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Like most things this year, COVID-19 has put a new spin on Montana State University’s homecoming celebrations this week.

Gone are the traditional parade, live football game and jam-packed tailgating. In its place are a shoebox parade and a slew of virtual and socially distanced events scheduled throughout the week.

The week kicked off Monday with pajama day, and a decorating contest for residence halls, campus offices and fraternity and sorority buildings.

The annual homecoming parade, normally a time of large and ornately decorated floats, took on a more DIY spin with a shoebox parade.

Participants were asked to design and build a “shoebox” float using an Amazon box, an old shoebox, a crate or a tub. The decorations could reflect an original design, recreate a previous parade float or tell an MSU story, according to the MSU Alumni Foundation.

After decorating their miniature float, people could take a picture and submit it by Sept. 21 to be included in the virtual parade. The parade video aired on Tuesday on MSU Alumni Foundation’s Facebook page.

On Thursday at 8 p.m., the campus will go dark while the M on Mount Baldy will be illuminated with LED lights for 20 minutes. The university said it was “a sign of support for those affected by the Bridger Foothills fire.”

Earlier in the day, homecoming candidates will pass out MSU face masks and hand sanitizer on campus.

On Friday, the Homecoming Yardy will take the place of the Homecoming Carnival, with games and food available to students on the Intramural Turf Field from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

With live football games off the table, MSU will host a virtual pre-game event, à la ESPN’s GameDay on Saturday at 11 a.m. Broadcasting live from Bobcat Stadium, the event will include Bobcat trivia, T-shirt giveaways, a fan of the game, and food and drinks of the game.

Starting at noon on Saturday, the Sept. 28, 2019, game against Northern Arizona University will be rebroadcast to Montana residents.

To recreate the pre-game experience, MSU Alumni Foundation has recommendations for at-home tailgating, like creating a baked potato bar instead of burgers and brats, serving up cold local and craft brews, creating your own signature cocktail and playing a few rounds of cornhole or croquet.

For those craving an in-person experience, Bumpfest will take place Saturday, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., in Bobcat Lot where faculty and staff will be showing off their vehicles to win best decorated, best off-road and most run-down car.

Throughout the week, MSU students, employees and alumni are encouraged to share photos and stories of themselves dressed up in the daily theme on the MSU Alumni Foundation Facebook page.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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