The Student Homecoming Committee has worked to translate homecoming into digital and socially distanced events. Homecoming 2021 is scheduled from Feb. 8 to Feb. 13 and will include a DIY version of the traditional Chili Feed, as well as new events such as the Triton Scavenger Hunt and the Cell Phone Smackdown Game Show. (Image courtesy of the Student Homecoming Committee)

Homecoming at the University of Missouri–St. Louis is a tradition nearly as old as the university itself.

Over the years, the UMSL community has come together on campus to cheer on basketball teams, indulge in the Chili Feed and crown kings and queens. This year presents a unique challenge, though. Students, staff and faculty will not be able to gather in person to celebrate due to precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

However, the Student Homecoming Committee isn’t letting that take the spirit out of the annual Triton tradition. The group of nine dedicated students is determined to turn the pandemic into a “Triton Fan-demic.”

Like previous years, a week’s worth of festivities is scheduled from Feb. 8 to Feb. 13. Committee members have worked hard to translate the usual in-person events into digital and socially distanced events.

“Last year, all of our events were in person,” said Kelsey Ginger, a senior on the Events Subcommittee. “Since the pandemic, we’ve had to adjust to be within CDC guidelines with everything going on.”

Ginger, who was also on the 2020 committee, and Elena Iglesias, a senior on the Spirit Subcommittee, said the move has led to several new, creative ideas. Iglesias highlighted the Triton Scavenger Hunt, which will run from Feb. 8 to Feb. 10.

“We’re using our mascot Louie as the scavenger hunt item and placing a cutout of his head in three different locations on campus,” she said. “My team and I made up some creative clues for students to find him for a chance to win a prize.”

Each day, location clues will be released on the official homecoming Instagram account. Those participating then take a selfie with Louie and post the photo to Instagram, tagging @UMSLhomecoming. Participants earn one point for finding each secret location and are entered into a grand prize drawing for an item from the UMSL Triton Store.

“The event that I planned, which is a Cell Phone Smackdown Game Show, is completely new,” Ginger added. “We also have a virtual paint night.”

The Cell Phone Smackdown is a general knowledge trivia challenge that will be held via Zoom on Feb. 12, and like the Triton Scavenger Hunt, participants will compete for prizes. The paint night will be a webinar style event on Feb. 9 where participants will learn how to paint a skyline with the Gateway Arch.

These new events were designed with safety in mind, but the committee also wanted to make it easy for friends and family to participate. Kennady Carter, a freshman on the Traditions Subcommittee, said there’s been effort to involve alumni, as well. The committee has been soliciting pictures from past homecomings to show how it’s changed over the years.

One thing on the homecoming schedule that will be familiar is the Chili Feed. Normally, various UMSL departments set up shop at the Millennium Student Center and pit their recipes against each other. It will be a more DIY affair this year.

“The Chili Feed, that tradition holds,” Carter said. “Families will be able to do the recipes at home because we will be sending them out. If students want to do the recipes, they can, as well as alumni or family or anyone else who wants to do it.”

The committee selected six “greatest hits” recipes, including a vegetarian option, and posted them on the homecoming website. People are encouraged to try more than one recipe and vote online for their favorite. The winning chili will be available for lunch pick-up at the Nosh on Feb. 11 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Planning the events virtually has gone smoothly, but marketing them has been more challenging. Fewer people are on campus, making in-person marketing efforts such as fliers, posters and word-of-mouth less effective. Abby Crow, a freshman on the Marketing Subcommittee, said her subcommittee has been pushing hard to find interactive ways to market homecoming online.

“For the most part, all of our advertising and marketing for anything going on has been virtual,” she said. “There’s been a little more thought put into it because we have to think, ‘What is going to make someone actually look at this?’ That’s the only way they’re going to see it, so we need to somehow bring attention to it.”

Crow, along with Carter and Iglesias, is serving on the committee for the first time. She was very involved in extracurriculars in high school and wanted to continue that involvement in college. It also seemed like a good way to meet new people during the pandemic while contributing to campus life. Carter decided to join the committee for similar reasons.

“In high school, I was in numerous clubs,” Carter said. “Student council was a big thing. You plan all the activities for the school, and I was senior vice president. I liked the leadership role of planning things and getting things organized. I figured if I wanted to get involved in college, this was probably the best way to do so because homecoming is a big part of the school.”

Iglesias’s family has a strong connection to UMSL – two of her sisters are alumnae – and as a senior about to graduate, she’s taking every opportunity to connect with the university before she leaves.

“I really like to be part of a group,” she said. “I like to help other people and inspire them. Since I love the school, I thought it was a great opportunity to be able to express my excitement to be part of UMSL.”

The process has been a learning experience but a positive one. Crow said the committee members have enjoyed being in a position to make homecoming the best it can be during extraordinary circumstances.

“I love the process of trying to make the most out of this homecoming, though it is virtual,” Ginger said, agreeing with Crow. “I love how we just are trying to make the most accommodations for everyone because not everyone can come to campus for certain events. Not everybody has social media, so you have different methods of marketing, and we’ve become more creative this year to try and reach those who we have not reached in the past.”

Schedule of events:

Pre-homecoming events:

  • Home Office Decorating Competition
  • Most Spirited Pet Contest

Monday, Feb. 8:

  • Triton Scavenger Hunt, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Homecoming Service Drive, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 9:

  • Triton Scavenger Hunt, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Homecoming Service Drive, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Homecoming Spirit Paint Night, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 10:

  • Triton Scavenger Hunt, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Homecoming Service Drive, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 11:

  • Homecoming Service Drive, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Chili Feed Lunch Pick Up, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • Basketball Live Stream, 5 p.m. (women) and 7:30 p.m. (men)

Friday, Feb. 12:

  • Cell Phone Smackdown Game Show, 7 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 13:

  • Tiny Tritons Pancake Breakfast, 10 a.m. – noon

For more details on events visit:

Burk Krohe

Burk Krohe