Homecoming parade floats require creativity and hardwork

From left: Chris Watkins, Catherine Drott and Brett Greenfield work tirelessly on the anticipated homecoming floats for Saturday morning.
From left: Chris Watkins, Catherine Drott and Brett Greenfield work tirelessly on the anticipated homecoming floats for Saturday morning.
By Kristin Burns

Hard work and long hours are necessary to continue the annual tradition of the floats of the homecoming parade, which first began to appear in the parade in the 1920s.

Baylor’s Chamber of Commerce is tasked with organizing homecoming and all of the details that are involved, including floats.

“We work with all the fraternities and sororities who have a float, and we coordinate with them in different risk management policies,” said Fort Worth senior Brent Pollard, a float chair for chamber. “We are the middle man between them and risk management. We give them the information on judging.”

Pollard has been a member of chamber for three years and will accompany the float judges to all the float sites early Friday morning.

The judges will be grading the floats based on six categories, Pollard said, which include: overall appearance, school spirit, safety rules, overall presentation of the float, unique features and theme. Of the classes A, B and C, one winner will be chosen from each, and one will receive the prestigious “Judges’ Choice” award out of all the classes.

“The first winner that’s picked is the judges’ award because that’s the number one winner overall,” Pollard said. “After that, they pick the best A, B and C. We announce the winners at the pep rally.”

There are 11 floats competing this year, with eight being in Class A, two in Class B and one in Class C.

Kappa Kappa Gamma and Alpha Tau Omega have partnered to build a float for the past three years and have won Class A every year except last year, when they won “Judges’ Choice.”

“This year, we really wanted for it to be going down the street, and people say, ‘I understand it completely,’” said The Woodlands junior Chelsea Parker, a float chair for Kappa. “I wanted to be able to have a story that people could relate to and enjoy.”

Work begins for Kappa in November for the following year’s homecoming. By spring break, a theme is chosen and submitted to chamber for approval. The two organizations began working the first week of school in the fall semester to complete their float by homecoming.

Parker said it is not uncommon for float chairs to put in 40 hours a week during the weeks coming up to homecoming weekend.

“We just have so much fun out there,” she said. “It’s a fun place to be. It get’s stressful, but I love it.”

Phi Kappa Chi is participating in Class A for the first time this year after winning Class B for the past two years. Class B floats cannot spend over $2,250, and Class C floats cannot spend over $1,750. Class A floats do not have a limited budget.

Phi Chi is partnering with Kappa Alpha Theta for the first time this year.

“Phi Chi increased our budget,” said Montgomery senior Jeff Schier, a float chair for Phi Kappa Chi. “Class A floats have more moving parts with motors.”

Phi Kappa Chi also begins in the spring semester to begin the planning process for their float and start constructing the float during the fall semester.

“We build for about two months, and then we have the parade,” Schier said. “Then, we take it back to the float site, dismantle it and start all over.”

The Phi Chi and Theta float site was still busy at 11 p.m. this week. Some members of Phi Chi were painting, while some drilled or hammered the frame of the float. Theta members were busy with paper-mache, paint and balloons.

Some members were working with a float technique called “pomping,” which involved filling chicken wire with squares of tissue paper. Other students were creating the wooden frame of the float that would hold the large pieces yet to be added.

“It’s just been nice getting to know the float chairs,” said San Antonio junior Hannah Popp, a float chair for Theta. “I’ll be able to look back on it and it be a high point.”

As the only float in Class C, Kappa Chi Alpha is a shoe-in to win the $400 cash reward. Class A receives $700, and Class B receives $550.

KXA is a local, Christian sorority on campus that participates in float every year.

“We’re a small organization, so we choose to spend our money elsewhere,” said San Antonio senior Kaitlyn Simpson, a float chair for KXA. “But, we still want to participate in the Baylor tradition of doing a float.”

The organization worked by itself this year and completed the entire float a week early.

“This time, we planned every design out beforehand and bought all of the equipment that we needed to build things,” she said. “All of our members were really excited about it, and they wanted to come and sign up for hours.”

All of the organizations participating in float spend countless hours completing the pieces. Simpson said that KXA spent roughly 600 man hours to complete their project.

The tradition of homecoming floats has been around for about 90 years and will continue to be a part of the homecoming parade for years to come.

“I think it’s a great tradition because it really gets Greeks involved in Homecoming,” said Schier. “You can have people with certain skills come together and teach others and create this great float that has school spirit so that the whole Baylor community can see it be and be proud of our accomplishments and Baylor traditions.”