Homecoming celebration adapts to COVID guidelines


Mohammed Islam

Josephine Osowski, lead fitness instructor for Winona State, led the first of two sessions of Sunset Yoga by Phelps Lawn, on Monday, Oct. 12. The event is a part of the WSU Spirit Week held from Oct. 12-16.

Hannah Hippensteel, Features Reporter

Winona State University’s homecoming celebration, meant to celebrate past and current students from Winona State during the fall semester, was postponed in accordance with COVID-19 safety regulations until the spring 2021 semester.

During the fall semester, students can showcase Winona State pride during Spirit Week, which is from Oct. 12-16.

The theme is “The Year that Made the Decade Roar.”

The week’s events began with two sessions of sunset yoga on Monday, Oct. 12 at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the Phelps Hall lawn.

This event was led by a student fitness instructor and made available to 25 people per section.

Tuesday featured a Chalk the Walk art event from 12-4 p.m. around the gazebo.

The chalking event coincided with a Color and Paint a Pot event, which gave students an opportunity to design flowerpots and plant a succulent.

In both Stark 103 and Science Laboratory Center (SLC) 120 on Oct. 14, a showing of Black Panther will be available at 7 p.m. where the first 100 attendees will get free, pre-packaged movie snacks per COVID food safety guidelines.

The doors open at 6:30 p.m. and overflow seating will be in the Harriet Johnson Auditorium in Somsen Hall.

A 1920s-themed bingo night will be held as a hybrid event; physical players will be in East Hall, Baldwin Lounge or Mugshots Café on west Campus. There will also be special guest drag performers as assistants to the bingo night.

A Zoom link, posted to the WSU Spirit Week Facebook page, will also allow students to play digitally.

Senior Megan Weilandt has been involved in homecoming week preparations since 2018 as the parade chair. She shifted roles this year into the social media chair.

Throughout the week, Weilandt said she will manage the posting of medallion scavenger hunt clues, daily scavenger hunt winners and the five virtual talent show acts.

Voting will occur through an online Qualtrics survey on Friday, Oct. 16.

Weilandt said the week’s theme captures what 2020 was like.

“With all the craziness that has happened throughout the world this year, it will definitely be a year we will never forget. We hope Spirit Week will hold that same ‘unforgettable-ness,’” Weilandt said.

In lieu of a homecoming club fair, clubs and organizations were offered an opportunity to make a yard sign to promote themselves; the signs will be shown around the main campus courtyard all week.

Spirit Week is also designed to highlight local businesses. The funds from student purchases will go back to the Huff Street location of Mugby Junction, Toppers Pizza and Erbert and Gerberts, which are businesses that have been supportive of past spirit and homecoming weeks, according to Tracy Rahim, associate director of Student Activities and Leadership.

Rahim also serves as the co-chair to the 11-person Spirit Week committee.

According to Rahim, as the course of the pandemic shifted, so did the plans for homecoming week.

“Students are craving something to do because they’re shut off socially in where they live,” Rahim said. “Spirit Week will have low-risk social events enforced with masks and socially distancing. There are a variety of events for people to appreciate and enjoy.”

Rahim said there were three main questions posed when creating plans for the Spirit Week: “are we able to predict the behavior of participants?“, “can we provide direction?” and “can we control participants?”

Although Rahim said Spirit Week is not a replacement for homecoming festivities, she expressed what she believed the week represents.

“We’re still excited and proud to be WSU Warriors, regardless of circumstances,” Rahim said.

Rahim also said resiliency was true of the student planners who were given just under three weeks to plan and execute the events once given approval from the president and his cabinet on Sept. 17.

Mayme Nelson, a communication arts and literature teaching (CALT) major and ethnic studies minor, worked alongside fellow student Jennifer Prigge to run the Winona State Talent Show.

Nelson, who also works as the coordinator of talent for Mugshots Café, chose to remain in her talent show position after roles in the committee shifted from homecoming to Spirit Week.

Nelson‘s mark of a good act for the talent show is one that displays passion for their performance and the university.

“I want to see that they care about the community. If they put that talent in the video, it makes it more qualified to me,” Nelson said.

Though COVID has shifted Nelson’s idea of school pride, she said she was glad to be involved with the Spirit Week.

“Older students know the feel of homecoming. This week is about lifting up school spirit and helping the freshmen come out and make friends,” Nelson said.

Victoria Kjome, a junior human resource management major, said she became involved in Spirit Week to help with the yard signs. Three prizes will be awarded to the best-decorated signs.

More than anything, Kjome says she is excited to see the turnout of Spirit Week.

“We have all been through so much but in the end we all come together and make it work,” Kjome said. “It has been amazing to see a group of students very quickly put together a whole week of events that accommodates social distancing and wearing masks.”

With limited chances for activities this year due to COVID, Kjome said she hopes students will still be in attendance and experience “somewhat normal” campus behavior.

Students can find updates on the social medias for the week; Snapchat is @wsuhocoevents, Instagram is @wsu_spirit_week_events and Facebook is WSU Spirit Week.