This year, Blue Devils won’t don their evening best and trek to Wilson Gym for the homecoming dance. Instead, they’ll head to the Bryan Center Plaza.

“This year’s Homecoming Weekend is really all about reinvention,” wrote Christina Holder, senior director of marketing and communications for the Duke Alumni Association, in an email. The biggest change to the weekend is the “Party on the Plaza,” replacing the President’s Dance.

She cited the need for more space to accommodate all the guests at the party and the desire to be closer to other Homecoming events as the reason for the move.

More than 1,300 alumni will be back on campus this weekend. Holder said the number of attendees has increased almost every year. 

“We’ve designed this weekend to be a true party in the heart of campus,” she said. 

At the event, students can watch dance and singing groups perform, make commemorative Homecoming art and participate in a glow-stick dance party. Snacks and drinks will be provided. An alumni VIP lounge exclusively for graduates will open at 8 p.m. in Penn Pavilion with beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks and light appetizers.

In past years, the Homecoming President’s Dance has been held in Wilson Gym and K-Ville. The event featured a live band and a number of performances by student dance groups. Light appetizers and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks were served. The event also took place later in the night, going from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. instead of 5 to 11 p.m. 

All students were checked prior to entering the dance, needing to show a Duke ID to enter and a government-issued ID to enjoy the bar. 

This year, students do not need to check in to enter the Bryan Center Plaza, though alumni have to check in and need a government-issued ID for certain events. 

In addition to the celebration Friday, the Duke Alumni Association will host events for other alumni groups, including the Duke Black Alumni Homecoming events, events with select academic departments for graduate and professional students and a pregame event in Wilson Gym prior to the football game against N.C. Central Saturday. 

An alumni celebration at Brightleaf Square for the first four most recent graduate classes will follow the game. 

“We’ve worked to bring something brand new to homecoming this year and to ensure there is something for everyone – including students and alumni of all undergraduate, graduate and professional school classes.” Holder said. 

Not all students are happy with the switch in location. Junior Devon Shusterman said she wishes the semi-formal dance was still happening.

“We don’t have a lot of chances to get totally decked out and dance with everyone at Duke, so not having a big homecoming dance is a bummer,” she said. “I hope they bring it back. I had a lot of fun at the dance last year, especially with the live band.”

Holder said the Alumni Association is waiting to see how this year’s celebration goes before making any changes permanent, including the location of the event, but is currently excited about the shift to the Bryan Center Plaza. 

“This year, Homecoming is an experiment in throwing everything up in the air and seeing what new thing we can create,” she said.