MOSCOW — The University of Idaho’s annual homecoming parade marched through downtown Moscow on Saturday after a one-year hiatus thanks to the pandemic.

Students, alumni and community members gathered in droves to line Main Street for the festivities, graced by an unusually clear sky. Last year, the university moved most of its in-person homecoming events online after a spike in COVID-19 cases on campus.

Kathy Lauda, a graduate of the university in 1978, enjoyed watching the Vandal Marching Band with her mom and husband, another UI graduate. All four of their children are Vandals as well.

“We love to see all the familiar faces and Vandal colors,” Lauda said. “This is a tradition for us and it’s really nice we could come back and celebrate again this year.”

Her family toured UI’s new Idaho Central Credit Union Arena following its grand opening Friday, and made plans to attend the volleyball game against Montana State University the next day.

The grand marshal for the parade, former UI basketball coach and alumnus Don Monson, waved to the crowd from his spot in the procession.

Monson said he was honored to visit the recently finished basketball arena and find his name memorialized on the wall.

“I played my college basketball in Memorial Gym, so it’s quite gratifying to see the new facility,” he said. “It’s something they can be really proud of. I think they hit the jackpot.”

Monson graduated in 1955 after lettering four times for the men’s basketball team. He coached the basketball program through its first NCAA tournament in 1980-81 and was inducted into the Vandal Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007.

“It’s just great to be back at the university,” Monson said.

This year’s homecoming celebration, the 113th to date, marks 100 years since the official nickname of “Vandals” was widely adopted for Idaho athletics teams at the state’s land-grant institution.

During the celebration, UI President Scott Green could be seen tossing candy from the back of his shiny Vandal truck. Green was escorted by his own “secret service,” about 20 students dressed in suits with sunglasses and Airpods.

Becker Gotsch, an alumna and former employee of the university, said even though she had to wear a mask, it was exciting to be in the crowd watching the faces march by.

“Everybody had a smile and everybody was stepping high,” she said. “They were just really in the groove.”

Gotsch added that she believes Green inherited a challenge when he took over for former UI president Chuck Staben in July 2019.

Green’s administration faced a projected $22 million budget deficit right off the bat, but even through the financial woes of COVID-19 and funding cuts from the 2021 legislative session, the university managed to leave fiscal year 2020 with a modest surplus of about $900,000.

“I’m impressed with what he’s doing,” she said. “For the good of the community and the university, I think he’s done a tremendous job.”

Palermo can be reached at apalermo@dnews.com or on Twitter @apalermotweets.

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