Viking Days planning committee strives toward bonding in the university’s homecoming activities.
Blue and gold posters fill the walls of every building, murmurs about homecoming royalty are heard in every corner and school spirit rises with every passing second. Viking Days are almost here.
After 93 years of tradition, Augustana University readies itself for 2017’s Viking Days starting next week. The event, mainly organized by a student committee, brings together past and current generations of Augustana students to celebrate their alma mater with everything from fireworks to block parties.
This year’s committee is headed by seniors Hannah Norem and Alex Fairchild. Norem and Fairchild took the leading post of co-chairs as Viking Days experts after two years of overseeing the float building committee.
Norem and Fairchild head a group of 19 people in charge of getting Viking Days going.
“We have different committee partners,” Fairchild said. “Some people are in charge of events like Viking Feast, previously known as Ole Stock. Others are in charge of the parade, floats, publicity people dealing with buttons and stickers or social media and decorations.”
The importance of Viking Days is not lost on Fairchild and Norem.
“Viking Days get students involved in campus,” Fairchild said. “When you just show up to your classes and go home, you do not bond with Augustana. Getting involved, like helping with the planning or just attending events, makes [the university] home.”
This year’s event is intended to unite not only the university, but also the Sioux Falls community in the week-long celebration. Among the events open to the public are the Homecoming Parade on Oct. 14 at 10:30 a.m. starting at University Place to 33rd Street and a drive-in projection of The Beauty and the Beast at the west parking lot of the Kirkeby-Over stadium.
Jeff Venekamp, associate director of Campus Life and Viking Days faculty advisor, believes that homecoming is a way for current students to get involved with former students.
“[Viking Days] fosters a connection of our current students with their future,” Venekamp said. “They will think ‘Someday I will be coming back to campus and celebrating Viking Days as an alum.’”
Homecoming has become a custom across universities all over the country.
“Homecoming is a tradition on campuses,” Venekamp said. “It gives an opportunity for alumni to come back to the institution and be celebrated.”
Viking Days will host 15 events dedicated to alumni, beginning Oct. 13 with a coffee and conversation table for graduates of the Class of 1967 and earlier.
“I think events like this bring people together and make you realize how big Augustana is as an institution.”
Homecoming festivities will kick off on Monday, Oct. 9 with Viking Feast, the coronation of Viking royalty and fireworks.
“We are in the center of Sioux Falls and when we set up fireworks we send a message to everybody that Augustana is celebrating,” Venekamp said. “It says: ‘Wake up, Sioux Falls! Augustana is here.’”
For Fairchild, events like Viking Feast are a great way to gather students, faculty and alumni to commemorate the place that unites them.
“Viking Feast is my favourite because it is nice to go to the Elmen Center, see faculty and their families, alumni and community members gathered to eat a meal together and celebrate,” Fairchild said.
This year, some events were changed to accommodate more people.
“We went away from doing a dance on Friday night this year to having a block party instead,” Norem said. “I think the changes we made are positive because a block party makes it more open to a variety of people who might not like to go to a dance but would be comfortable with [a block party] instead.”
The committee hopes to reach out and bring the people of Augustana together through the events planned.
“It is important to take a week to remember that we are so much more than just a campus in a couple of blocks where you get a piece of paper when you are done,” Fairchild said.