Southern Illinois University’s homecoming celebration was like a shot of B12 for the City of Carbondale.
SIU alumni helped inject a little life into downtown during the homecoming parade and the ongoing celebrations. The campus was abuzz before the game. The tailgate area was bustling with activity more than two hours before kickoff.
Large crowds were still gathered outside Saluki Stadium during the first quarter of the football game. It would have been nice to see everyone file into the stadium to watch what turned out to be a decisive Saluki victory. But, bottom line, it was good to see current students and alumni celebrating the common bond that is SIU.
SIU made a wise decision moving its Hall of Fame weekend to homecoming.
Eight former Saluki greats were inducted into the Hall of Fame Friday night. A significant contingent of former Saluki basketball greats returned to SIU to see former coach and player Chris Lowery enshrined.
Not every honoree brings a ton of people to town, but the banquet and Hall of Fame weekend feeds the notion of homecoming, the sense that attending SIU is something that needs to be celebrated.
Word on the street is that the party atmosphere from the tailgate migrated north during and after the game.
Homecoming created a jolt of activity that used to feel, well, normal in Carbondale.
Some “old-timers” remember the days when Saluki football victories would set off raucous celebrations at old McAndrew Stadium. Fans stormed the field, shook the goalposts from their moorings and carried them to the strip.
Not that we’re advocating vandalism, but SIU and Carbondale could use an injection of enthusiasm.
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This past weekend also marked the second year that Carbondale is not shuttering its doors for Halloween. The “enthusiasm” generated by the ill-fated Halloween celebrations of old caused the university and city to essentially close their doors.
Again, those old-timers remember when Halloween was a special time in Carbondale. Students and residents alike roamed downtown decked out in creative costumes enjoying some mid-semester revelry.
Unfortunately, a significant segment of party-goers turned to violence and vandalism. The “celebration” reached the point of being uncontrollable, forcing the city and university to shut down during Halloween.
Last year, after a generation’s hiatus, the lid was lifted from the Halloween cauldron. The result, a weekend of fun that evoked memories of the early days of Halloween in Carbondale.
It’s time Southern Illinois University and Carbondale made some positive headlines. There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun. And, what kids, young or old, don’t like Halloween?
During the height of the Halloween hysteria, Carbondale was famous, or infamous, depending on point of view, as a party school. At the time, there were concerns that the party image detracted from the university’s educational mission.
Granted, an institution of higher learning doesn’t want its reputation staked to the amount of debauchery that can be found on a given weekend.
Conversely, Carbondale is a small town located at least 90 minutes from anything that can be considered a metropolitan area. There is nothing wrong with letting students know that Carbondale and Southern Illinois can be an entertaining place to be.
Letting prospective students know that Carbondale is a place former students want to return to is a good marketing strategy for SIU. Seeing the community embrace students as part of a Halloween celebration can’t hurt the university in its goal of student retention.
There is absolutely no reason Carbondale can’t be a fun place to be.