Stillwater News Press

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October 19, 2012

Thousands tour house decorations during OSU Walkaround

STILLWATER, Okla. — “It’s just a big party!” said 8-year old Madison Lake.

Walking from house to house, Lake was visiting from Piedmont for  Oklahoma State University’s Homecoming Walkaround, a tradition she enjoys with her grandfather, David Hungerford of Stillwater.

The family joined thousands packing the Greek neighborhood for the spectacle. Streets were closed to traffic and buses ran from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. shuttling crowds to hotels.

“Homecoming Walkaround is a display of pride for our university and a welcoming back of alumni and parents of students, and it’s known around the world as America’s Greatest Homecoming Celebration,” said Max Weibrecht, house decorations and Walkaround director. “Seeing the OSU family return for the event makes all of the planning by our team and the effort put forth by the students entirely worth it.”

Sorority and fraternity members worked round the clock, staying up the last few days to put the finishing touches on their house decorations.

“The decorations are very elaborate,” said Dr. Carrie Johnson of Long Beach, Calif.

She returned to Homecoming with her husband, Dr. Dick Johnson, for the first time after graduating in 1964. The couple married 50 years ago at Bennett Chapel.

Hundreds of hours go into constructing, welding and pomping the 20 feet tall by 90 feet wide house decorations on fraternity lawns. The neighborhood turned into an outdoor art gallery with massive murals created of steel, chicken wire and tissue paper. Many had moving parts.

“We can stake our claim as a student and an Oklahoman to this tradition,” said Dakota Jones, Sigma Phi Epsilon director. “Decs are a lot of fun to design, and no one else does this in the United States.”

There were some changes this year. Alpha Omicron Pi members colonized a chapter on campus and FarmHouse moved into the Greek neighborhood.

“In years past when fans were viewing house decorations, people would have to drive by FarmHouse on the other side of the university. Now that it is part of Greek Row, it makes it so much more cohesive,” Weibrecht said. “There is more energy and excitement with everyone together.”

Many Walkaround enthusiasts stopped at Beta Theta Pi house for a free concert. The fraternity featured Dustin Lynch, the singer of “Cowboys and Angels,” which is a top 10 country western song. Lynch is one of the most famous singers to perform at Walkaround as the first male solo artist to debut at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 in five years. Beta pledge Corey Ken White, who has performed with Willie Nelson and Roy Clark, kicked off the night at 4:30 p.m., followed by Nashville regular Ken Johnson. Local artist Jacob McCoy also played for the crowd. Donations were collected to benefit the Well’s Project, a charity building wells for African villages with no water.  

“It’s a beautiful night and we have a great turnout,” said Beta Theta Pi President Chase Colvin.

Another fraternity, Delta Tau Delta, hosted a children’s carnival instead of building a house decoration. Proceeds benefited Coaches for Cancer.

“Several children here are kids with cancer so we’re happy to provide a fun night for those struggling,” said carnival chairman James Hazzard.

Virginia Snell, an 85-year-old woman from Altus, was impressed with the contributions the young people were making. She has never missed a Homecoming since graduating from OSU in 1948. Snell said she enjoys meeting her daughter, Betsy Koontz, a 1978 graduate, every year for Walkaround to take in the orange ambiance.

Theta Pond sparkled with thousands of orange lights and the library fountain spewed orange water to the delight of youngsters from Stillwater who had the day off from school.

For Ty Wheeler, the son of former OSU quarterback and baseball player Earl Wheeler, it was all about the food. The family drove to Stillwater from Missouri for the festivities and it was time to eat. With more than 43 vendors from the Oklahoma Pork Council to independent merchandisers with sweet treats, Wheeler had a variety from which to choose.

The Alumni Association hosted a “Hub” near the south library lawn where alumni and friends registered and received commemorative buttons and information.

Two sets of house decoration judges rode around the streets in golf carts to record scores in various categories, including engineering and safety. All the houses compete with each other for the honor of winning “Sweepstakes Trophy” with awards being announced during the OSU football game Saturday.

“Everyone who participates is making an impact in some way,” said Sabrae Precure, Zeta Tau Alpha Homecoming director.

The Phi Kappa Tau and Tri Delta duo, along with other houses, honored the legacy of the four people who were killed in last year’s fatal plane crash.

“Time changes, technology changes — and the spirit of a Cowboy may change over time but it will never die,” said Phi Kappa Tau Marty McNamara. “Kurt Budke, Miranda Serna, Olin and Paul Branstetter, each left a legacy that we will never forget.”

Kappa Delta Kelsey Grellner believes Walkaround is important because people have chosen to attend OSU for a variety of reasons but “we all fell in love with OSU because of unmatched pride and a unique sense of home.”

“Whether you spent your time in Stillwater in the ’60s, ’80s or will be joining us in the coming decades, there is one thing we can all agree on, once you become a Cowboy, it is something that is part of you — something that never changes,” Grellner said.

At the Pi Kappa Alpha house, president Alex Woolard said Walkaround allows people to remember friends and relationships. He said whatever your memories, there’s no way of knowing what tomorrow might bring. His fraternity theme song heralded into the night: “I ain’t here for a long time, I’m here for a good time.”

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