NAU kicked off the annual homecoming weekend on Nov. 4 with the 2022 Homecoming Carnival at the University Union Fieldhouse parking lot, a brand new location for the festivities after last year’s carnival was hosted on the union’s pedway. This was also the university’s second carnival to be hosted since the event was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The night was filled with activities to help NAU students ring in another year of celebrating the past, appreciating the present and welcoming the future.

As with any carnival, highlights of the evening included the rides. Many classic contraptions could be seen throughout the east side of the union, as well as the extremely long lines to get a chance to indulge in the thrill. 

There was the pendulum-like structure with an Egyptian theme known as Pharaoh’s Fury, Zero Gravity — a whirlwind mechanism guaranteed to induce dizziness — and the Ring of Fire, which treats its occupants like hands on a clock, rapidly rotating them in circles both clockwise and counterclockwise. 

There was also the confusing Mirror Maze, for which the description of the attraction lies within its title. Also present was a ride that could arguably take the title of most famous, the oh-so-classic Ferris wheel. A multitude of people also were in line for the Zipper, a ride that is similar to the Ring of Fire except those on the ride are confined in cages as opposed to traditional roller coaster buckling. 

Freshmen Body Neff and Samuel Van Nuys were among the many in line for Zero Gravity with their friends Jillian Simpson and Jenna Hamm, both freshmen as well. Zero Gravity was one of the few rides that laid claim to having the longest line. When the on switch is flipped to signal that the ride is ready to begin, it’s easy to see why so many people were willing to wait in the cruel cold to get a chance to experience the thrill it provided. While Van Nuys and Neff were looking to put a little bit of that thrill in their evening fun, Simpson and Hamm were simply looking to have their fun while avoiding the structure.

“The few of us that do want to go on it are outvoting those who don’t want to go on it,” Neff said. 

Van Nuys also echoed Neff’s encouragement towards Hamm and Simpson. Van Nuys said that he, Hamm and Simpson didn’t want to initially go on the ride, they changed their minds because of the potential it had to be fun.   

“I’d honestly rather die, but I’m here now,” Hamm said with a laugh. 

Another commonality of any carnival is the food. On-campus dining staple Where’s the Food Truck provided attendees with free barbecue dishes such as pulled pork sandwiches and barbecue chicken. 

FlagTag AZ also provided an area where carnival-goers could get a chance to participate in some ax throwing; Louie was nowhere to be seen. 

Carnivals and fairs alike traditionally take place during seasons in which the weather is slightly warmer. This year’s homecoming carnival was plagued by temperatures that only dropped when gusts of wind would blow. Rides moved at incredibly fast speeds, which created more cold wind. Temperatures throughout the night stayed in the low thirties, causing students to bundle up in coats and jackets while staying on the move to keep warm. 

The homecoming carnival also provided students with an opportunity to let loose and relax as they approached the end of the semester, an opportunity fully taken advantage of by students like freshman Carlos Medina. 

“I’m just here to have a good time and meet new people,” Medina said. 

Sophomores Nora McCarthy and Kayla Moeller came out to the carnival to get outside and take the chance to spend time with friends — time that on any other day of the week, is occupied by schoolwork. 

“For me, I came [to the carnival] to kind of get away from school and to have fun a little bit with my friends,” McCarthy said. 

Moeller’s reason for taking the opportunity to join McCarthy at the carnival was simply to get out of the confines of her dorm and hang out with her friends. 

Senior Bryce Baker’s reasoning for coming to the carnival wasn’t the food or the thrill that the many rides provided. It was a simple, yet somewhat relatable reason.

“Vibes,” Baker said.

Also present at the carnival were several on-campus clubs and organizations hosting minigames for people to participate in. The Black Student Union presented a soda ring toss, while the Latine Student Union hosted a duck fishing competition. NAU Esports also invited patrons to compete against each other in multiple rounds of Mario Kart. 

Homecoming weekend was wrapped up the very next day with Flapjacks & Flannels, the homecoming parade and NAU football taking on Montana State, falling to the Bobcats by a score of 41-38.

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