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College Homecoming Is a Score for Local Business Owners

Tanner Wamsley, manager of the Wooden Nickel, a specialty clothing store next to campus, says the store starts preparing for homecoming weekend during the spring ordering season.

"We order a lot of our name brands in orange and if they don't sell it in orange, we ask them to make it," says Wamsley. "We offer a lot of one-of-a-kind items."

Wamsley says that she estimates business increases by 40% during homecoming and all of the dozen employees are required to work throughout the weekend. "We get a lot of alumni, former employees, people who knew the store when they went to school coming back," says Wamsley of the Wooden Nickel, which has been in business since 1976.

In addition to tourists shopping, money is being spent mostly locally on decorations for the Greek houses and the 100+ parade floats that participate in the pre-game parade on Saturday.

Admission to the Harvest Carnival is also a canned food charity event, with the "admission" then donated to Harvest II, a local food pantry. Carter says 10,300 pounds of food were donated in 2010, which accounted for one-fourth of their food donations for the entire year.

"Of course, the hotels are booked months in advance and the restaurants and bars are also busy," says Carter.

Brian Saliba, owner of Freddie Pauls Steakhouse, is an OSU alum, but that isn't the only reason he looks forward to homecoming each year. "It brings the town closer together and gets everyone excited about OSU and a lot of money also flows that weekend," says Saliba. "I wish every other weekend were homecoming."

Saliba says his business increases by an estimated 22% over homecoming weekend including both the restaurant and catering, and all 50 of his employees are expected to be available to work.

"It just keeps getting bigger and better every year," says Saliba.

Carter says the alumni association is currently in the midst of a $1 billion endowment drive, $4 million of which will be used to benefit future homecoming celebrations. They've raised $910 million so far.

The school has been recognized for having "America's Greatest Homecoming Celebration" from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. "We just want to make sure we can continue the tradition," says Carter.

--By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

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