While most people may only think about running for homecoming king (or queen) at the last minute, Michael Gerdwagen, a senior theater major, has been campaigning since right after last year’s competition ended.
“I went to the homecoming king and queen competition [last year] and I was really proud of the people I knew. I wanted to be up there, so I said I was running and what better way to be inspired than to start a Facebook group? Even though it started off as a joke, I was serious about running,” Gerdwagen said.
He spearheaded his run with the Facebook group, titled “LA Mike for homecoming king 2007.” So far, over 150 NMU students have joined the group. The group was created to fuel his motivation to run and to publicize his campaign. Gerdwagen tried campaigning for homecoming king in high school, but he was not nominated for the court.
“I think it’s neat that there’s a homecoming king and queen for college. It’s . more of an upperclassman thing. As a senior, I want to go out on top, per se. It’s kind of like prom — it’s something to leave behind,” Gerdwagen said.
All king and queen contestants are asked to dress up for the audience to be judged in two categories: “Dynamic Duo” theme garb and semi-formal wear. The theme costume includes a brief skit and this year, human props are permissible. The audience’s votes will determine five king and queen finalists. A faculty and staff panel of judges will evaluate the finalists’ responses in a question and answer session.
Special events coordinator Ellie Luce estimated that about 20 males went out for homecoming king last year and 20 females competed for the homecoming queen title. The audience is usually made up of about 300 students.
“I would say that [the] king/queen competition is purely for fun,” Luce said. “The first round, the costume round, that’s where we encourage them to incorporate the theme. The second round, formal wear, is not like prom style — it’s a nice suit or dress.”
Although Gerdwagen hasn’t finalized his outfits or skit for this year, he said he is working on it.
“I don’t want it to be a popularity contest. I’ll just be happy to be up there and make it past the first round,” he said.
This year will be the third year Gerdwagen attends homecoming. As an underclassman, he was involved as a residence hall member. This year, his involvement stems from a desire to stay connected to NMU after moving off campus.
He belongs to the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity and he and his fraternity brothers participate as a group. He and the Alpha Sigs will enter a float in this year’s parade. They built two floats for last year’s “Around the World” theme in addition to having a marching unit in which people dressed up as different countries. Gerdwagen went as Mexico. Although he refused to give away this year’s float for the “Dynamic Duos” theme, he did say that it would be U.P.-oriented.
Gerdwagen said he enjoyed all the homecoming activities. Dead River Games and the scavenger hunt were fun activities with his fraternity, he said.
Melissa Poisson, a junior history secondary education major, was invited to join Gerdwagen’s Facebook group the day after homecoming last year. She has known him for about a year from Greek life, as she is in the Kappa Beta Gamma sorority. Poisson has since withdrawn from his Facebook group to support a closer friend’s homecoming king campaign. She did not mention this to Gerdwagen.
“I think it’s brave to take that long to campaign. It’s dedicated. I think it’s amazing that he didn’t change his mind,” Poisson said.