Texas Tech’s annual homecoming pep rally and bonfire took place at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 8 at Urbanovsky Park.

Last year, COVID-19 scaled down homecoming week festivities. Marissa Botello, a fourth-year biology student from Waco, said it was fun to attend the pep rally and experience new things.

“It’s a good excuse to get out of the house,” Botello said. “It definitely takes the stress away from midterms.”

The pep rally began in the Urbanovsky Amphitheatre with performances from the Goin’ Band from Raiderland, the Tech cheerleaders and the Pom Squad, with an appearance by Raider Red. Katie Rumbo, a fourth-year music education student from Frisco and baritone player in the Goin’ Band, said the band had been preparing for homecoming festivities for two weeks.

“It’s just a lot of work, but you know, it’s really fun, we get to hang out with each other, like, all the time,” Rumbo said. “And, you know, we get to see what the show looks like at the end, and that’s always really rewarding, especially with this one (homecoming) because it’s got some complicated stuff.”

Jessie Flores, a parent attending the pep rally, said he loved the high spirit of the Goin’ Band. Flores lives in Idalou with his family, and said they loved the atmosphere surrounding football season.

“(My family) comes out every year,” Flores said. “Coming from small town pep rallies, this is a huge pep rally. It’s just phenomenal.”

Soon after, the top five homecoming king and queen candidates were introduced to the crowd. The Tech Twirlers then performed a routine using flaming batons to close out the pep rally, after which performers and crowd members walked to the bonfire site near the Urbanovsky soccer field to begin the bonfire ceremony.

The Saddle Tramps held lit torches while the band performed Tech fight songs once again with performances from the Tech cheer squads. José Conde, homecoming king candidate for the Tech Mortar Board, said as a student on the pre-med track, it was worrying to see people in large gatherings again, but seeing everyone support one another was nice.

“I feel like, especially last year, everyone was so scared and so locked up in their rooms that, especially now that we’re together, we can really, like, lean on each other and support each other and encourage each other,” Conde said.

Mortar Board is a national honor society for seniors at the top 0.15% of their class, Conde said. Conde never expected to be on the court, he said, but it has been a rush to get nominated alongside Mortar Board’s homecoming queen representative Kate Yarborough.

Conde said his favorite part of Tech Homecoming every year is the traditions throughout the week. Being a Red Raider is more than the degree, he said.

“So, I really like the idea of everyone coming back and coming to their home, essentially, which is what it’s about,” Conde said. “And then, just being on the court, being able to represent that generation of, just, leaders and amazing Red Raiders that have come before me. It’s definitely an honor and it’s a really humbling and encouraging experience.

The pep rally and bonfire concluded homecoming week events before Saturday’s 6 p.m. game against Texas Christian University at the Jones AT&T Stadium.

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