For many, homecoming at Concordia brings fond memories of cheering with friends at the football game, bundling up for the bonfire and seeing groups of Cobber alumni reuniting with their classmates. This year, HOCO Fall Fest, Concordia’s homecoming and family weekend joint event, had none of those activities. Because of COVID-19 safety regulations, many of Concordia’s traditional homecoming events were canceled, such as the parade and football game, or were modified into an online format.
Homecoming director of engagement Josie Nelson talked about the homecoming committee’s strategy for planning around COVID-19.
“We had to start fresh. Many of the events we rely on every year are heavily based on large gatherings. We had the parade and tailgating and the football game, and all of those things were going to break our regulation for how many people we could have,” said Nelson.
Instead of including those events, the homecoming committee made nearly all events virtual. The online events included trivia and bingo, along with events for alumni and family.
“We knew that it wasn’t going to be the same this year because alumni weren’t able to come back to campus, but we still wanted to create that sense of unity that is so special about homecoming,” said Nelson.
Although virtual events would limit group gatherings, the homecoming committee also tried to host in-person events that would still comply with safety guidelines.
“We still tried to have some in-person events, such as Cobb Hobb Nobb which is a socially distanced crafting event. People could come to and paint bricks and make bracelets. I was pleasantly surprised for the turn out of those events,” said Nelson.
There were also booths for tie-dye and a homemade mask station.
“I hope that this year was an enjoyable experience for students. I know it is not traditional but given the circumstances, it was the best that we could do to create fun events and unite our student body. I hope and believe that we executed that to the best of our ability,” said Nelson.
Like homecoming, many social events have been reduced or modified for COVID-19. First-year Hannah Olson reflected on being social during this time.
“It hasn’t been horrible, but it feels [disconnected]. Most of the time when I’ve had fun social interactions I have had to pursue them myself because they weren’t in a group setting or set up by the school,’’ said Olson.
The lack of social gatherings has limited opportunities for new connections, especially for new students at Concordia.
“It’s a lot harder to even strike up a conversation with people, and it’s awkward when you have to be far away and have a mask on. There are a lot less of organized events because logistically, we can’t have those this year,” said first-year Maggie Law.
Despite the decrease in social interactions, the Concordia community is continuing to find silver linings.
“It might be online or socially distanced, but we are all in this together and we are all at the same school going through a lot of the same things,” said Nelson. “We can still do fun things even in the midst of all of this.”
Law shares this sentiment.
“I think it is okay to just accept that things are different and embrace that we can be creative and different in new ways,” said Law.
Although this year was different, Nelson encouraged participation and patience.
“Hopefully we will all come out of this on the other side with having learned some lessons,” she said.