Ball State’s Homecoming Court continues to hold seats for more than just college students as four children take up royal roles for the third year in a row. This year’s young court consists of Princess London Braun, Prince Lucas Heiden, Lad Caden West and Lady Blakely Clark.
The chosen four will ride in the Homecoming Parade, receive free tickets to the football game and have their names announced at the game, said Grace Balangee, who organized the program this year as the community and scholarships chair of the Homecoming Steering Committee.
All applicants who applied with their answer to the question “what do they think of when they think of Ball State” and submitted their best drawing of Charlie Cardinal were either children or grandchildren of Ball State alumni, Balangee said.
Being a princess to London, 5, means wearing a “tiara” and a dress while getting to throw candy. She said she thinks Ball State is “good,” and she likes the “frog pond” and “the ducks.”
Ball State itself is special to Emily Braun, London’s mother and 2006 alumna, and her husband because it’s where they met.
“I think it’s a really neat program for alumni to be involved with the homecoming and living here in Muncie, our kids are very familiar with Ball State — coming to campus, riding your bike on campus, feeding the ducks at the duck pond,” Braun said. “I think it’s a really cool way to kind of show our family a little taste of Ball State.”
London has attended previous homecoming events, Braun said, with her first experience ending with an “armful of candy.”
This time, London is excited about throwing the candy and has even practiced her wave, Braun said. She’ll be wearing a yellow skirt and shirt with a black jacket for the football game “so she won’t trip on her dress.”
Lucas, 8, rated his excitement on a scale of one to 10 at a nine. He said he’s looking forward to almost everything, but he is nervous about “going down in the football game.” However, he thinks walking around campus may have helped him prepare for the pressure.
“I think it’s pretty special,” Lucas said. “Because a bunch of kids tried to do it, and I was the one who got picked.”
Lauren Heiden, Lucas’ mother and 2006 alumna, said it’s fun that he was chosen because it brings her family full circle, allowing her children to see "how special Ball State is.”
“This is a very special place to us,” Heiden said. “So, we come back regularly on special occasions like our anniversary, Valentine’s Day.”
Lucas may be nervous about being on the field, but his mother said he has been in past Ball State parades with his grandfather and celebrates Homecoming at his elementary school every year.
Lucas said he believes his drawing of Charlie Cardinal, which said, “Let the Good times SOAR,” is what set him apart from the other applicants.
Caden, 3, is “happy” and excited about “everything,” his mother Shelly West said in an email.
West, a 2003 alumna, helped Caden apply because she thought it would be fun for him “to be a part of a day that we enjoy celebrating with our family.”
Caden’s father and grandparents are also Ball State alumni, who have had Ball State Football season tickets since his father was a kid.
“Homecoming is a time that we as a family know that I think is going to be a fun filled day with family and friends,” Shelly said. “We see ‘old’ friends and bring new friends along for the parade, tailgating and football game.”
As for getting to meet the Homecoming King and Queen, West said “[Caden] wants to ask the King if he can play football at the Homecoming [game],” but he “is nervous about the Queen because he thinks she is going to be mean.”
Caden will be wearing a Ball State Football Jersey for the parade and game, West said, and he has been practicing his wave for the event.
“We think this will just be another great memory for our family during Homecoming,” West said.
The most exciting part for Blakely, 3, is the prospect of throwing candy, especially at her sister, said her mother Nicole Clark, a 2010 alumna.
“I think [the program]’s great. She’s really excited. She keeps saying ... I am the princess of Ball State,” Clark said.
Since Blakely was born, Clark said her family has been taking her to Ball State basketball games, where she loves to watch the cheerleaders.
Blakely’s third birthday party was also themed after the university, Clark said, adding that her daughter even has a pair of red shoes she likes to call her “Ball State shoes.”
Contact Alyssa Cooper with comments at email@example.com.