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The Homecoming of all Homecomings

Who invented Homecoming? Well let's face it, even those ape-like people that were bent over with long arms and hairy backs like Neil Neanderthalensis and Homer Erectus left home and came back from time to time, so homecoming isn't really a new concept.

I can remember as a little kid, in my hometown next to the Canadian and Montana borders, that the high school students used to make these not-so-elaborate floats out of flatbeds covered in chicken wire, stuffed with countless boxes of Kleenex stolen from mom's bathroom.

I thought they were just about the greatest thing in the world next to cheerleaders and marshmallows floating in hot chocolate, that is until the wind came up and blew most of the tissues to Saskatchewan and Sheridan County leaving a flatbed and chicken wire skeleton and a lot of people scratching their heads, to go with some cranky Canadians and Montanans who were picking tissues out of bushes and wheat fields for the next month or two.

They'd hang big gophers and eagles in effigy on the floats and spray paint elaborate sayings on them like "Gore the Gophers" or "Eliminate the Eagles" for parades that'd last at least 15 minutes but were every bit as good as the Rose Parade in my mind at the time.

The night before the parade, they'd have humongous bonfires on the edge of town that the Apollo astronauts could see from space but for which they must have collected wood beginning the day after the last one, because trees in our neck of the woods were about as abundant as pavement, peaches, pomegranates and peacocks.

Then I grew up and went to college where things got really festive, the cheerleaders looked better and chanted louder, the hot chocolate wasn't just hot chocolate anymore, the hitting on the football field was harder and my sister became a Homecoming queen, but not at my college, so I missed the coronation. But she gained a husband who happened to be her escort and I gained two nieces and a new bro.

So now they say that the first Homecoming was invented by some athletic director at the University of Missouri by the name of Brewer who in 1911 asked the alumni to help inaugurate their new "field" by coming home for their annual game against the University of Kansas.

He even planned a parade, pep rally and some post-parties and did such a good job that 10,000 alumni and fans showed up and made it the blueprint for the national phenomenon that we call Homecoming today.

Of course in 1909, two years before, the University of Baylor invited alumni to return to their alma mater to renew former associations and friendships and catch the Baylor spirit again. But apparently they made the mistake of calling it "Good Will Week" instead of Homecoming and the concept failed to take root, showing us all the importance of proper marketing and "wordsmithing."

At any rate, nearly the entire town of Waco, Texas, showed up for a parade that featured elaborately decorated automobiles and carriages adorned with yellow chrysanthemums that made their way through downtown, led by the Baylor Band and followed by students, professors and school dignitaries.

The football game followed that afternoon with more than 5,000 alumni and fans in attendance at Carroll Field with seniors dressed in their caps and gowns, and the majority of the field awash in green and gold. The football team won the game but their next homecoming event didn't take place until 1915, and it wasn't until 1934 that the celebration became an annual event.

Meanwhile, Dickinson State University will be featuring the Homecoming of all Homecomings this upcoming weekend where one of the greatest coaches of all time, and an even better man, will be honored after a game that could notch for him as many victories as anyone has ever had in this division of football, followed by a renaming of the Badlands Activities Center in his name and what could be better than that.

You see, men like Hank Biesiot come around about once or twice in a millennium and we need to savor him like a fine French wine, two Lamborghinis, mineral rights and a faithful wife and you can do just that, first at an Alumni Honors and Athletic Hall of Fame banquet at the Elks Club on Friday night, where he and his bride, Susan, will be honored as the Blue Feather award winners. Then you can cheer on his team during the Homecoming game and also attend the renaming ceremony immediately after the game.

It's history, fun, it's the best show in town and I can't wait. So don't miss it because you won't see this again until the next millennium, at least.