1. Homecoming isn’t only about the alumni.
Though the term refers to coming home, even in the beginning the event was envisioned with a broader goal than merely alumni returning to campus. According to the 1910-1911 student handbook, it was devised to bring together the current and past “sons and daughter of the University and their friends.”
2. There was only one year when Homecoming was canceled.
Homecoming has been held every single year since it first started in 1910, with the exception of 1918, because there was an influenza epidemic. According to Fred Turner’s oral history, there was a football game that was supposed to be the Homecoming game with no one present. They played it with locked gates, with a few onlookers peering through to see the field.
3. The current-day Homecoming Week tradition was started at Illinois.
Though there were alumni football games previously, Illinois began the tradition of a weeklong home-coming celebration for alumni. From October 14 to October 16 in 1910, the first several-days-long homecoming celebration in the country was held on campus. It centered around a football game between Illinois and their biggest rival at the time, Chicago.
4. At various times, Homecoming had a theme.
Though the purpose has always been about bringing together members of the Illinois community, at certain points in university history, an explicit theme has been stated. In 1924, Homecoming was dedicated to students who had served in World War I. Memorial Stadium had recently been built and there was a special ceremony held to dedicate it and honor the veterans.
5. Several signature events have persisted through the years.
The football game, band performance, parade and several other traditions have remained part of the Homecoming tradition throughout the years. While events like the freshman-sophomore pushball game, fraternity initiations and formalized class reunions have either been discontinued or reimagined.