Mama Madison: Looking back on the UW-Madison's Homecoming Parade

It's good fun, even if you are not a Badger Fan

As my bucket list includes making it to Macy's on Thanksgiving at least once in this lifetime, it is safe to say I love a parade. And parade opportunities, while not quite Herald Square, thankfully abound in Madison: Memorial Day in Monona, St. Patrick's Day on the Square, and just this past Friday night, one of my favorites, the UW-Madison Homecoming Parade. It is special in many ways; the most unique being that it is at night. This provides some pretty distinct advantages if you have older kids. First, they can have a taste of college life-lite, grooving along with sorority girls, the dance team and Miley Cyrus--numerous floats were blasting Party in the USA.

The "tween-ness" of the evening could have easily inspired a Disney Channel take on collegiate life -- perhaps The Frat Life of Zach and Cody? Nighttime also provides cover to the ten-year-old kid who jumps in front of pre-schoolers to score yet another lime flavored Tootsie Roll (for his mother; they are delicious). And this year, the parade was made even younger kid-friendly with the addition of a fourth-grade Grand Marshall. The first grade Bucky coloring contest winner followed close behind in her own red convertible.

But UW Madison Homecoming festivities will always have a special place in my heart for reasons more sublime. I go back twelve years. We have just moved to Madison with our infant son and I am settling into a new city and new routine. My friendly neighbor knocks on the door and asks if we want to join her family in parade watching. I am hesitant; we are not Badger Fans, so to speak. You can take my husband out of the state "where the wind comes rushing down the plain", but he will always root for the Sooners . And I went to school where I am pretty sure I weighed more than the average offensive lineman -- the freshman 15 knows no conference. I just wasn't sure, as lovely as the invitation sounded, that we could muster up the requisite Wisconsin reverence.

But feeling like it would be an insult if we said no; off to State Street we went in the name of college football tolerance. And it probably took no more than three floats and four bars of On Wisconsin for me to get it -- the sanctity of Big Ten football, the 100+-year-old traditions, the bond between the UW and the city of Madison. Even though I will probably never sing "Varsity", my son high fived Bucky and I made a BFF. I realized I didn't need to have a UW diploma to call myself a Badger, at least in that moment. It may not have technically been my "Homecoming", but I was undoubtedly home.

And that, Badger fan or not, is definitely a reason to Jump Around.

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