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Homecoming family dance: A new Wildcat tradition?

Purple and white Chinese lanterns hung from the ceiling of the ballroom, complete with tall white pillars decorated with lights. While the setup was the same for the traditional homecoming dance, something was not so traditional: the guests.

Ballroom B of the Shepherd Union Building was full of music and dancing. Early on Friday, Oct. 14, for the first time ever, there was a homecoming family dance. People ages 1 and up put on their dancing shoes for the three-hour dance.

Debbie Cragun, coordinator of the Nontraditional Student Center, said she liked the idea of having a dance where families could just be together and enjoy each other’s company.

“Dances are about building that community,” Cragun said. “It’s that one place where you can kind of let your hair down and relax . . . I think people really relate through music.”

Cragun had been planning the event since April of last year, and said she really wanted to provide a fun environment where everyone could be a part of homecoming. She also worked closely with Weber State University Student Association in order to collaborate with the traditional dance.

“The collaboration shows that Weber State recognizes the need for families to feel like they are part of homecoming,” Cragun said. “There should always be an option, and we made it our initiative this year for each activity on campus to have a family alternative as well.”

Richard Jones, a junior at WSU, came to the dance with his two children, and said he felt this alternative was a great idea.

“I think it’s fun for the kids to be able to come and get into the whole homecoming thing and just see what their parents do here at school,” Jones said.

His 11-year-old son, Dustin, said he wanted to come to the dance to be with his dad and celebrate homecoming.

“You have to get into the homecoming spirit,” Dustin said. “I don’t know one person who wouldn’t be excited about homecoming!”

WSU Dining Services catered the event and provided a range of choices. Those in attendance were welcome to a large buffet of vegetables, fruit, finger sandwiches, rice-crispy treats, pizza rolls, chips and mini hot dogs. Many went back for seconds throughout the night.

Bonnie Michelsen, a junior at WSU, said she enjoyed the refreshments and danced the night away with her two 11-year-old nieces, Chris and Katie Durtschi. The two girls had a few followers throughout the night who copied their dance moves.

“I like to dance,” Katie said. “We have a teacher that teaches us different dances at school.”

DJ David Hancock-Taylor with Metro Productions provided a mix of music for the children and adults. He has done many different kinds of events over the past six years, and said he enjoys doing family dances as well.

“I think it is a great idea,” Hancock-Taylor said. “I love to dance with my family, and I would definitely come to one if I were a nontraditional student.”

The song “Baby” by Justin Bieber produced the most squeals and singing along from the crowd. Another crowd-pleaser that got everyone onto the dance floor was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Children adorned with purple glow-sticks made some attempts at break-dancing throughout the night. Other dance moves used were the Sprinkler, the Funky Chicken and the Disco Point.

LaNae Taylor, a freshman at WSU, attended with her 3-year-old daughter, Leanna, who focused mostly on twirling and skipping around the dance floor, stopping on occasion to put some grapes in her mouth.

Taylor said she enjoyed dancing with her daughter and hopes the family dance will be a tradition.

“I like the family dance because it gives those that don’t have the opportunity to go to the other dances to come with their families and have fun,” she said. “You don’t have to be single and have money to go to a dance and have fun.”

While the family dance was not what might be considered a traditional university dance, many in attendance expressed interest in attending again and said they hope it will become a tradition.

Cragun said she felt the night was a success and that she enjoyed seeing the students be with their families and feel a part of homecoming. She said she felt the turnout was great and that she hopes to do the family dance again next year.

“It’s really important that we create experiences for students to feel that college can be fun,” Cragun said. “It is just a huge part of their life that they give.”

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