The University of New Hampshire kicked off its annual Homecoming celebration in collaboration with the Campus Activities Board (CAB) on Friday, Oct. 12, with a traditional fair filled with fun, games, music and camaraderie held in the Fishbowl, across the street from Thompson Hall.

The four-hour long occasion – running from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. – offered a wide variety of free activities for students and local residents looking to begin their weekend on a high note. Among the highlights were a combined climbable rock wall and bungee-jumping station in the center of the Fishbowl; two inflatable castles, one featuring a traditional bouncy house and net for volleyball-esque games and one serving as a mini obstacle course concluding with a slide to the bottom; and the return of the Volkswagen Photo Booth offering an array of funny hats and props.

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Students and local residents take part in the Homecoming Fair on Friday, Oct. 12 (Benjamin Strawbridge/TNH Staff).

One of CAB’s many helpers was sophomore psychology and dance dual major Caroline Fitzpatrick, a first-time volunteer who spent the fair’s early hours looking after the bouncy house. She noted the growing Main Street foot traffic at the time and expressed confidence in a high turnout.

“It’s very rewarding [to volunteer],” she said. “I feel like sometimes…volunteering people are like, ‘oh no, this is boring,’ but this is actually such a fun event and it’s…a good opportunity.”

Up the hill at 5 p.m., the yearly Homecoming Parade made its way down Main Street, led by a smiling and waving President Dean and his grandchildren in a white Chrysler (Dean had been officially installed as UNH’s 20th president just hours prior). Following his lead was Miss Strafford County Destiny Bennett, the UNH Wildcat Marching Band and Color Guard, and various student organizations and groups ranging from theater troupes like WildActs to political groups like UNH’s Young Americans for Liberty branch. Volunteer candy throwers occasionally flanked the procession, as well as a man in a motorized wheelchair launching free Homecoming shirts into the air for unsuspecting students to catch.

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UNH President James W. Dean and his grandchildren lead the UNH Homecoming Parade down Main Street on Friday, Oct. 12 (Benjamin Strawbridge/TNH Staff).

The fifth hour of the afternoon also saw the arrival of a nearby two-hour long BBQ featuring buffalo chicken subs, pasta salad, whoopie pies and other items. Simultaneously, in keeping with tradition, a long line symbolized the popularity of a limited supply of free Homecoming t-shirts, one that stretched all across the fairgrounds.

All the while, DJ and Master of Ceremonies Greg Sowa, a 2010 UNH graduate and business administration major who also headlined part of last year’s May Day celebration, mixed together an endless stream of current pop hits and student requests.

“As much as I loved graduating with a degree…this was more fun,” Sowa, who honed his DJing skills throughout his time at UNH, told The New Hampshire. “It’s awesome to come back and see the campus every year and how it’s changed; but CAB knows how to put on a good event, so everyone always has fun at these events.”

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Students take part in rock climbing at the UNH Homecoming Fair on Friday, Oct. 12 (Benjamin Strawbridge/TNH Staff).

Student attendees at the fair expressed similar positive sentiments concerning Homecoming and its bringing together of the student body; CAB volunteer and junior wildlife conservation biology major Garrett Phillips was one of them.

“It’s just been fun setting up stuff, you know, and it’s great to see everybody coming out and enjoying it,” he said as he helped CAB set up hay bales and other fall-themed decorations around the fairgrounds to invoke what he called the “fall spirit.”

“I love this event because it creates such a community among UNH students,” first-year English teaching major Ava Dobson added, “which is such a cool thing for a big campus because this is something we can all be excited about and take part in together.”

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Benjamin Strawbridge is a News Editor and Official Senate Correspondent for The New Hampshire student newspaper based at the University of New Hampshire, where he reports on the university's Student Senate and other breaking news; he joined TNH in Sept. 2017 as a contributor.
Strawbridge currently attends UNH as a English/Journalism major and part of the UNH Class of 2020.