Nine-year-old Amelia Johnson, left, and 6-year-old Claire Wheeler show their support for the Herd during the 2012 Marshall University homecoming parade on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, in downtown Huntington.
HUNTINGTON — The day started out dreary with drizzles of rain. But sometime near 10 a.m., the sun emerged and chased away the gray clouds, making it pleasant for thousands of Marshall University students, alumni and fans to line the streets of Huntington for the homecoming parade.
"We try to come and show our support every week," said Ryan Wheeler, a Marshall graduate who now lives in Teays Valley. "But homecoming is special because Marshall has such a special story."
Wheeler and his daughter, Claire, and cousin, Amelia Johnson, were dressed in green to enjoy the parade as it went along 4th Avenue before hitting 5th Avenue toward Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
In addition to a bunch of candy being thrown, the parade also featured several marching bands, including Marshall's Marching Thunder and Huntington, Spring Valley, Cabell Midland and Riverside High School bands. Fraternities and sororities also decorated floats for the parade, many illustrating this year's homecoming theme, "Remember the past. Thunder into the future," as part of the 175th anniversary of the school's founding.
Also taking part in the parade was Ashland resident Bill Bare. He was driving an old trolley he bought in 2002 that had been used by the city of Ashland. He painted it, put decals on it and loaded it up with memorabilia as a tribute to the 1970 team and the 75 players, coaches and supporters who died in a plane crash that year.
"We use it to tailgate in, a whole gang of us," said Bare, who has driven it in parades before. Saturday was special, though, as his 15-year-old grandson, McKay Chapa, flew in from Texas on Friday night to ride in the parade and then cheer on the Herd against Tulsa.
Bare's grandson wasn't the only person who traveled across the country to attend the homecoming festivities. About 80 alumni from Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity gathered at the tailgate blast, hosted by the Alumni Association, Black Alumni Association and Parents and Family Weekend. The African-American fraternity was celebrating its 50th anniversary at Marshall, bringing men and their families from a good number of states.
Among them was Horlin Carter, a 1969 graduate who played on the baseball team and was among the first members of Kappa Alpha Psi. He now lives in Greensboro, N.C., but tries to attend homecoming each year.
"People see friends they haven't seen in years and they make new friends," said Nancy Pelphrey, the assistant director of the Alumni Association. "We're thrilled to have so many people back on campus."
Saturday's homecoming activities also included the 5K Alum Run, Breakfast with the President, the NPHC Stepshow after the game at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena and a Black Alumni dance sponsored by Kappa Alpha Psi.
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