Last Friday kicked off Fairfield’s 2007 Homecoming Weekend, which marked the first time back for many alumni and just one of numerous returns for others.

The weekend’s events attracted about 400 alumni, nearly matching last year’s attendance, according to Colleen McGinn, assistant director of alumni relations.

“Homecoming Weekend is a great opportunity for alumni to come back to campus and reminisce with old classmates and meet students from other classes,” she said.

A number of events were planned for alumni and students alike, but for most alumni, the experience was all about catching up with old friends and reliving the glory days.

For Steve Winkel ’01, returning to campus for Homecoming Weekend is an annual event he shares with a group of friends from his graduating class. Each year since graduation, his close group of friends has gathered in time for lunch, leaving the rest of the day to catch up.

“For me it’s really just about coming back to see friends,” said Winkle, who worked on campus as a graduate assistant after graduation. “Having Mike’s Pizza is a plus, too.”

The Levee was where many alumni spent the early afternoon at “Stagtoberfest,” where registered alumni received a Fairfield beer stein and could listen to live music by band Talking to Walls as well as from Mike Falzone ’06.

Many of the more recent graduates discussed plans for their return to the Seagrape over pizza and turnovers.

Chris Gradel ’06 and his friends returned this year for their second Homecoming Weekend. They planned to spend the better part of their time at the Seagrape and around the beach houses.

“I find that the kids take good care of the alumni,” he said, adding that he hoped to see a party thrown in his honor at his former beach residence.

Gradel’s friend Kyle Mascarenhas ’06 agreed ,enthusiastically returning for his second Homecoming Weekend.

“It’s really good to see all the old faces again,” said Mascarenhas. “After that last Sunday night, everyone goes their separate ways.”

Thomas Pellegrino, dean of students and a graduate of the class of 1990, said he has also used this weekend in the past to gather with close friends and their families.

Pellegrino said he appreciates the tradition of Homecoming Weekend and notes the University’s “desire to draw stronger linkages between all of our students, both current, past, and even prospective.”

“Alumni represent a viable resource for mentoring current students and for contributing back to the living history of this relatively young institution,” he said.

McGinn said she hoped that by orienting this year’s activities toward current students as well as past, they would “mix and mingle” with one another.

Most of the mingling between current and past students occurred on or around the beach, where many of the more recent alumni shared the same sentimentality as Gradel’s group.

Between visits to the beach houses they or their friends once lived in, they offered advice to this year’s seniors regarding ways to relish their final year before entering the “real world.”

Anthony Catania ’07 encouraged seniors to go out every chance they get.

“Whenever you complain that you’re ‘too tired’ to go out, think of how tired you’ll really be when you’re actually working,” he said. “Live it up now. You won’t have the opportunity or time to go out with these people next year.”

Jason Cronk ’07, who was almost as thankful for the weekend’s good weather as he was for the new video game at the Grape, encouraged everyone to get job applications and interviews out of the way early, in order to be as stress-free as possible during senior week, which he described as “the best week of college.”

Other weekend attractions included Midnight Madness, a 5K for Breast Cancer, the Fourth Annual Dodge ‘Til You Drop Dodgeball Tournament, regular season and alumni sports games and the Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Bridget (Cleary) Hayes ’97, a former member of the women’s basketball team, spent Saturday scanning the campus, eating Mike’s Pizza at the Levee and attending the Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This weekend marked her first visit to campus since 2001.

Many students said that since the town of Fairfield was their home for four years, they wanted to return to some of their favorite local spots.

Carla Pasquale ’06, who began her stay in Fairfield on Friday, said she could not leave on Sunday without going to all of her former favorite locations, including Athena Diner, Bravo, the Grape and Chef’s Table. By Sunday, she said, she felt like she had never left in the first place.

Cronk agreed: “I felt right back at home. It’s weird to have to go back to the real world Sunday and not back to a beach house.”

Alumni Weekend is scheduled for an undetermined date during spring semester to once again lure alumni to take a vacation from real life and return back to their alma mater.

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