Mayor: I declare Marion Wildcat country

Homecoming spirit spreads through city

Amidst the lively music of the Indiana Wesleyan University jazz band, the constant flashes of digital cameras and the dancing of his fellow students – some costumed – IWU freshman Brad Thada stood still Wednesday night on the Grant County Courthouse Square.

He was wearing a dark-colored suit, aviator sunglasses and an earpiece, and he was taking in the events of his first IWU homecoming pep rally.

Thada, 18, a resident of Bowman Hall, was one of several "Bowman Bodyguards," who were serving as "protection" for IWU President Henry Smith, who will be officially inaugurated today.

"We’re just trying to do our job," Thada said as his head continued to move on a swivel, looking for potential "security threats." "This just helps get up morale and the spirit for all the events going on."

It was hard for Smith to keep from smiling as he saw a multitude of students having a good time.

"I’m the real deal now; I’ve got my protection," Smith said pointing at the Bowman Bodyguards.

Part of the tradition was the pep rally and torch run that would follow, a run the IWU cross country team would make back from Washington Street, between Third and Fourth streets, all the way back to Henry’s residence on campus for a bonfire.

As the jazz band played and members of the university’s cheer squad performed complicated cheers, the Hodson’s Scotsmen, with painted faces, dressed in kilts and holding replica swords, stood and cheered wildly.

"It’s Hodson’s pride and joy, the Hodson Scotsmen," said Chris Reeves, an IWU sophomore who lives in Hodson Residence Hall. "We try to do as many sporting events as possible, mostly men’s soccer and women’s soccer."

Fall and spring athletes alike participated in the pep rally.

"The track team just decided we wanted to support the cross country girls," said Ashley Ruffer, a junior an Indiana Wesleyan track athlete. "(Homecoming) is just a time to remember what our school’s all about and welcome back our alumni."

After a brief introduction, Mayor Wayne Seybold addressed the throng of students in attendance.

"I want to declare Marion, Ind., from this day forward Wildcat country," Seybold shouted.

Smith then spoke to the crowd explaining how it was the goal of him and his wife, Teresa, to celebrate tradition.

"This is an absolutely fabulous sight," Smith said. "It warms my heart, although my hands are cold, to be here with you tonight. This is what it’s all about."

After Smith’s speech, the jazz band played one final number and a prayer was said. As a member of the men’s cross country team held a torch, it was lit, and he as well as the other members of the team took off running east on Fourth Street, back toward campus and the bonfire that was waiting.




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