For the first time since the pandemic started, University of Texas Permian Basin is inviting the community back to campus for Homecoming.

The festivities, which have a Halloween theme, run from Oct. 18-23. The tagline is “A Scary Good Time.”

The grand finale is the football game between UTPB and Eastern New Mexico University at 6 p.m. Saturday at Grande Stadium.

Student Life Coordinator Emily Banda said they were only able to have a short version of Homecoming last spring.

“We’re finally able to invite the public back onto our campus to have some fun with us,” Banda said.

The biggest events, she said, are the Halloween Carnival at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Mesa Courtyard, especially because that’s open to the public and it’s a fundraiser for student organizations.

“… Friday’s really our busiest day and I think it’s the focal point for homecoming,” Banda said.

The parade starts at 5:45 p.m. at the UTPB Circle. There will be a block party where they will give away free Chick-fil-A. There will be inflatables, the Current Nine will play live and there will be games.

This will be followed by a pep rally at 8 p.m. with the cheer and step teams, ballet folklorico and a bonfire. The bonfire will be followed by fireworks.

The grand opening of the D. Kirk Edwards Family Human Performance Center will be at 4 p.m. Friday.

“We’ll have speeches from Dr. Woodley and Coach Kerrigan from the football team,” Banda said.

She said she is the advisor for the Homecoming Committee, which is made up of students.

“They really dictate what is on trend right now,” Banda said.

She added that there aren’t strong, established traditions at UTPB yet.

“But they really have taken this opportunity to establish some really neat events that we look forward to keeping as … Homecoming traditions on our campus,” Banda said.

Victoria Fikes, a junior, said she is looking forward to the “Nailed It” event at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Student Activity Center. It is based on the Netflix show that has bakers trying to re-create elaborate baked goods for prize money.

“We’re going to have spirit teams trying to like recreate stuff … Everybody I’ve talked to is really excited about that event. So I’m really excited to see how that one turns out,” Fikes said.

Josh Lujan, a senior, said he is most looking forward to the parade because he really likes them.

“And everything’s Halloween themed, so everybody’s float and stuff will hopefully be decked out according to theme, and the community is going to be out there,” Lujan said.

Devyn Johnson, also a junior, said she was most excited about the Lip Sync Battle, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the UTPB library.

“… It’s always fun seeing what people come up with, especially since sometimes you will come up with it like 10 minutes before they get there. It’s always fun seeing what the students come up with as a group,” Johnson said.

Johnson said it was eye-opening to be involved in the planning because she has gone to events and been impressed, but seeing what goes on behind the scenes is a whole other experience.

Lujan said it was gratifying to see their ideas come to life.

“I’m really excited to go to Homecoming and be able to watch these events unfold and … (watch) everybody have fun and be able to feel proud of these events,” he said.

Lujan added that this was probably one of the most stressful things he’s done in his life.

“But it is the most rewarding experience that I possibly have also had in my life. Just seeing students really love something that you molded and crafted from your own blood, sweat and tears and laboring, and just being frustrated over contracts that didn’t work out, or initial plans that didn’t work out, but you had to figure something out instead and they loved it regardless. That’s probably like the most rewarding thing,” Lujan said.

A Zombie Run is planned for 9 p.m. Wednesday in the UTPB Quad.

“We’re inviting all of our attendees to come dressed up as zombies and we’ll have a route set up and students will basically run around campus dressed as zombies. There will be some winners. They’ll win some really nice UTPB swag …,” Banda said.

Banda added that this is a chance to bring UTPB and Odessa together.

“I think it’s really important for us to start exposing kids to the college experience early on, and they can see that there are options locally for a great education, for a great college experience and that it’s in their backyards. That for us is really important and especially that they have friends on this campus and if they need mentors, if they need friends, anything like that we have those resources here on campus already,” she said.

She added that they are excited to be inviting alumni back.

Alumni engagement is something they are hoping to grow in years to come.