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Homecoming weekend to feature live falcon

October 2, 2014

Jordan Jones holding Freddy, who will make appearances this weekend.
Jordan Jones holding Freddy, who will make appearances this weekend. (Ryan Tibbitts/Student Voice)

As another Homecoming weekend approaches, there is a new Freddy the Falcon mascot soaring onto the UW-River Falls campus with the goal of helping connect students, family and alumni.

This Freddy happens to be a real 17-month-old three-quarters peregrine and one-quarter gyrfalcon falcon trained by UWRF student and master falconer Jordan Jones. Jones has been training falcons for eight years.

Jones grew up in Arkansas but transferred from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2012 when his girlfriend got a job offer in the area.

“I realized I am a falconer and that they had a falcon for a mascot, so I thought it was a sign I should be here,” Jones said. After transferring here, Jones said he got his wheels turning when he met ornithology professor and biology department chair Dr. Mark Bergland in his ornithology class. They decided it would be nice to bring in a falcon and use it for conservation education.

“The class loved it and my whole talk, so the wheels started turning even faster,” Jones said. “We thought, ‘what if we got a living falcon mascot here’?”

Now Jones, who graduates in December, is hoping to get a permanent position at UWRF where he could go into classrooms and use Freddy as a teaching tool. He would also bring him to sporting events to rally students and faculty.

“I think it’s very exciting,” Jones said. “All the students that see the bird get really excited and I think it’s a great tool to rally students, and to also use as recruitment at college fairs to get people to come to our booths.”

Freddy will be out and about this Homecoming weekend at the parade and football game, but Jones said he will not be quite ready to fly yet.

“We’re training him like an athlete, with a strict diet and tough exercise workouts to get him ready to fly at games in the future,” Jones said.

While the new Freddy is one thing to get excited about for this year’s homecoming, there’s also a plethora of other events being put on.

This year, for the first time, there was a Homecoming committee made up of voices from many different areas on campus that have all been putting in hours since last spring in order to put on a great weekend for students, families and alumni.

“It’s a big undertaking, but it’s certainly worth it,” Director of Student Life Paul Sheperd said.

Student Life has historically been a large part of the annual homecoming celebration, and this year they’re putting on some bigger events such as Falcon’s Got Talent, the annual parade, and the tailgating event before the football game.

When asked if students could only attend one event all Homecoming weekend which should it be, Sheperd said he was partial to Falcons Got Talent, which will be at 8 p.m. on Friday night in the Falcons Nest.

“I think it’s cool how more and more people come out every year,” Shepherd said. “Sometimes when you do a talent show type of event a lot of students won’t show up, but this event has continued to fill most of the Falcon’s Nest.”

Shepherd said there have been acts in the past ranging from an acting group that put on some small scenes, lip-syncs and even a stand-up comedy routine. The event is judged kind of like an American Idol format and is just for fun with some small prizes.

This year’s Homecoming weekend is also filled with alumni events like North Hall celebrating 100 years and different clubs having reunions with past members.

“Attending an event like Homecoming is unique and something you can continue to do your entire life as a UWRF graduate,” Shepherd said.

For students like junior Robert Kueppers and sophomore Christina Swanby, the football game is still the one must-attend event.

“It’s homecoming; you have to go to the football game,” Kueppers said.

“Homecoming is all about the positive vibes and coming together over the game,” Swanby said. “If you haven’t lost your voice by the end of the game, you’re doing it wrong.”

This year UWRF takes on UW-Stevens Point for its first WIAC game coming off a big win against a Div. II opponent in South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

The Falcons will also play its first ever game on the new artificial turf at Ramer Field, and are the last team in the WIAC to get artificial turf. Kickoff for the game is set for 2 p.m. For a complete list of everything going on for Homecoming, search “homecoming” on FalconSync, uwrf.edu, or on the UW-River Falls Facebook page.