Smiling onlookers sang "Rocky Top" as Tennessee's Pride of the Southland marching band passed by, marching in step and playing their best.
The band kicked off this year's homecoming parade last Friday, beginning an event which gave organizations, residence halls, Greeks and sponsors a chance to show their support for the Big Orange and to compete for those coveted float awards.
Joining the ranks as always was UT Interim President Joe Johnson, riding in the traditional 1966 Packard followed by other vintage vehicles, such as the FCA president and vice president's 1969 Camaro. Other cars which escorted administration, staff and Miss Homecoming hopefuls included the more contemporary and stylish Vipers, Cobras and Z3s.
Mayor-elect Bill Haslam turned heads as he rolled in to judge entries for the float contest. Floats were evaluated as they crept by Circle Park past the five judges. The panel was composed of Haslam, UT staff, administration and alumni.
Some of the more eye-catching floats included the Beta Theta Pi and Gamma Sigma Sigma collaborative effort of Smokey chucking food at a blues-singing Devil. The largest float was the Sigma Phi Epsilon and Kappa Kappa Gamma float which consisted of a Devil-dodging Smokey, styling in a yellow H2 within Neyland Stadium.
Being the largest parade in UT history, mistakes and mishaps were expected, but the parade went on without any major problems.
"(The parade) went so smoothly," Thomas Hunter, All Campus Events' homecoming parade co-coordinator, said. "Usually people are running around trying to fill gaps, but this year everything went off smoothly. It went without a hitch."
However, parades don't go so smoothly without a staff of people working hard behind the scenes. ACE members were stationed at every corner making sure floats and cars were keeping the pace and looking their best.
"One of the important things of an event this big is having an adviser that will help you in every situation," Austin Casselman, parade coordinator, said of adviser Deborah Hackney. "She works so hard and even off the clock to make sure we're doing the right thing."
Overall winners of Homecoming 2003 were Sigma Phi Epsilon and Kappa Kappa Gamma who won first place in the large float and small banner divisions and second place in the lawn display and Smokey's Howl.
Sarah Keeton, SGA president, was crowned Miss Homecoming 2003 at halftime. Miss Homecoming serves as a goodwill ambassador for the university during her reign.