Will Cooper hasn’t marched as a student in the Kansas University homecoming parade since 1985.
Cooper, who played with the KU Alumni Band as part of Friday’s parade, said things change over 27 years.
“My heart rate’s way faster, and my breathing is harder,” Cooper said. But he added that other things stay the same.
“It’s just cold,” he said.
Hundreds braved the 30 degree weather to watch the parade along Jayhawk Boulevard and attend the pep rally afterward at the Adams Alumni Center to celebrate KU’s 100th homecoming.
The parade began with the KU Band, followed by international students bearing the flags of their country and Kansas University runner and Olympian Diamond Dixon. Also marching was the Army ROTC unit, and, of course, there were floats.
In the mix was the Alumni Band with Cooper playing trumpet, blaring out a pretty good rendition of the fight song.
“We just meet up 30 minutes before, play the songs a couple of times and we’re going,” Cooper said.
Raymond Remp, of Topeka and a graduate of the class of 1987, said he liked the entire parade but that the marching bands were his favorite part.
“It kind of reminded me of the parade in ‘Animal House,’” he said. “First came the band, then the Army and then the greeks.”
The year’s homecoming theme of “A century long, tradition strong” was represented within the floats. The KU Army ROTC had members dressed in military outfits spanning eras from the Revolutionary War to the present. Many other floats featured the evolution of the Jayhawk mascot over the last 100 years.
After the parade finished, the crowd headed over to the Adams Alumni Center to cheer as the band led the crowd in the fight song and the alma mater.
Perhaps the loudest cheers of the night came when Dixon pulled out her Olympic gold medal to show to the crowd, and expressed how happy she was to bring it back to Lawrence. When someone asked her if she’d do it again in four years she responded, “Call me Diamond Rio,” jokingly referencing the band as well as the 2016 Summer Olympics host Rio de Janeiro.