Just over a month has passed since President Jim Clements made the difficult, yet understandable decision to publicly announce the University’s cancellation of Homecoming activities.

“Homecoming is an exciting time for our students and alumni and it represents many of the best aspects of the Clemson experience,” Clements wrote in a weekly message on September 18, “but our top priority remains completing a successful Fall semester. As a result, some events and activities will continue to be held virtually or postponed due to significantly reduced capacities and physical distancing guidelines.”

Unfortunately — in the case of Homecoming — it meant no float builds on Bowman Field. No student-run pep rally inside Memorial Stadium.

But it hasn’t stopped a group of passionate Clemson students from doing everything they can to ensure several revered elements of the Homecoming experience continue on, despite COVID-19.

“Fortunately — for all of us — the incredible resiliency of our students has created a different narrative, ‘Homecoming Despite COVID-19,’” said Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Chris Miller. “I applaud everyone who contributed different ideas about Homecoming festivities and how to conduct some of these important celebrations in a safe and responsible manner. The efforts of student leaders in keeping Homecoming alive is a true testament of their character and dedication.”

Olivia Loynes, 2019 Miss Homecoming

Miss Homecoming 2020 will be crowned Friday, October 23. Last year’s winner, Olivia Loynes, is pictured on stage in Memorial Stadium.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

The first traditional element of Homecoming Week — the Miss Homecoming Pageant — took place Tuesday, October 20. The pageant  — live streamed by Clemson Undergraduate Student Government (CUSG) on Facebook and YouTube — celebrates the service of Clemson women on campus and features an incredible group of nominees competing for the 2020 crown. Ten finalists were determined and the winner will be announced Friday.

Arguably the most popular physical attraction each Homecoming are the colorful floats that adorn Bowman Field. The tradition will look quite different in 2020 and will take place in a scaled-down fashion. Literally.

Judging of miniature Homecoming floats — 13 entries in total representing eight different student groups — will take place Friday, October 23 from 4:30-6 p.m. in Hendrix Student Center Ballroom A. Three student judges will determine the best miniature floats, whose only restriction was for the final product to fit inside a box or container no larger than 15”x15”x15”.

“Pictures of the floats will be posted on Central Spirit’s Facebook and Instagram pages to allow the entire Clemson Family access to this beloved tradition,” said Blake Launius, who has directed the efforts this year for Central Spirit. “The top three floats will be announced at the football game against Syracuse on October 24.”

Prior to Saturday’s football game, however, Blue Key Honor Society will put on the 64th annual Tigerama — one of the nation’s largest student-operated pep rallies. However, it marks the first time the event will be 100-percent virtual.

A digital ad for Tigerama 2020Sydney Tindall, who is in charge of coordinating this year’s Tigerama, acknowledged some anxious moments throughout the process as the unknown of Clemson’s football schedule change stretched nearly into August.

“We hit the pause button around June,” she said. “Once President Clements sent out the announcement Homecoming activities were canceled, we re-routed hypothetical plans based on some contingencies of what it could realistically look like. Our advisor Helen Mitchell and Assistant Vice President Mandy Hays were unsung heroes in terms of helping us safely plan this tradition for the 64th consecutive year.”

One of the first items on Tindall’s checklist was securing a musical act. Following last year’s success that brought Death Valley its first live performance in 20 years, the Tigerama planning committee focused its attention on a local group, the Connor Sweeny Band. The band — made up entirely of Clemson students — actually recorded its performance for Tigerama last week in Lot 5, adjacent to Memorial Stadium.

“We had a typical stage and production setup, but with the Oculus in the background,” Tindall said. “Ryan Sweeney and the team at Tigervision were a HUGE help in pulling this off; we couldn’t have done it without them.”

Many of the groups traditionally involved with Tigerama — Tiger Band, Pershing Rifles, Rally Cats and cheerleaders — will again be featured in the production of this year’s event. The Miss Homecoming top 10 will be announced. Groups who have not previously been involved were also added into the fold — including the Military Council, National Panhellenic Council and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and others — for this year’s event.

Each group submitted a pre-recorded video, which will be compiled into a comprehensive live stream scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday via Tigerama’s Facebook page.

“If you told me eight months ago this would be what Tigerama would look like, I would have said you were lying,” Tindall said. “We can make the biggest impact we’ve ever had by reaching more people from the comfort of their home. We can give in a way people really need right now, so we are going to make the most of it.”

Tindall said the theme for Tigerama 2020 is “Leaving the Legacy.” She said what separates Clemson from other universities is the collective desire to leave every place, experience and person better than it was found.

“We do this by sharing a common, yet individualized love of our community,” she said. “We do this by living out a unique story as a Clemson Tiger and standing tall and yelling to all within earshot, ‘I went to Clemson!’ Each one of us contributes to the legacy of the Clemson Family.”

In the case of these student leaders who worked so hard to preserve these beloved traditions for Homecoming 2020, they have more than contributed to the Clemson legacy. They’ve done it in the face of a global pandemic.