It will be an unusually early Saturday for paraders and parade watchers at Alabama’s homecoming. Because of the unexpected television network decision to kick off the Alabama vs. Arkansas game at 11 a.m., the University shifted the popular homecoming parade to an awkwardly early time: 7 a.m.
Thousands of out-of-towners will have to find parking places and walk to University Boulevard in the dark to catch the parade's start. The sun rises at about 6:50 a.m. on Saturday, only 10 minutes before the parade’s start, which is not enough time to park, walk and get a parade-watching spot.
The parade lines up at 5 a.m. in the darkness of the parking lot of Coleman Coliseum, the basketball arena. At 7 a.m., it proceeds north on 2nd Avenue toward University Boulevard, the main drag through campus. It turns left, heading west onto University Boulevard, where it proceeds for the rest of the parade, passing Bryant-Denny Stadium and the Walk of Champions. It ends in downtown Tuscaloosa on 21st Avenue near the federal courthouse.
The early hour is expected to drop attendance at the parade.
By the time the parade finishes, ticketholders can begin entering Bryant-Denny Stadium. That process will take longer this Saturday due to the international threat from Islamic terrorists following the Hamas attack on Israel’s Gaza Strip. Security at entrances to the stadium will be as tight as ever.
The early Saturday morning parade follows a Friday night chock full of homecoming activities. The annual homecoming pep rally starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday on the steps of the Gorgas Library. At the pep rally, announcements are made of the 2023 Homecoming Court and Queen and lawn decoration winners. The traditional bonfire on the Quad and the musical “Step Show” follow at 8:30 p.m. All of this night-before activity is on Friday the 13th.
With a normal Saturday game time of 2:30 or 6:30 p.m., the Friday night activities would be followed by late-night fraternity parties and entertainment establishment rendezvous. Those traditional activities may be cut short due to the early start of the Saturday morning parade.
One infamous tradition of the homecoming parade is the law students’ float with the students in tuxedos and under the influence of too much alcohol. Fortunately, the float driver is always a tee-totaling abstainer. With the 7 a.m. parade, will those future lawyers have time to consume the traditional excess of alcohol? Rumors are of a Bloody Mary breakfast for the law students, but it cannot be confirmed, and news reporters have not been invited.
The lack of sunshine for parade preparations and parking will be followed by an annular eclipse of the sun around noon, about the second quarter of the game. The 60% sun coverage by the moon in Tuscaloosa is not expected to affect play.
I have a suggestion for a theme song for this early morning homecoming: “Saturday Sun” by Australian singer/songwriter Vance Joy. It was never popular if you haven’t heard of it, just like the Saturday dawn homecoming will not be popular.
The author, Jim Zeigler, is a retired Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. He can be reached for comments at [email protected].
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