Footballs fly through a cloudless Saturday morning sky on the Denton Square as children run around outside the courthouse, fueled by hot chocolate. Their parents sit in truck beds and camping chairs, bundled beneath blankets to fend off a chilly northern wind.

At around 10 a.m., fire truck sirens echo in the distance followed closely by the University of North Texas fight song. The children ditch their footballs, scrambling back to the edge of the Square to rejoin their parents and watch the UNT Homecoming Parade.

Parade floats and old-school cars shuttled hundreds of UNT students representing dozens of organizations, including the UNT cheerleaders, North Texas Dancers and the homecoming court, around Denton on Saturday.

Additionally, alumni and several other local organizations marched in the parade ahead of Saturday afternoon’s game against the University of Texas at El Paso.

The paraders traveled across the UNT campus and took a right to head east on West Hickory Street before turning around on the Denton Square and heading back west, down West Oak Street.

A combination of alumni, students and their families lined the Square to participate in the festivities.

“My family always watched the parade on the Square,” UNT alum Chester Hufstedler said. “It’s the best place to watch it.”

Chester and his wife, Silveria, were among the first to arrive Saturday morning and watched the parade from the bed of their truck. Chester graduated from UNT, then North Texas State University, in 1986, and Silveria graduated in 1987. Chester has had UNT football season tickets since he was 7 years old and estimated this was his 45th time to participate in the homecoming festivities.

“I really enjoy watching the parade, but the best part of the weekend is the football game,” Chester said with a grin.

A lot has changed in the 30 years since they graduated, the couple said. Silveria and Chester agreed that Denton has transformed into a different city, and UNT, a different university.

“Denton’s grown, just completely exploded,” Chester said. “When we were students, the population was around 60,000, and UNT surpassed 20,000 [students] for the first time when we were in school.”

The university has more than doubled in size since they graduated in terms of student enrollment, and the couple said it’s nice to see UNT’s reach spread across Texas.

“Over the last five years, I’ve seen more and more people in North Texas gear all around the state,” Silveria said. “As an alum, it makes me proud. Our music program has always been great, but it’s nice to see us excel in other areas as well.”

JESSE BRACKEEN can be reached via Twitter at @BrackeenJesse.

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