Dusk was just around the corner as students milled around the ticket line. People chatted with friends to pass the time as the line moved up. Several individuals had their phones out, inputting their student ID numbers to access Rebel Homecoming tickets. Those that already made it through the line wore shimmery, red bracelets as they wandered through the stalls.
Just after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, October 12th, tents lined the campus sidewalks from the Valerie Pida Plaza to Pioneer Lawn. Some tents were dedicated to different schools or clubs within UNLV and others served food.
There were plenty of options for food, including potato wedge fries, chicken legs and walking tacos. All of which were free to those wearing the red UNLV wristbands.
Dillon Brouwer merged into the crowd, following the scent of food in the air, but what easily caught his eye were the bright flashing rides in the middle of it all.
A rock climbing wall towered into the air, a wheel of dual-seater swings spun around and a few more were beginning to draw in lines. Brouwer had his heart set on the Saddle Up ride, where people are strapped into a row of seats back-to-back, swinging back and forth. Getting in line with his friends, he planned to ride the rides he wanted before the lines got too long.
For Brouwer, homecoming night was a night of fun and spending time with new and old friends, some from last year’s Rebel Festival.
Despite being a junior at UNLV, this was his second year attending Rebel Homecoming. After the shutdown in 2020, Brouwer was excited to attend his first Rebel Homecoming Festival last year. He still reminisces about the friends he made and how they stayed out past 1 a.m.
Because of last year’s festival, Brouwer connected with people he likely would not have had the chance to meet otherwise.
“It was a really great opportunity to make new friends,” Brouwer said. “And I got a lot of chances to meet a bunch of people in different programs.”
Brouwer spoke about how his roommate José Blea, a journalism major, met up with several journalism classmates. Blea’s friends then became his.
“I made a lot of really good connections that night,” Brouwer said. “And, I think that was super valuable for me as a college experience.”
At last year’s festival, Blea enjoyed getting to know people he had seen around campus or shared classes with. He kept in contact with a few of them and said he wants to reach out to the rest of the group when he gets the chance.
“We ended up becoming really good friends, in part because we randomly met up at the event,” Blea said.
One of their friends from last year, UNLV senior Stephanie Overton, said she originally had not planned on attending, but a couple of classmates convinced her to go.
“I made new friends and made fond memories,” Overton said. “It was the first time I really felt like I was getting the college experience.”
Overton also talked about making new connections on campus.
“I love making new friends,” said Overton. “This was one of the ways that I was able to expand my UNLV friend group and make connections with people who were of similar age (ish) and were going through similar times in their lives as me.”
For some students, the Rebel Homecoming Festival provided a much-needed outlet, not only from school but the stress the community has suffered the last few years. Brouwer went on to say that the Rebel Homecoming helped with even more stress since it is scheduled around midterms.
“It’s just a chance for us to let go,” Brouwer said, “and we’re getting back to normal where we finally can reunite with our friends and have fun and not be afraid to get on carnival rides again.”
UNLV is entangled with the Las Vegas community, this is seen in its campus diversity. That entanglement brings the community closer during events like this.
“I think that’s really special because you see a lot of college towns are very closed off in comparison to UNLV,” Brouwer said. “It’s really just a wonderful community-building experience.”
While a large part of the UNLV community consists of students, the Rebel Homecoming Festival had free tickets, welcoming family and friends to join as well.
The festival was where it all started, but these experiences and friendships can exist long after graduation. Even a small connection of only talking to someone once and maybe exchanging Instagram handles could potentially help open doors in the future.
At this time, it is uncertain where everyone will end up, but no one knows who they will encounter again in the future. Some of those connections can even turn into friendships that can last throughout college and beyond.
“It’s those connections that I can look back on in life if I’m ever having a hard time,” Brouwer said. “It’s just kind of like the butterfly effect. And so I think making any kind of connection is really, really powerful.”
Both Brouwer and Blea look forward to attending next year’s festival as part of their last year as undergrads. Overton mentioned potentially attending next year as a graduate student. The three plan on keeping in touch even after graduation in the coming years.
“We have a lot of great opportunities and a lot of involvement that some schools really don’t have,” said Brouwer.
More information on UNLV’s previous Rebel Homecoming Festivals can be found on the university’s website.
This article was submitted by a UNLV journalism student as part of an assignment for a journalism class to get work published in the student newspaper. The article was edited by The Scarlet & Gray staff.