Chalk up another casualty of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic: Florida State University’s homecoming festivities, which the Seminole Tribe’s princesses always play a significant role.
The FSU Alumni Association announced that homecoming, originally set for Nov. 9-14, has been rescheduled for spring 2021.
There will be no homecoming football game this season, but other traditional homecoming events such as the parade, the crowning of the Chief and Princess and alumni events will be held. Specific dates will be announced at a later time.
The 50-yard line crowning of the university’s royalty, done by Seminole princesses, won’t happen this fall as it usually does, but Miss Florida Seminole Durante Blais-Billie is looking forward to returning to the university in the spring and seeing the celebration of its alumni.
“The most heart-warming part of the event for me is how the university, no matter how big, still feels like a tight-knit family that is welcoming everyone back,” said Blais-Billie, who is serving an extra year as Miss Florida Seminole along with Jr. Miss Aubee Billie due to the cancellation of this year’s Princess Pageant.
Blais-Billie expects there to be many changes for homecoming, including crowd size and event schedules, but is confident everyone involved will be aware of protecting not just FSU, but the Tallahassee community.
During the pandemic, Blais-Billie has been dedicated to a project called Two-Spirit Tuesdays, in which she and Jr. Miss Florida Seminole Aubee Billie, along with weekly contributors including Miccosukee tribal member Houston Cypress, advocate for Two-Spirit affirmation through education and calls to action.
“My appearances since March have been entirely virtual,” she said. “I’m thankful I am still able to share the culture of my tribe online and collaborate with people dedicated to Indigenous healing. It means everything to still be able to connect with tribal members through groups like the Future Indigenous Leaders of South Florida.”
Aubee Billie is used to the upheavals of the pandemic, but she has learned to take things in stride during this unprecedented year.
“I don’t know what to expect and I don’t think anyone really knows,” said Billie, a senior at The Kings Academy in West Palm Beach. “It will be a little weird, that’s a given. But we have to keep going with the changes in this chaotic time.”
Since the pandemic began, Billie’s role as Seminole royalty has moved online to social media where she tries to reach out to people through various apps and sites.
“It’s been a learning process,” she said. “I miss seeing people in our community and talking to people about who this little Tribe is. It’s been very interesting.”
The pandemic even compelled Billie’s brother Eecho to postpone joining the Navy for the time being, possibly for a few more months. She understands all the changes, including at her school, are to keep people safe.
“If we didn’t have technology, I don’t know what we would be doing,” she said. “Social interaction has been cut off, but we can still communicate.”
FSU put out a statement explaining its decision on homecoming: Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the top priority of Florida State and the Alumni Association has been, and continues to be, the health of its alumni, students, staff and faculty. Over the past few months, administrators have developed guidelines that provide a healthier and safer campus environment, including limitations on large gatherings. In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the difficult decision was made to postpone this year’s homecoming events.
“Homecoming is one of Florida State’s most cherished traditions,” FSU President John Thrasher said in a statement. “Although we won’t be able to gather this fall, we hope to welcome friends and alumni back to campus and celebrate everything we love about FSU with students, faculty and staff this spring — one of the most beautiful times of year in Tallahassee.”