Baylor Homecoming parade - balloon paw

More helium-boosted paw power than usual will fuel this year’s Baylor Homecoming parade, which steps off at 7 a.m.

Crowds along the route of this year’s Baylor University Homecoming parade may want to practice looking up before Saturday morning: This year’s parade will feature more balloons than floats, though not by much.

Rounding out the nearly 200 units that will fill downtown Austin Avenue and Fifth Street are 12 helium balloons, including three new to the parade, and 10 land-bound floats. That will make for multi-level parade viewing, although the parade’s earlier-than-usual kickoff time of 7 a.m. may mean some viewers will watch from the level of their televisions or computer screens.

An 11 a.m. kickoff time between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Baylor Bears forced the early morning parade start, although parade watchers won’t bear the brunt of it: Balloon handlers, for instance, will have to meet at 3:45 a.m. for balloon inflation and handling instructions, noted parade chairman Lydia Strand.

Strand and her fellow organizers had 190 entries lined up for the 109th annual parade at the beginning of the week and expect nearly 200 by the time it begins at Eighth Street and Austin Avenue, on its way to Fourth, then Fifth Street and the Baylor campus.

Making their lighter-than-air debut on Saturday are balloons for the Ronald McDonald House, Baylor volleyball supporters Baylor Set and Baylor’s retro mascot Sailor Bear. Student organizations, Homecoming court participants, university dignitaries and supporters, marching bands, and more will join the floats and balloons for the parade, streamed live on KCEN-TV’s website and Facebook.

Those attending in person can enjoy a beefed-up presence of street entertainers downtown and a food truck park on Fifth Street, Strand said.

Friday night’s Extravaganza activities, held at Fountain Mall, also have been tweaked to encourage family participation, said Homecoming chairman Emma Ingram. Activities include games, kids’ crafts, a magician show at 6:15 p.m. and the Baylor Guerrilla Troupe at 7:15 p.m.

The annual pep rally takes place at 8:45 p.m., followed by the traditional bonfire. A 15-minute laser-light show comes next, replacing fireworks.

The Homecoming traditions of Pigskin Revue, performances by the top acts from last spring’s Baylor Sing, and the inspirational/choral Singspiration remain unchanged. Pigskin performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, 6:30 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday at Waco Hall. Singspiration will take place at 7 p.m. Friday at Seventh & James Baptist Church, 602 James Ave.

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor