Coming home again: Alumni relive their Homecoming traditions
1986 graduate Jeff Zumsteg: “We’re all true Mizzou, and that has to come first.”
Truman the Tiger kicks off each Missouri football game by riding around on a firetruck and flinging his tail around.
From 1986 to 1990, Dan Meers played the role of Truman the Tiger for countless games and events. Meers describes Homecoming as the best weekend of the fall and a time of high energy and excitement. From those who just graduated to those who graduated 30 years ago, Homecoming is a staple in the lives of dedicated alumni.
Meers’ experience as Truman inspired him, and he now is the mascot for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Chiefs.
“My favorite thing to do, that I got in trouble for, probably for my own safety, was to get on the railing in front of the student section,” Meers said. “I would fall back into the stands and let the students catch me, then they’d slowly move me up the bleachers.”
To Meers, Homecoming takes things to a whole new level. He typically spent the weekend doing appearances and activities, and he always slept great after Homecoming weekend.
“Football Saturday was kind of ingrained in me, even though I was graduated,” 1986 alumnus Jeff Zumsteg said. “After six years, it’s just part of what I did.”
Zumsteg and his friends have been tailgating since he graduated. This year will be his 37th consecutive year marching on the field during Homecoming, starting when he joined Marching Mizzou and now as part of the Marching Mizzou Alumni Band.
Marching Mizzou is what connected Zumsteg with many of his friends. They see each other annually during Homecoming. They also go on trips each year, which began in college.
The group tailgates from a limousine, which started as the “tiger mobile.”
“A friend in college’s father bought this checkered limousine, and we painted it with brushes with yellow and black tiger stripes, and it was our first tailgating car,” Zumsteg said. “It probably couldn’t be driven out of Columbia because it’s so old, but it’s still around today. Someone bought it, and we see it at tailgates still when we come down.”
Zumsteg and his family have a deep connection with the university. His sister and brother-in-law both attended Mizzou and so did many of their children.
“My father passed away five years ago the week of Homecoming, and the funeral should’ve been on Homecoming Saturday, but my mother said, ‘No, you’re going to Homecoming,’” Zumsteg said. “We’re all true Mizzou, and that has to come first.”
Scott Ashton, an 1988 alumnus, was an student staff member at Hatch Hall. His daughter is a student at MU about to experience her first Homecoming.
“College is like a four-year nonstop live-in summer/winter camp,” Ashton said in an email. “You can spend your time there anyway you want, but if [you] do it right, once will stick with you forever.”
Ashton plans on tailgating for Homecoming this year, and his parents are coming from Pennsylvania to spend the weekend in Columbia for the first time since he graduated in the ’80s.
“You can’t come to a Mizzou game and not tailgate; it is a great tradition,” Ashton said. “The game is awesome, but getting a chance to socialize and enjoy the company of those you love is something I wish everyone could experience.”
To Ashton, Homecoming means a celebration of good times.
“Other than an excuse to get back to Mizzou and enjoy the company of family and friends, Homecoming is a celebration of my years at the university and an opportunity to share what a great place it is with others,” Ashton said. “I have a ton of very fond memories of my time there, and it holds a very special place in my heart. I am proud of my Mizzou and hope that all my kids can experience that same thing.”
Each alumni has a different piece of advice for students as Homecoming draws near, but Meers incorporates what is important for first-timers to know.
“It’s your family,” Ashton said. “You might not realize as a freshman that these people become your family, but after you start coming back sophomore year, you feel it. The people you put around you are important. As a freshman, you think, “This is just fun, this is just football,’ but it’s your second family. Go to as many events, as many games as you can. Take it all in. It’s hard to do it all, but take as much in as you can.”
Edited by Katie Rosso | firstname.lastname@example.org