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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

‘Communiversity’ comes together for block party

Ryanne Sandifer
Victor E. Huskie stands next to the new unveiled statue of Victor E. Huskie that sits in front of DeKalb City Hall, 164 E. Lincoln Highway. (Ryanne Sandifer | Northern Star)

DeKALB – Even gray skies and cold October winds could not damper the Huskie pride put on display during the block party celebration in downtown DeKalb.

On Thursday, Lincoln Highway between First Street and Third Street was closed down for a block party celebrating NIU’s 116th Homecoming. NIU students, faculty, staff, alumni and DeKalb citizens gathered to paint the town red and black as the block party’s events crescendoed towards the grand reveal of a new permanent statue in DeKalb downtown.

At 6:15 p.m. the new statue of Victor E. Huskie was revealed. The gathered crowd clapped and cheered as Matt Streb, chief strategy officer for NIU, unveiled the statue to the world.

Soon after, partygoers swarmed the statue to take group photos and selfies. The real-life Victor E. Huskie even posed for photographs with his doppelgänger.

Planning the concept of the statue began in 2022. Both NIU and DeKalb city leadership spoke about public works projects highlighting the strong relationship of the university and the city.

Icon Poly, a fabrication company in Nebraska with experience making university statues, was commissioned to make the Victor E. Huskie statue, according to Jennifer Groce, NIU director of community promotions. First National Bank of Omaha stepped forward to provide philanthropic funding for the statue.

The Northern Star reached out to NIU staff, FNBO, and Icon Poly to ask how much the statue was, but no parties said they were able to answer accurately.

Even with overcast skies, block partygoers trickled in through the evening, gathering in mass to the planned events and guests.

DeKalb City Mayor Cohen Barnes met with Streb and said the energy from the evening was “phenomenal,” pointing to the crowded streets of the closed highway.

Partygoers danced to top charts as music played from a center stage set up on Second Street. Later, Rockin’ Moxie, a local band, played live to the cheers of the crowd.

Vendors and food trucks from Tangled Roots to Main Squeeze Fresh Lemonade were spread out through the block party selling a variety of sweet and savory treats. 

Show cars lined up along the south end of Lincoln Highway with hoods and doors open for onlookers to inspect the vehicles’ inner workings. One vehicle entitled “Red Rum,” a 1998 Lincoln Town Car, was given a custom paint job, adorned with Huskie flags at the side and a huskie plush on the dashboard.

Children at the Kid’s Zone crowded around activities set up by NIU STEAM, met with representatives from the DeKalb Public Library and even played with puppies from TAILS Humane Society. 

In addition to the activities, a spinning panoramic camera was set up, allowing party-goers to get a 360-degree photo of themselves and friends enjoying the party.

Close to 6 p.m. homecoming staff began clearing the streets for the parade, the “March of the Huskies.”

Kyla Cedeno, a junior communications major, sang the national anthem followed by the DeKalb Fire Department letting loose a siren, ushering in the event. Following behind was NIU President Lisa Freeman, Barnes, Victor E. Huskie, Mission III and more.

The NIU marching band and Silverettes brought up the rear, playing the NIU fight song as crowds on the street and officials on the main stage sang along.

At the final notes of the band played, attention was turned to the main stage. Freeman, Barnes, NIU football coach Thomas Hammock and Frank Roberts of FNBO gave speeches rallying NIU and DeKalb on their shared “communiversity”.

“It’s not our house and DeKalb’s house – it is our space, our house. We are one, and you can see that here tonight,” Freeman said.

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