SISTER HAZEL AND SEN. BILL NELSON RODE IN CONVERTIBLES FOR THE EVENT.
By JOEY CHINDAMO
UF's Homecoming weekend is designed to bring alumni back to town, but that didn't stop the rest of the Gainesville community from coming out to the annual parade Friday.
This parade marked the annual event's 83rd year, and 143 groups march or rode in it on the first day of UF's Homecoming festivities.
Various student and local organizations participated in the parade. Some rode on custom-made floats, while others walked or danced their way down University Avenue.
Some groups made a party of the occasion. The UF Surf Club had dozens of people on its party-on-wheels float, complete with a surf-rock band and beach-bar look.
High school marching bands from around the area, ranging in size from hundreds of young musicians to just a few dozen, performed in the parade as well.
Members of the Gainesville-born band Sister Hazel were the parade's grand marshals, riding near the front of the parade in convertibles.
Student Government executives and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson also made appearances in the parade.
Jason Jowers, from Keystone Heights, came to the parade with his wife and 3-year-old daughter, Mackenzie.
"She's excited for the parade, but we're waiting for (the game)," Jowers said.
A high school bluegrass band called Sweetwater Special performed for people walking on University Avenue.
"We try to open people's minds to bluegrass," said Michael Lesousky, the band's mandolin player.
Prior to the parade's start, more than 1,000 people participated in the Gator Gallop, which began at the James G. Pressly Stadium and continued down West University Avenue.
The Gator Gallop is a 25-year-old tradition in which people pay to run in a two-mile race.
For some, this year's parade marked milestones in their lives. Kristin Millson, a UF graduate from Winter Park, said it was her 36th consecutive Homecoming.
"I came up (Thursday) night for the parade and to see my family and friends," Millson said. http://www.alligator.org/pt2/061009parade.php