Hampton Roads Chapter sails into Homecoming

Christine Kilbride
October 05, 2015

Editor's Note: Christine Kilbride is an intern with the Penn State Alumni Association. 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Homecoming week is upon us, a week filled with traditions and practices that Penn Staters know and love — big crowds, football, Penn State Berkey Creamery ice cream, tailgating, reminiscing; but one event that is truly unique to this weekend is the Homecoming parade.

The Penn State Marching Blue Band plays, student groups walk through, the alumni and Homecoming courts make an appearance — but the handmade floats are the true attraction. Student groups have honed this practice for many decades, with alumni groups adding their own creative flair in this evolving tradition. 

This year, the Hampton Roads (Virginia) Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association is coming home with a float in tow. The southeastern Virginia chapter, located near Colonial Williamsburg and the Outer Banks, continues its tradition of float building with a new theme: "A Day on the Bay." 

“In the past, we had a pirate theme. We drove a white convertible, we wore red bandanas and wigs, threw salt-water taffy — we even had shirts that said ‘We Arrrr,’” said Becky Burley, Hampton Roads Chapter president.

The pirate-themed creation even won the “Best Out-of-State Participant Award” in 2012.

But after several years of playing pirates, the Hampton Roads Chapter had higher hopes for this year’s float.

“Ultimately, we decided to reallocate funds from a tailgate to pursue a new idea,” Burley said.

The idea sparked inspiration in new chapter member Justin Casavant.

“I’m new to the area, and I thought this would be a great way to get involved with a smaller chapter,” Casavant said.

The float this year will be centered around Casavant’s SUV, which will be built into a 14-foot sailboat.

“We tried to focus on a theme that represented the area, and we thought this theme was a good way to bring a slice of Virginia Beach to Penn State,” Casavant said.

The Hampton Roads Chapter is local to the largest naval base in the United States, as well as home to the Virginia beaches that many enjoy for vacations and water sports.

But the concept of building a float is not simply to win awards, it is also a way to bond over a common love for Penn State.

“I just knew that when I moved, I would need that Penn State connection in my life,” Burley said.

The Hampton Roads Chapter was resurrected in 2004, when Burley moved to the area after graduation.

As for the floats, the chapter is excited to finish assembling their sailboat once arriving in State College.

“And it should all be smooth sailing from there,” Casavant said.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 06, 2015