MONTEVALLO, Ala. — Ah, homecoming — a time to head back to campus after all the years to see friends who might as well be family, to walk on the old brick streets and be there for the culmination of it all, the student-produced musicals.
Yeah, you read that right.
This weekend marks the 100th College Night at my alma mater, the University of Montevallo. I’ve seen it described as the oldest homecoming tradition at an American college, but other schools of course quibble.
They can argue their football-centered festivals came earlier, but nothing is quite like homecoming writ large on the stage of Palmer Hall.
My teacher friend laughed the other day when I said homecoming at Montevallo is centered on the plays, but only because it just seemed too perfect for my quirky alma mater.
Montevallo, for those of you who don’t know, is Alabama’s Public Liberal Arts University. Back in 1919, as a celebration of Washington’s Birthday, the ladies of what was then Alabama College took part in a competition among the classes.
Two years later, it became a split between the Purple and Gold sides. That remains today, and Saturday night a winner is to be chosen after another exciting year of intramural sports and other competitions between the sides.
But there’s no bigger competition than the shows.
To be honest, I’ve seen some bad ones — which honestly are the most memorable — and some I still don’t understand, but that’s to be expected when you have students writing plays and setting them to music.
But if you love the University of Georgia, you didn’t understand it when the Bulldogs lost to Vanderbilt on homecoming in 2016 either.
There have also been great shows through the years too. You’d expect that at a school that gave us talent like the Broadway actress Rebecca Luker and Polly Holliday, who told you to kiss her grits on “Alice.”
Also, if you like the “SEC Shorts” videos that go around during football season from the Alabama Media Group, know that much of the talent on your screen comes straight from a school that has never fielded a team.
Just as you get chills walking into your alma mater’s stadium and hearing the fight song, so I’ll be moved Saturday night when I hear the peculiar chants. They’re familiar, even if they make no more sense than they did when I was a freshman 18 years ago.
The other day a news release came into the office, from UM. Cathryn Denard, of Oxford, completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at fall commencement on Dec. 9.
I don’t know Cathryn, but I remember her father’s excitement about her move to Montevallo when she was still in high school. I hope his enthusiasm about her future then has been eclipsed only by her love of this place that’s as special to me as I hope your school is to you.David Clemons is the editor and publisher of The Covington News and a 2003 graduate of the University of Montevallo. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @scoopclemons.