Katie Martinez

The ‘Key’ to a Successful Homecoming Show

Katie Martinez
Katie Martinez was crowned Homecoming Queen Saturday evening.

On Thursday, all students in Festival Concert Hall saw a 90-minute production featuring a hilarious skit and the crowning of Homecoming Royalty.

But what does it take to create a successful Homecoming Show?

It takes Blue Key Honor Society’s 31 members, plus:

  • About six months of planning
  • 16 hours of ticket sales
  • Hundreds of emails exchanged with the benefitting nonprofit
  • 30 hours perfecting the skit
  • And over six weeks of daily preparation and work for the actual event.

The process begins in late spring, when co-producers are selected. This year, the group elected Sarah Russell and Thomas Peterson. Immediately, the two start brainstorming, planning and fundraising for the October show.

The first step is selecting the nonprofit.

This year, Blue Key chose Wellspring for the World, a nonprofit focused on providing clean drinking water to people around the globe. Based in Fargo, Wellspring for the World fundraises in order to drill clean water wells, also partnering with other organizations to supply safe drinking water to many different countries.

homecoming show crowd

Wellspring uses 100 percent of public donations to build, maintain and educate people about wells and sanitation.

The second step involves fundraising.

With the nonprofit in mind, Blue Key searches for major sponsors to help fund the event. This year, the honor society introduced a new concept: having a coronation sponsor as a way to encourage students to vote for Homecoming Royalty while, in turn, helping a good cause.

Gate City Bank, as this year’s sponsor, donated $1 per vote (up to a cap of $4,000) to Wellspring for the World. Update*

All of the previous portions of planning take place in late spring and throughout summer, with online forums being the media Blue Key members use to communicate. Once school is in session, the nitty-gritty details are nailed down, starting with the theme.

Blue Key voted two emcees, Jasper Asplin and Diedrich Harms, to take charge.

Katie Martinez

A theme is then chosen by a vote. Blue Key went with “Back to (Back to Back to Back to) the Future” as a way to play up NDSU’s successful fourth run last January for the national championship. The theme helps incorporate Bison history and the famous movie’s lines, too.

It is then back to fundraising. Members are asked to sell advertisements to businesses on- and off-campus, as well as NDSU departments.

Peterson stressed the important role members play in this portion of fundraising, commending their enthusiasm.

“They answered the call. I can’t thank them enough. We set a really challenging goal for everyone, and they met it,” he said.

After months of initial planning, the show begins coming together. Asplin and Harms began writing the actual skit about a month before the show, deciding to use the memorable eras in NDSU’s history.

With that decided, they moved on to finding an underlying plot and purpose for the show.

“That was probably one of the most difficult aspects of planning the skit, and it took us awhile in order to figure out that we wanted to base it on Thundar and Bison Pride,” Asplin said.

Phillip Wanner

The revision process was extensive. Harms and Asplin relied on the help of other Blue Key members to supplement the script as well, revising it four different times in the last three weeks to get the final product.

Compared to last year, Harms and Asplin felt they truly stayed with the “Back to the Future” theme while still amusing the crowd with typical jokes about UND, campus and general NDSU life. Another difference between this and previous shows was the diversity of the cast.

“We have at least 16 plus Blue Key members participating in the skit, which will help add some variety and allow us all to showcase our talents,” said Asplin.

Along with the running skit, organizations that tried out to make the show put on their performances, which is important, Peterson said.

“Without them, Blue Key would only have half a show,” he said.

Festival Concert Hall works out the little details before graphic design and event public relations start designing posters, tickets, logos and the program itself.

The next task is getting everyone on campus familiar with the theme, the date and the event itself. Throughout the entire process, Blue Key works with Campus Attractions to create a fluid experience for NDSU students.

Ticket sales are the final fundraising method, selling every day of Homecoming Week for $5 apiece in the Memorial Union. Any leftovers are sold at the door on the day of the event, though the show frequently sells out before Thursday night.

Finally, a full dress rehearsal marks the countdown to the actual event and straightens out any last kinks.

Then it is on to the actual 39th annual Homecoming Show.

To run a smooth show, it takes all 31 members of Blue Key acting as MCs, light technicians, backstage help, ticket sellers, ushers and everything in between. But Blue Key is not the only organization at work on the show.

“We couldn’t do the show without the help of our members, the staff of Festival Concert Hall, Campus Attractions and so many other terrific people,” said Russell.

As with any student organization, a steep learning curve exists when taking on an annual project, but Russell said everyone with whom Blue Key worked to get the Homecoming Show organized was kind and helpful.

Plus, she didn’t fail to rave about the other Blue Key members.

“We have incredible leaders in our organization who have been so willing to help with anything needed,” Russell said.

“All of our members are such hard workers and they’re in it to win it,” Asplin said.

NDSU’s branch of Blue Key Honor Society is part of the national Blue Key organization. With a mission to serve in every capacity of life and a motto of “Serving I Live,” the Homecoming Show is just another way Blue Key gives back to the campus and to a deserving nonprofit.


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