A new NIU Homecoming event will transform downtown DeKalb into a pep rally of community festival proportions.
Downhome in Downtown DeKalb: A Huskie Homecoming Block Party is scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, in and around the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St.
Special guests include NIU President Lisa C. Freeman, DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes, NIU Football Coach Thomas Hammock, the Huskie Marching Band, Victor E. Huskie and Mission along with other Huskie student-athletes, coaches, Athletics Hall of Fame members and alumni, all of whom will march in around 6 p.m. to the beat of the drums.
Visitors can belt out the Huskie Fight Song; view and vote on window displays in the nearby storefronts; purchase food and drink (including adult beverages for those age 21 and older) from hometown restaurants; check out a classic car show that also includes police, fire and city vehicles; and, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., dance the night away on the street as a DJ spins tunes.
Children of all ages can head inside the Egyptian to see submissions to the Victor E. coloring contest and create their own, snap photographs with the VIPs, collect athlete autographs, get Huskie temporary face tattoos and grab some NIU swag while it lasts.
Beyond the actual Oct. 6 party, 10 local retail and dining establishments will serve as “Huskie Hosts” by offering discounts throughout Homecoming week. The roster includes businesses throughout DeKalb, Sycamore and DeKalb County, such as Jonamac Orchard.
Jennifer Groce, NIU’s director of Community Promotions, and Cortney Strohacker, executive director of the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau, are the architects of Downhome in Downtown.
“When President Freeman gave the charge to make our 115th Homecoming year really special, Matt Streb, Rena Cotsones and Cortney Strohacker and I met with the City of DeKalb to brainstorm what the community aspect of this celebration could include,” Groce said.
“As we sat and talked about it, Dr. Cotsones came up with the idea for local businesses serving as Huskie Homecoming Hosts, and we all agreed on the need for a fun, downhome celebration concentrated in downtown DeKalb,” Groce added. “The City of DeKalb was excited to be finishing up the downtown construction just in time for Homecoming and to help make the downtown event a real ‘communiveristy’ celebration. We all agreed a parade-like march was a must-have event.”
Strohacker shares Groce’s excitement.
“Really, we’re finding a way to get the community involved by extending things from ‘just on campus.’ We want people to come into downtown and feel like they’re part of NIU, no matter where they go,” Strohacker said.
“Our downtown merchants are great. They’re always so supportive, and they always do specials for Huskies. They’re always going the extra mile for us,” she added. “But this really brings them into the fold and to really feel a part of things, and they’re all so excited to be Huskie Hosts, to wear their Huskie T-shirts, and have their staffs wear that. They’re going to have their windows painted and feel that vibe you feel on campus.”
Groce is looking forward to a specific time: 6:15 p.m.
“Everyone is there. You’ve got the marching band filling every inch of Second Street. You’ve got everyone out on the street. You’ve got all the community members all lined up together. You have Victor E. and Coach Hammock and everybody crowded around the Egyptian Theatre, because that’s our home – that’s the heart of DeKalb and the downtown,” Groce said.
“Then you’ll just hear what I hope will be that rumble – that roar – of the Fight Song and the community and everyone cheering,” she added. “That’s what I’m super excited about – that we really, truly are a college town. We are all Huskies, and we all belong here.”
“We all belong, we’re all going to be together, and we’re all just going to be rooting on our Huskies,” she said.
“I’m an NIU alum, and so is my daughter, so NIU has a special place in my heart – and I dearly love DeKalb and DeKalb County,” she added. “I can’t wait to go and just see all the red and black, to judge the best Huskie pride, to have Brad Hoey lead the Fight Song, to have the Marching Band down there. I just think there’s going to be such an energy. There’s such an energy when you’re at the game, and to bring that into the community is going to be awesome.”
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