The smell of funnel cake and grilled corn filled the air, while the lights of the stage and the ferris wheel illuminated the carnival games and attractions. UNL students, families and Lincoln community members attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s 2019 Cornstock Festival to kick off homecoming weekend.
The festival was held from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4, outside Memorial Stadium. Described by associate to the chancellor for external engagement Diane Mendenhall as a morale boost before homecoming, Cornstock brought students in with all sorts of attractions.
The event, sponsored by Nebraska Crossing, included activities like face painting, a petting zoo from Mutual of Omaha and a photo booth. Food vendors such as Chick-fil-A, Valentino’s, Kona Ice and the UNL Dairy Store populated the area outside the stadium. Entertainment included the Nebraska Spirit Squad, Huskaire, a musical performance and a talent show.
Former Husker football player and Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers, Chancellor Ronnie Green, Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos and head basketball coaches Fred Hoiberg and Amy Williams started off the festival by wishing the Huskers good luck as they face off against Northwestern University on Saturday, Oct. 5.
“We wanted to kind of amp up homecoming a little bit,” Green said during his speech. “We kind of recreated this festival atmosphere here … In a way, like Cornstock used to be, or what we called Cornstock on East Campus a number of years ago.”
Led by the Cornhusker Marching Band, the homecoming parade followed the speeches and contained a float featuring members of the 1969 Huskers football team and others featuring organizations such as the Tractor Restoration Club, University Program Council and the Innocents Society. The parade also included floats made by fraternities and sororities and appearances from the homecoming royalty.
After a performance in front of the stadium by “The Voice” finalist Hannah Huston, about a dozen students competed in the Jester Competition, a sort of talent show in which students could perform a 30-second act. Senior computer science and mathematics double major Matthew Meacham said this was his favorite event of the night.
“There was a lot of pretty funny activities, like quoting ‘The Office,’ [and] somebody quoted the Gettysburg Address … [There were] all these pretty impressive dances,” he said. “I’m pretty impressed with all of it.”
After all the candidates had competed, sophomore human development major Reagan Ostrander was awarded first place. Ostrander said she represented her sorority Delta Gamma in the competition.
“We wanted to make it kind of goofy,” she said. “I dressed up as Bob Ross … We wanted to have me paint something that was in favor of Nebraska for this weekend’s game, so that’s what I did.”
Green confirmed in his speech that Cornstock, which has not been held since the 1990s, will again be a homecoming tradition, and students are excited to see it make a comeback.
“I know in past years, not as many students have been attending things like this,” Ostrander said. “I think bringing it back and making it a bigger event will make involvement really increase … I think it’s a fun time and a good turnout.”