Pittsburg State University released their 2020 Homecoming theme this week, which is “Pitt State Together.” Many of the events planned for this year’s Homecoming week will be hosted virtually, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Jon Bartlow, director of Alumni & Constituent Relations, said the theme stemmed from the current pandemic. Bartlow hopes the Homecoming week can act as a way to further unite current and past Gorillas.
“Well, so since COVID-19 hit in March and obviously Pitt State had to make major changes in how we operate as a university, when we came back on campus … this was really the theme moving forward, this ‘Pitt State Together,’” Bartlow said. “And really what it came out of is, ‘hey, you know, we can do this together; we know it’s going to be different, we know it’s going to be hard—we need to wear masks together, we need to wash our hands together—and so we just thought it was natural to continue that theme into homecoming, and so that’s really where that ‘Pitt State Together’ came from. …”
Bartlow said that this theme was chosen as a way to let current students and alumni alike know that the university cares about them during these unprecedented times.
“… And I think, maybe on a deeper level too, it is knowing that we’re thinking of you, whether you’re an alumni or a friend, we’re thinking of you,” Bartlow said. “We’re all in this situation together, we’re all facing COVID, we’re all having to deal with it. We’re not trying to make light, we realize that everybody has their own situation, but in one way or another we’re all facing COVID. And so, despite the fact that we cannot be here in person with the parade and a football game the way we would like to be, we just kind of wanted our alumni and friends to know that we are with you and we are thinking of you and we are doing our best to bring you a piece of Pittsburg State University, a piece of home, even virtually.”
As many Homecoming events will not be able to be held this year due to the pandemic—such as the football game, parade, Yell Like Hell, and Taste of Pittsburg—others will be modified to a virtual format so Gorillas everywhere may enjoy them.
“… We are going to still have homecoming royalty and we are going to do a live virtual event on that Friday of Homecoming week,” Bartlow said. “… We’re going to have a pep rally—we’re going to pre-record the marching band, the dance team, the cheerleaders doing a pep rally—that will be the only part of that that will not be live … We are still doing something that we typically do earlier in the fall for the first home game is Paint the Town Red, and we do that in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce. So, we are doing Paint the Town Red during Homecoming week with them, so we’re still encouraging local businesses, local offices on campus, student groups, even individual students to show their Pitt State pride and decorate their doors, their office spaces, and we will have judging that week of Homecoming just like we typically do. So that will pretty much remain the same.”
PSU wanted to ensure their alumni members were included in Homecoming as well, so they came up with some new ideas for this year. One is a virtual alumni gathering where those who join may learn historical background about the university. Another is, since PSU cannot hold their annual Taste of Pittsburg, they came up with a different idea to take its place this year that includes southeast Kansas’ famous fried chicken.
“… So, we’re doing a virtual Gorilla Gathering that is focusing on the history of Pittsburg State University, so kind of mass broad appeal we hope to our alumni throughout the country and throughout the world,” Bartlow said. “And, you know, the beauty of these virtual gatherings is people can log on from wherever they are, so our hope is that we’ll be able to touch and be in contact with, in many ways, people that we typically hadn’t had an opportunity to talk to. So that is going on that week. Obviously, we can’t be everywhere at once, but our alumni are crazy about southeast Kansas fried chicken, and so we are working with Chicken Annie’s Original and we are taking up to 400 fried chicken dinners up to Kansas City, and people are buying these in advance and they simply come through and pick them up. And so, we’re doing that, we’re kind of calling it a ‘Taste of Home.’ So that’s going to be going on during homecoming week as well. …”
Another new addition for Pitt State’s Homecoming this year is the “PSU Pride Pack,” which is available for the first 200 alumni and friends to purchase for $30. The pack includes three limited edition items—a split-face cutting board, yard sign, and 2021 calendar—in addition to other goodies. While this year’s Homecoming will look different for Pitt State, Bartlow wants to remind PSU’s students and alumni that though it isn’t the typical celebration, hopefully next year’s will provide more normalcy.
“I would want to tell them that obviously this has been a year full of changes, and many of the changes that we’ve all faced we don’t like, but rest assured that we feel confident that this too will pass and we will have opportunities in the future—hopefully in 2021—to have homecoming the way that they’re used to it and I think individuals are going to be so excited about getting back to some sense of normalcy that it’s going to be better than ever,” Bartlow said. “I just want people to know that despite the fact that we aren’t physically seeing them like we typically would, that we’re thinking of them and we are still here—we’re only a phone call or email away and we’re always here to help.”
Pitt State’s Homecoming is scheduled for October 12-16. Various events require pre-registration, so those interested in participating are encouraged to register prior to Homecoming week.
“Well, I think (the theme) speaks to the resilience of Pittsburg State University, I mean, this university has been around for 117 years and we’ve faced tough things before—the Great Depression, the great wars, September 11—so, I’m not surprised that we are just picking ourselves up and moving forward,” Bartlow said. “And I think we’re a very innovative university—and so, like I said, I’m not surprised that we’re making it work. We’ve got great leaders who have really come up with some wonderful ideas and worked really hard over the summer to make sure that things would be safe moving forward this fall, so we take our cues from them. So, yeah, we’re just trying to have some sort of normalcy.”