On previous years at Grambling homecoming, there had been something of an impromptu car show up and down Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones Drive, but this year, local authorities had managed to prevent that, and the street was nearly empty. Instead, there was a block party featuring DJ Jubilee outside the Favrot Student Union, and the custom cars were cruising through the campus on Main Street instead. With the weather was warm as it was, the party drew a huge crowd of people, but eventually the campus police and parish sheriffs moved to stop the cruising loop of cars. The resulting gridlock actually made it hard for me to make it off the campus and out of town.
One of the awesome things about Black college football is that the football battle on the field is matched by a battle between the two bands in the stands. This is especially true when the bands are two of the best in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), such as Grambling’s World-Famed Marching Band and Pine Bluff’s Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South. Not only did the bands battle back and forth during the course of the afternoon, but the various instrumental sections did as well, particularly Grambling’s Chocolate Thunder drumline and Pine Bluff’s K.R.A.N.K. drumline. The weather was beautiful as well, and Grambling’s much-improved football team had no trouble demolishing Pine Bluff, no small feat considering that last year’s Grambling team did not win a game.
On Grambling Homecoming weekend, the wooded area near Robinson Stadium is filled with tailgaters from all over the country. Some are just simple tents that have been set up with barbecue grills, while others are elaborate motor homes, and some large tailgate parties have DJ’s playing the latest soul, blues or occasionally rap. The smell of barbecuing meat drifts all over the area, even to the stadium.
Homecoming Day at Grambling State University always begins early, with a parade through the town of Grambling that begins at 9 in the morning. People start lining up earlier than that, hoping to reserve a good spot to see the bands, majorettes, drummers and floats. By tradition, the Grambling State University Marching Band always comes first, followed by the Grambling High School band, and then there are always a number of bands from various parts of Louisiana and Texas, floats from various campus and town organizations, majorette squads and classic cars and vehicles. The largest and densest crowd is always in the center of campus between the McCall Dining Hall and the Favrot Student Union, and the parade route usually ends at Central Avenue and Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones Drive. This year, on a hill near that intersection, two bands from Shreveport, Fair Park and Booker T. Washington got into a band battle after the parade had ended. Although there seem to be fewer bands these days, the parade is still a lot of fun.
Grambling State University and the University of Louisiana at Monroe have only played football against each other since 2007, and have only met three times, despite the fact that the schools are only 30 miles apart. Such were the legacies of college segregation, but when the Tigers and Warhawks started scheduling each other, the event became known as the I-20 Classic, since that interstate connects the two campuses (as well as a third, Louisiana Tech, for that matter). Grambling hasn’t fared well in any of their meetings with ULM, but I decided to drive down to Monroe for the day to attend the game, hear the bands (particularly Grambling’s), and the check out the tailgating and festivities. Although the weather was somewhat hot, it was a perfectly beautiful evening for football, and there was a huge crowd of people tailgating and partying outside the stadium, which is directly beside Bayou DeSiard. Unfortunately, Grambling’s team has been struggling this year, and they lost the game 48-7, and there was very little band activity and no Fifth Quarter. Grambling’s Chocolate Thunder drumline played a couple of cadences in the stands, and the full band played an abbreviated halftime show, and a couple of tunes in the stands, and that was all. 100.1 The Beat was advertising all kinds of “official” after-parties after the game, one at Club Encore, one at the Members’ Club, one at Club Siroc, and an old-school set with a band at the Monroe Civic Center. I would have liked to have gone to any or all of them, but as the drive back to Memphis was going to take five hours, I grabbed a frozen yogurt from Orange Leaf and hit the road.
After the Grambling game, RWE Jones Drive was full of classic cars, as it is every year at homecoming, although the police were out in force to prevent people from u-turning and riding up and down the street in front of the stadium as they had done in previous years.
Outside of Eddie Robinson Stadium, Headline Starlight Entertainment (@GoDJStar) and An What Entertainment (@anwhatentlive) put on the crunkest tailgate in Grambling, 10/20/12
Classic and customized cars are always a big part of Grambling homecoming, 10/20/12