The skies were threatening, but the rainy weather mostly held off as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s homecoming celebration kicked off with a parade that rolled through campus Saturday morning.
But it rained steadily during the afternoon tailgating hours and was pouring down by kickoff time for the homecoming game at Cajun Field at 4 p.m., putting a damper on the festivities.
The parade, at least, avoided the worst of the weather.
The Ragin’ Cajun water ski team was chosen to serve as the Grand Marshal of the parade in honor of its win at the 2015 Collegiate National Championships.
“It was a big honor to be recognized and honored as the Grand Marshal for what we’ve achieved this year,” said 23-year-old Cole Grant, the captain of the water ski team. “There were lots of kids and adults alike yelling at us and congratulating us. They knew what we had accomplished and were excited to see us. It was pretty special that they knew who we were and what we accomplished this year.”
The national championship team rode in the parade on the boat the members trained in and were unfazed by the sprinkle of rain that fell as the parade made its way along the route.
“The little bit of rain that did come down didn’t bother anyone,” Grant said.
This year’s homecoming theme was “UL Through the Years.”
One organization, Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, decided to give the theme a pop culture twist with its float.
“We decided our theme would be ‘Back to the Future’ because the date in the movie is Oct. 21, 2015, and now we’re in the year 2015,” said Sultana Jiron, the 23-year-old women’s pastor for Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship.
Jiron, who rode on Chi Alpha’s float, said her group started working on the float last week and put in long hours to finish it in time for homecoming. Even while they were waiting to take off, Chi Alpha float riders sang and danced as their excitement grew.
“Even before we got onto the street, we were jumping and dancing on our float,” Jiron said. “We knew there was a threat of rain, but we still partied and sang the Cajun fight song all throughout the parade.”
Although the rain held off long enough for the parade to finish, the same cannot be said for tailgating before kickoff and for the game itself. The rain intensified as the afternoon wore on.
Tyrone Alexander, a 24-year-old junior prelaw major, was helping to pass out free food at the University Program Council tailgating tent.
“There are going to be a select few out here who actually show support and have school spirit,” Alexander said. “We just want to make sure everything goes smooth for the students. They’re probably going to show up once the game starts. A lot of them are still checking their emails because there was a rumor the game was going to be delayed.”
Alexander braved the nasty weather to attend tailgating because, he said, he’s never missed a home game.
“I came out because we’re the University Program Council, and we put on all the major events for students on campus,” Alexander said. “We want to make sure that school is more than just going to class and going home, so we put on a lot of events. We just want to make sure everybody knows UPC is here for them.”
Desiree Williams, a 20-year-old junior in Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, attended the tailgate with several of her sorority sisters.
“Rain or shine, I’m still a Ragin’ Cajun, so I always come tailgating,” Williams said. “I love my school, and tailgating is always fun, even in the rain. If you’re with good people, you’re still going to have a good time. Some of the people we have here have graduated already, and there are others who are living in different states, but they always come back to support us during homecoming.”
Although the turnout for tailgating was fairly low, most students were confident the crowd would pick up once the game started.
“We have a hopeful vibe,” Williams said. “We expect more people to come, so we’re still in good spirits. Even though there aren’t a ton of people here, there are a few people out here who are just as dedicated as us, so we’re still in good spirits.”