UCLA Spotlight


Traditions: Homecoming

  • By Andrew Hamilton, John Jackson, Gary Conner
  • Published Oct 1, 2002 8:00 AM

When the Homecoming Parade heads down Westwood Boulevard on October 25, 2002, it will be the first appearance of this UCLA tradition in the 21st century. And for the first time ever, the spectators will include thousands of parents and siblings of new students, specially invited for the occasion. The event is truly both new and old.

In terms of tradition, the parade can trace its birth to 1933, when an impressive 52 floats passed through Westwood Village. UCLA chroniclers Andrew Hamilton and John Jackson described the floats as falling into two categories. Sorority entries had girls "posed as buttercups, daffodils, butterflies and what-you-wills." The two writers gravely noted that the men's floats "were more virile." One can only wonder what the "virile" equivalent of crepe paper was.

This year the parade is part of the newly-combined Homecoming and Parents' Weekend, Oct. 25-27. Tradition, says Keith Brant, executive director of the UCLA Alumni Association and assistant vice chancellor for alumni relations, is at the heart of the weekend celebration. "…This is what connects all generations of Bruins. The experiences you have here — spending time with friends, taking part in campus activities — become the memories you will have for the rest of your life."

In addition to the parade, Homecoming and Parents' Weekend offers faculty speakers, receptions, class anniversaries, a Founders Day luncheon, a football game and a pre-game party with the Chancellor. At the Founders Day luncheon, the UCLA surgical team that separated the conjoined twins from Guatemala will be the guests of honor. (For complete information about the weekend program, see www.uclalumni.net/Students/Homecoming.cfm and www.homecomingparentsweekend.ucla.edu.)

The blend of old and new is itself a kind of UCLA tradition. Homecoming has been revised and reborn many times since the parade debuted in 1933. Some highlights:

In 1944 wartime restrictions made it impossible to mount a full-size parade. So the tradition was re-created in miniature. Tiny floats passed across the stage of Royce Hall. In 1947 the alumni built a special float for the Homecoming queen. (In prior years, the queen and her attendants rode in cars at the front of the parade.)

In 1953 there was no parade, due to ban by the city of Los Angeles.

In 1964 and 1968 the "parade" was stationary. Instead of floats, exhibits were built between the Men's Gym and the Women's Gym (now Glorya Kaufman Hall).

During the 1970s, ASUCLA Executive Director Don Findley loaned his red convertible to lead off the parade. One unwary Homecoming Queen evidently interpreted the use of a red car as blanket approval of the color. To the distraction of Blue and Gold Bruin fans, she showed up for the football game dressed completely in red, the color of the opposing team. Perhaps that's the reason that Homecoming has become a democratic affair, with no queens or kings in attendance.

In the 1990s, the UCLA Alumni Association offered a Homecoming carnival, "BruinFest," the evening before the game. The bonfire, once a tradition associated with Homecoming, was revived to become part of "Beat $C Week."

The football game itself is undoubtedly the oldest Homecoming tradition. This year, the Bruins play Stanford. So the Blue and Gold will once again face off against Cardinal red. The Alumni Band (as well as the Marching Band) will strike up "Sons of Westwood." And Bruins of all generations, many with parents and other family members, will join in a hearty eight-clap.