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More than 100 Mitchell students with Unfiltered REALity, an anti-smoking group, marched Saturday morning in Dakota Wesleyan University's Blue and White Days parade. To fit the parade's theme, Apocalypse 2012, many of the students marched dressed as zombies. (Chris Mueller/Republic)

'Apocalypse 2012' Zombies overtake Main Street for DWU homecoming

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life Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

As crowds of cheerful people lined the sidewalks Saturday on Mitchell's Main Street for Dakota Wesleyan University's Blue and White Days parade, there was no indication of the horror about to unfold.

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As the clock struck 10:30 a.m., the parade began. A jolt of excitement surged through the crowd. And then it happened -- zombies.

"It was pretty terrifying," said Karen Allen, co-adviser of Unfiltered REALity, a local student anti-smoking group. Allen and her fellow co-adviser Traci Moore led a huge mob of more than 100 school-age zombies down the parade route until they finally swarmed unsuspecting parents in a parking lot at the parade's end.

The parade's theme, Apocalypse 2012, drew all types of zombies -- young and old, tall and short, even Christmas-themed. Despite the apparent danger, marching bands from area schools still bravely played and delighted all in attendance, both living and undead. Unusual scenes began to unfold, as floats driven by humans and zombies alike went by the crowd, occasionally tossing candy and waving to spectators.

Allen said her group, made up of local students in grades six to 12, had turned themselves into zombies -- luckily using only face paint and torn clothes -- at a lock-in the night before at Mitchell Middle School.

Participating in DWU's annual homecoming parade was a way to get the tobacco prevention group out into the community, Allen said. "It's a win-win for everybody," she said. The Armour Marching Band won the band competition, just as it did last year. The DWU Math Club and Universities Fighting World Hunger group teamed up and won best entry overall, the DWU nursing department won best use of theme and the DWU theater department won most creative.

There were 11 bands and 62 entries in the parade, according to DWU Student Activities Board adviser Nathan Hofer. No attendance estimate is available, but Hofer said he felt the event was very well-attended with crowds down the entire parade route.

"I know I had a lot of fun and I think the students did as well," he said after the parade. Just a few hours after the parade, DWU's football team defeated Dordt College 45-31 to claim a homecoming victory. DWU Vice President of University Relations Lori Essig said the theme for the parade was "student driven."

"I think it was really fun for them," she said. Though the parade and football game are the main attractions of DWU's homecoming weekend, there were many other events for students and alumni to enjoy. The events included several class reunions, an alumni baseball game and several other DWU athletic events. It all concluded Sunday with a homecoming hymn festival performed by the DWU music department at First United Methodist Church in Mitchell.

"I think everything was really successful," Essig said. The morning of the parade, Bob Benson, a 1967 DWU graduate now living in Castle Rock, Colo., said homecoming gave he and his wife, Ree Anne Benson, a chance to return to the area.

"We always enjoy coming back," he said. Benson, a member of the university's board of trustees, said he was thrilled with the development of the campus, especially the new health sciences building currently being built. "We're excited about everything that's going on at Wesleyan," he said.

Essig said many returning alumni feel the same way as Benson. "I think the people who came back from out of town for (homecoming) had a really good time," she said.

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