The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

September 21, 2013

UPJ homecoming festivities are on tap for next weekend

JOHNSTOWN — What happens at Pitt-Johnstown, stays at Pitt-Johnstown.

The university is hosting a Las Vegas-themed homecoming and family weekend Friday and Saturday. The celebration coincides with the 86th anniversary of UPJ’s founding in 1927 and the 46th anniversary of the dedication of the university’s Richland Township campus.

“While a homecoming celebration is typically associated with students and alumni, UPJ’s homecoming is an invitation for the entire community to come together and celebrate our rich history,” said Bob Knipple, UPJ’s spokesman. “It was the community that helped to establish us in 1927 and it’s the community that has helped to sustain us these 86 years later.”

The celebration kicks off with the annual PITT-nic in the Park from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in downtown Johnstown, where the school first began.

The event features free hot dogs, popcorn, dessert, beverages, prizes and a special performance at 11:30 by “The Second Shepherd’s Play” from the UPJ Student Theatre Troupe.

The school’s mascot, PJ the Mountain Cat, will be on hand to distribute balloons, greet visitors and pose for photos.

PITT-nic in the Park, which was established in 2006, is a signature component of Pitt-Johnstown @ Your Service.

At 3 p.m. Friday, the campus and community will come together for a grand opening ceremony for the Nursing and Health Sciences building.

The $12 million, 26,000-square-foot facility includes 11 laboratories for chemistry and biology, one nursing simulation laboratory, six faculty offices and two seminar/classrooms.

“This year’s homecoming is especially significant because it will be the first opportunity for people to see our new Nursing and Health Sciences Building,” Knipple said. “It’s just one of the many indicators of growth that people will find when they come to campus.”

Then at 8:30 p.m. on the campus mall, Zambelli Fireworks, one of the nation’s oldest and largest fireworks companies that is known as the “First Family of Fireworks,” will launch a display choreographed to music.

The Pitt-Johnstown Alumni Association will host a reception earlier that evening for alumni and current and retired faculty and staff. Advanced registration is preferred for the reception.

Musical entertainment will be provided throughout the evening by Casey Weston, a singer-songwriter who has opened for top-40 and country acts on the national concert circuit and was one of the eight finalists in the inaugural season of the television sensation “The Voice.”

The evening will close with a 9 p.m. showing of “The Hangover” on the Owen Library lawn.

Festivities continue at 11 a.m. Saturday with the homecoming parade.

The Las Vegas-themed parade will feature floats and banners, the Forest Hills marching band and the homecoming queen candidates.

The parade will form at the Richland Cinemas before moving onto Theatre Drive then onto Schoolhouse Road. The parade will enter the campus via Picking Drive and proceed onto Kunk’s Drive, where a reviewing stand will be erected in front of the J. Irving Whalley Memorial Chapel.

Following the parade, the coronation of the homecoming queen will be held at 12:30 p.m. at University Square.

The afternoon will include a number of activities for children of all ages ranging from a live performance by UPJ’s own “Mad Scientist,” David Willey, nationally known for his appearances on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno”; an up-close and personal look at more than a dozen different animals at the Pitt-Johnstown Zoo; and an ice cream extravaganza sponsored by the Education Division Alumni.

The evening will close with a Casino Night in the Student Union, as well as a concert at the Log Cabin featuring “Dead Irish Blues,” sponsored by Eagle Ridge Industries. Advance registration is required for the concert.

For a complete listing of homecoming and family weekend activities, visit

Kelly Urban is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at


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