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Illinois State University community members were glowing with Redbird pride at the dawn of Homecoming 2014.

Illinois State President Larry Dietz and Town of Normal Mayor Chris Koos helped kick off the festivities on September 25 with a special tree-lighting ceremony in Uptown Normal. The two leaders came together to illuminate the red and white lights spread out in the trees throughout Uptown Normal.

Dietz said the tradition links the town and the University in many important ways.

“The improvement over the last few years to what used to be Uptown Normal and what we see today is dramatically different,” he said. “That improvement helps us every day to recruit students. It impresses parents of those students we’re recruiting, and it gives those individuals a place to dine, a place to shop, and a place to feel at home just within a brief walk of the campus.”

Members of the Big Red Marching Machine were also present to play the “ISU Fight Song” while Dietz and Koos completed the circuits in Uptown Circle to light the way for Illinois State’s weeklong annual celebration.

“For over 150 years, the Town of Normal and Illinois State University have shared common physical space and common goals for the community and students,” Koos said. “Without Illinois State University, Normal would not thrive, and without a thriving Normal, Illinois State’s mission becomes harder. We celebrate that level of cooperation that gets stronger every year.”

The Redbird Pride Committee and Town of Normal partnered together on the project, now in its fourth year. The decoration began for Homecoming 2011 with lights only in the then-newly constructed Uptown Circle, and then quickly expanded over the next three years. This fall, the lighted area has expanded to cover Constitution Boulevard.

The red and white lights will shine all throughout Homecoming week 2014 and again be turned on in November for the holiday season.

Zach Dietmeier can be reached at