Grace McKinney smiled as she watched the long pink balloon transform into a happy frog before her eyes.
“Thanks!” the 9-year-old Pendleton girl squealed, taking the pink frog that matched her 6-year-old brother Evan’s from balloon artist Brian Getz.
Standing near the bonfire was their dad, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells that came with Anderson University’s homecoming festivities on a brisk, fall Saturday afternoon.
“It is great to come back and see all your old friends,” said Brad McKinney, a 1998 AU graduate and current faculty member in the Department of Art and Design. “It makes you feel good to be a part of the Anderson University family. There’s a lot of great events going on.”
The street fair was one of several that McKinney, his family and former classmates in town for the event planned to attend.
“Homecoming is a great way to strengthen connections,” he said. “It is great to see and spend time with people who you spent many important years of your life with.”
Saturday’s street fair was one of several going on throughout the homecoming week and weekend. Much of University Boulevard was blocked as student and alumni organizations set up with fundraisers such as chili, hot cocoa, caramel apples and even an “instrument petting zoo,” where, for $1, people could try their hand at music performance.
AU sophomore music education majors Caitlyn Kunkle of Kokomo and Tyler Claycomb of Pennville had a go at a flute and French horn, not the primary instrument for either. They were helping run the fundraiser for AU’s chapter of the National Association for Music Education.
“We are trying to raise awareness of musical instruments,” Kunkle said. “We want to get little kids interested in music because so often in the public schools, because of budget cuts, the music programs are going away.”
Claycomb said the fundraiser usually draws quite the crowd. For many it is their first time to hold these instruments, let alone try to play them.
“I love homecoming because there is always something going on,” he said. “It is a great way to see everyone coming back.”
Another unique fundraiser was “take a picture with a llama,” put on by the AU social organization L’amifidel.
Storm, a 4-H prize-winning llama, was on hand with its owner, Erica Martin, who’s a freshman studying dance business. Martin was laughing and keeping Storm calm as alumni and students lined up to pose with the furry creature.
“I promise he won’t spit,” she said to a wary girl posing.
Jacqueline Long, vice president of the women’s social organization, said the group thought the llama would be a fun addition to the street fair. L’amifidel is a social and service organization that stands for new beginnings, spiritual growth and unity, she said.
“I love to see all the alumni come home and to see the community and university to get together to support our football team and other sports,” Long said. “The spirit of the week is a great one!”
More than 1,000 people were expected to take part in homecoming festivities, which continue today with a 4 p.m. piano recital at AU’s new York Performance Hall.
Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.