ASU celebration draws thousands to downtown area

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

ALBANY, Ga. -- The fans stacked up in the stands before 8 a.m. Saturday to see and hear one of the traditions that make Albany fun and meaningful.

Thousands of people in downtown along Pine Avenue watched, listened, waved and danced as the Albany State University Homecoming Parade took over the street for longer than two hours by starting its march at 9 a.m.

"This University tradition and homecoming just gets everyone together in our good community," said Daniel Wilson. "A lot of people come into the city to take part in the weekend and they bring money. That's good for the economy too."

Starting with the Albany Marine Band and ending with an audience favorite the Albany State University Marching Band the morning parade brought smiles and support from everyone including the area's other colleges. Albany Technical and Darton colleges participated in the parade.

"We are here to show our support for ASU at homecoming," said Simonee Patton, a Darton College cheerleader. "Also we want to show off our cheerleader talent."

This year's parade also brought out at least two ASU alumna who had never been to a parade before. They have a late start on homecoming parades, but it might start a tradition.

Patrice Nelson, ASU alumna and her husband Fabien brought their daughter Hannah, 19 months old, to the parade with their friend Cherrise Lampkin, another ASU alumna.

"We move around a lot because my husband is a Marine," Nelson said. "But I could see us doing this again while we are in Albany. She (Hannah) will have fun."

A new addition to the more than 117 entries in the parade that included bands, floats, cheer squads, dancers and others, the ASU Chess Club decked out an SUV in support of the homecoming festivities.

Chess doesn't get as much publicity as football and other sports, but the club members also have a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

"We are here supporting the football team homecoming, but we are also recruiting for our team," said John McAllister, club president. "Last year we were the first ever Historically Black College and University to go to a collegiate chess tournament."

Other youth-group, football teams were also represented at the parade. The Albany United Golden Rams sat its team on a float to wave at the crowd and enjoy the day supporting more than just homecoming.

"This is good, we are showing support for ASU," said Contavious Robinson, a running back. "We are also showing people that we intend to go to college and make good."

Because the parade draws so munch support for groups outside ASU it is really a community and family event, many at the parade said.

In an activity that was repeated the entire route of the parade by various people in the audience, Daisy Conley gave a shout out to a family member in the parade.

"I've been yelling at everyone I know all day," Conley said. "I've got granddaughters in the parade and I have generations of family that have been in the parade."

All in all it was a fun and heartfelt event for the audience and those in the parade alike.

"It was exciting and a lot of fun to play in the parade," said Joshua Smith, an alto saxophone player from Westover Comprehensive High School. "It's good to have everybody from all over contribute."