Parade lovers and float builders alike were disappointed at the rain-soaked cancellation of Baylor University’s homecoming parade last month, but the opportunity to display the floats on Fifth Street on the Baylor campus Saturday offered some touches usually not possible in tightly scheduled action on downtown streets.
By noon, the midwaylike display had drawn a large crowd, and the students who built the floats were able to talk to people, especially children fascinated by the highlights.
Matt Chelf, one of about 50 members of Beta Theta Pi fraternity who worked on the overall first-place winner “Jurassic Waco,” said some children awed by the scale-model tyrannosaurus rex head dominating the float wanted to know if the builders got it from a zoo.
Beta Theta Pi teamed with about 230 members of the sorority Chi Omega to put about 5,000 hours into creating the float, which went through several mutations from the original design as students came up with new ideas in the process, Chi Omega member McKinley Freeman said.
“I think it was more fun to see people’s reactions today than to win the competition,” Chelf said.
Floats were judged on homecoming night and then stored wherever teams could find space. Beta Theta Pi member Evan Duff said his team was fortunate to find a warehouse belonging to Baylor alumnus Russell Trippet on Fourth Street.
“It was almost walking distance for us, while some teams had to find space 30 minutes away,” Duff said.
Two or three food trucks and a stage with the Robbie Seay Band from Houston were in the middle of eight floats in a line up and down the street as people of all ages flocked in for the sights.
Retired biology professor Fred Gehlbach had viewed floats all during a career spanning about 30 years beginning in the early 1960s. He and his wife, Nancy, were seeing them in this venue for the first time.
“It’s amazing to see them up close to be able to appreciate all the work that went into them,” Nancy Gehlbach said.
Freeman said it took some careful time management, but the students were able to juggle their studies and work on the floats so that neither suffered.
Meredith Owen, a freshman from Frisco too new for Greek life, said, “I think this is a great opportunity for the students to show off their work after all the time they put into it, balancing it with their coursework.”
At another float dubbed “Blues on the Brazos” built by 18 members of the fraternity Kappa Omega Tau, individual recordings of different instruments harmonized to the “Baylor Line.”
A mock control booth and lights overlooked a giant saxophone, guitars and a drum set. Also included was a real upright piano that children would mount the float to play, said Blake McCarter, one of the designers.
The Baylor-University of Oklahoma weekend had been mentioned as a possible time for the float show when the parade was rained out. Rain had been predicted for Saturday morning, and the skies were cloudy. Participants decided to brave the possibilities, and fortunately, the weather stayed nice until later in the day.
When the parade had to be canceled, Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said, “We are committed to making sure our students’ hard work is displayed when we have a lot of people on our campus.”
Baylor homecoming float award winners
Class C: Baylor Theater with “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”
Class B: Alpha Delta Pi and Sigma Phi Epsilon with “Viva Las Waco.”
Class A: Kappa Sigma and Pi Beta Phi with “RV There Yet?”
Overall: Beta Theta Pi and Chi Omega with “Jurassic Waco.”