The first official homecoming celebration took place in 1924, but the first homecoming queen to be a Cal Poly student was crowned in 1957.
Cal Poly celebrates homecoming every year as a way to bring current students and alumni together for a spirited and eventful weekend.
It began more than 100 years ago, when the first event — a June banquet and initiation ceremony for new alumni — took place in 1907.
This annual reunion continued for many years, though on different occasions, until Nov. 14 and 15, 1924, when the first official homecoming celebration took place. This celebration brought alumni back to the school for a football game.
And homecoming became a platform for many Cal Poly traditions.
Cal Poly crowned its first homecoming queen, Nancy Schlegel, in 1921. She was 21 at the time and a Cal Poly student’s wife.
According to Kennedy Library Archives, the 1924 homecoming is also the birthdate of our mascot — the Mustangs.
And during the November homecoming of 1935, alumni groups created a permanent alumni organization.
According to the Cal Poly homecoming website, women had been excluded from Cal Poly in 1939 due to budget cuts. The university didn’t re-admit women until 1956. After the 1951 crowning, the next Cal Poly homecoming queen got her crown in 1957, as the first homecoming queen to be a Cal Poly student.
Today, homecoming continues to progress through the work of Poly Reps teams.
Cal Poly alumnus Chester Matkey was a Poly Rep from 2007-2011 and alumni chair from 2010-2011.
“We did outreach to other alumni, and that’s how I kind of got tied into homecoming,” Matkey said.
Although it lost its valor in recent years, homecoming was always about alumni and student interaction.
“It kind of died down for a bit — the spirit behind it,” Matkey said. “So we wanted to do a big event and bring it back for the students as well as all the alumni who came into town.”
Homecoming turned into an event that focused mostly on the participation of alumni. Students would attend the football game like it was any other sporting event, and all other homecoming activities were geared towards alumni.
Matkey said he realized he and his fellow Mustangs were missing out on the spirit of homecoming events.
“(Homecoming) was never really big while I was going to school (from 2006-2008),” Matkey said. “But after I talked to our adviser, she brought out some old binders, and we saw the photos, and there used to be this court and all these crazy things. There was a row — kind of similar to open house — where student clubs would come out and people would come back to say hi to their fraternity or sorority — so it sounded really cool. We wanted to do something like that.”
After talking with club advisers, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) and administration, they got all the pieces together for greater student involvement in homecoming events, Matkey said.
“Some of the Poly Reps on my committee did a bunch of the footwork, and somehow we were able to get all the colleges to nominate the different princes and princesses,” Matkey said.
Jordan Albiani, the current Poly Reps Alumni Representative, has been working toward making the student-geared events more popular.
“We have had a court in the past every year, and it’s something that kind of went out of fashion for a while,” Albiani said. “I’ve been on the alumni committee for three years now. This is my second year as chair, and every year we try and make it a little more popular — make it a little more publicized on campus. But as for the history, it’s very much like a high school Royal Court. It’s usually people that are very involved on campus. It’s usually juniors and seniors. We have had some freshmen and sophomores that get on court, which is really, really cool for them.
Another interactive event Poly Reps hosts is Medallion Madness, a scavenger hunt for students which Albiani’s committee created last year.
“(Last year’s) was very small, and they actually solved the scavenger hunt in a day, which was very sad,” Albiani said. “But this year, there’s a little plaque hidden on campus every single day, and there will be a clue on Facebook, on Twitter, on all of the Poly Rep social media, and students can go find that plaque and they get a prize when they find it.”
There is also an Honored Alumni Awards Ceremony held each year. During this event, eight awards are given out to deserving alumni.
And homecoming wouldn’t be complete without the football game. This year, Cal Poly will play No. 3 Eastern Washington.
“One of the football games every year is one of the homecoming activities,” said Eric Burdick, an associate director of athletics communications. “Usually, it’s not quite such a tough game, but Eastern Washington is ranked No. 3 in the country and No. 1 in the Big Sky Conference — it’s going to be one of our tougher games this year.”
Homecoming is a time to bring the campus together, support the football team and interact with alumni.
“It’s guaranteed to bring alumni back to campus, and that was kind of the gist behind it,” Albiani said. “They wanted alumni to come back and celebrate having been at Cal Poly and everything that was so great about it. And, of course, that meant football, and with any homecoming comes a court.”