate their office space, offer themselves up as “prisoners” for fund-raising “jails” and adorn themselves with green and gold beads – all for a week’s worth of activities that culminate in a block party in Lot L on the Fairfax Campus, a men’s basketball game and, of course, fireworks.

On Saturday, Feb. 11, Mason will host its eighth winter Homecoming and pre-game block party in Lot L, and this year’s theme is “I ♥ Mason.”

A Winter Homecoming?

For years, Mason’s Homecoming activities, which were held in October, revolved around soccer. There was a parade, a queen and king, a dance and a soccer game. Then along came the idea to move the event to basketball despite the fact that basketball was basically a winter sport.

“October was a really tough time of year to accomplish anything,” says Traci Claar, director of community relations and a long-time Homecoming Committee member. “Students were still getting acclimated. The student organizations were still recruiting members, so there really wasn’t time to build a float.”

By moving Homecoming to a different sport, committee members hoped to have greater campus participation and better programming for the event. “The committee didn’t think it was odd to have a winter tailgate. It was risky, but we thought we would try it,” says Chris Clark-Talley, executive director of Alumni Affairs, who also sits on the Homecoming Committee. “The first year we had about 100 people out there – and it still felt like a huge success.”

The next year, close to 500 attended the block party. Attendance soon grew to 1,000, and then the event was too large to get a good count. “We started off with a heated tent and a little free food,” says Clark-Talley. “It gets bigger every year, and now we have activities on all three campuses.”

Homecoming and Reunions Rolled into One

Impromptu reunions at Homecoming are not that unusual. In 2004, Josie Ogaitis Webster, BSN ’88, planned to get together with Carol Donnell Timpson, BA Sociology ’88. Then they told a few friends who told a few more. Before she knew it, Webster had almost 30 people planning to show up at Homecoming.

Mason cheerleaders
Catching the Mason spirit at the Homecoming basketball game is what it’s all about.

Although most of the group still lives in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, it had been a while since many of them had been on campus. “In many cases, we were meeting spouses and children for the first time,” says Ogaitis. “Even though some of us hadn’t seen each other for a long time, we were immediately able to reconnect. We had a great time.”

Another reunion group, known as the Fairfax Social Club (FSC), is a faithful Homecoming participant. The group is composed of a few former Mason roommates and friends of friends.

“It is those six degrees of separation,” says Michael McNutt, BA Communication ’95, MAIS ‘05. “If you knew one of us, chances are you would know others in the group. So we decided, let’s all be friends.” And the FSC was born.

2006 will be the 11th year the group has participated in Homecoming, and they have begun their own traditions. The FSC doesn’t have an ordinary tailgate – they make it an event with sponsors. One of their more popular offerings in recent years was mini-Nascar racing. Still, most people will always remember the Homecoming with freezing rain. As huddled masses tried to endure the inclement weather in Lot L, FSC drove up in a Ryder truck complete with music, assorted beverages and Subway subs.

The group also sponsors an after-party each year at PJ Skidoo’s in Fairfax, and they make it clear that everyone is welcome. “It’s about camaraderie, friendships that go beyond Greek life, race, even age. We want to be an example of how those friendships you make while a student at Mason can endure.”

College Row Meets Kids Zone

Clark-Talley believes one of the things that sets Mason’s Homecoming apart is the interaction of the entire university community. There is literally something for everyone. In addition to the heated tent with food and Mason spirit items, there is now a College Row, where each of the schools and colleges has a hospitality tent. At the family-friendly Kids Zone, future Patriots can dabble in a craft project, chalk up the parking lot or smash a piñata.

Each year more groups come, and some start their own traditions. Former student leaders have begun holding an annual pre-block-party reception. This year, they will be hosted by the past presidents of the Alumni Association. The University Scholars Programs is also hosting a student/alumni reception on Saturday.

Parent and child in Kids Zone
Kids Zone is not just for kids at Homecoming.
Creative Services photos

And let’s not forget the basketball game against Towson and the fireworks. “I’m big fan of Mason basketball. Even though I live a couple of hours away, I still like to take the time to come to the weekend home games,” say Greg Guenthner, BA Communication ’03. “It’s great to socialize before the game and talk to people I haven’t seen in a year.”

HOMECOMING WEEK ACTIVITIES

For more information, see the Homecoming web site.

Monday, Feb. 6

HOMECOMING KIOSK, Noon to 3 p.m., Johnson Center Kiosk. Vote for your Homecoming King and Queen. Free prizes for participants who know their facts about Mason.

WILD N’ OUT, 8 to10 p.m., Johnson Center Bistro. NAACP and Program Board bring you their version of the hit improv show from MTV. For more information call 703-993-2925.

MASON DAY AND PIZZA PARTY, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Prince William Campus, Bull Run Hall Atrium. Giveaways, games and pizza. Wear Mason gear and enter to win fabulous prizes.

RANDALL’S CAFE HOMECOMING SPECIAL, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Prince William Campus, Occoquan Building.

Tuesday, Feb. 7

FACULTY/STAFF SPIRIT DAY, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Ciao Hall. Wear your favorite Mason gear and show your green and gold pride.

GET YOUR MUSIC ON, 7 to 9 p.m., Johnson Center, Dewberry Hall. Enter the Dance Revolution, Karaoke and trivia competitions to win great prizes. A DJ will be on hand to teach you how to spin and play your own live music. Call 703-993-2925 for more information.

RANDALL’S RHYTHMS AND GIVEAWAYS, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Prince William Campus, Randall’s Café. Live music at lunchtime and giveaways.

RANDALL’S CAFE HOMECOMING SPECIAL, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Prince William Campus, Occoquan Building.

Wednesday, Feb. 8

LIVE DANCE AND POETRY, noon to 1 p.m., Johnson Center Atrium.

COMEDY AND TALENT SHOW HOSTED BY MICHAEL BLACKSON, 8 p.m.,

Johnson Center Dewberry Hall. Call Program Board for more information. 703-993-2925.

ARLINGTON PRE-HOMECOMING EVENT, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Arlington Campus, Original Building.

GREEN AND GOLD DAY, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Prince William Campus, Bull Run Hall Atrium. Giveaways, games and snacks. Wear Mason gear and enter to win fabulous prizes.

RANDALL’S CAFE HOMECOMING SPECIAL, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Prince William Campus, Occoquan Building.

Thursday, Feb. 9

SPORTS TRIVIA, noon to 1 p.m., Johnson Center Atrium. Know sports? Then come out and win free prizes.

HOMECOMING PAGEANT HOSTED BY MISS VIRGINIA, MASON’S OWN KRISTI GLAKAS, 7 p.m., Dewberry Hall. Call Program Board at 703-993-2925 for more information.

Friday, Feb. 10

BATTLE OF THE SEXES, 2 to 3:30 p.m., Eisenhower Common Room. It’s guys against girls in this game show. Play for a chance to win cash or a spring break vacation. Call Program Board to sign up at 703-993-2925.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL VS. OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY, 7 p.m., Patriot Center. For ticket information call 703-993-3270.

Saturday, Feb. 11

BLOCK PARTY, 12:30 to 4 p.m., Parking Lot L (Lot opens for guests at 11:30 a.m.)

MEN’S BASKETBALL VS. TOWSON, 4:30 p.m., Patriot Center. Free student tickets with ID. For other ticket information, call 703-993-3270.

FIREWORKS over Mason Pond, immediately following the game.

ARLINGTON HOMECOMING CELEBRATION, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Arlington Campus, Original Building/Parking Lot.

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