Soup and sandwich. Love and marriage. Horse and carriage. Think of all the “can’t have one without the other” duos, and you’re on the right track for what administrators and organizers anticipate Howard Payne University’s 2012 Homecoming will be next weekend.

“This is just going to be a great, great year and a fantastic homecoming,” said Paul Dunne, vice president for development at HPU.

The weekend has always been multi-event, multi level, but this year, Dunne said, more things than ever have been fit into the schedule, thanks “in huge part” to community sponsorship.

“We have 26 businesses that have joined us as sponsors, and we literally could not do homecoming without their sponsorship,” Dunne said. “Every one of our major events have been named after major sponsors and that is huge.”

Dunne, who attended HPU in the late ‘70s, along with alumni relations director Nancy Stevens Heady, Class of ‘75, remembered in their student days that the integration of campus and community seemed to be stronger.

“What we looked at in organizing the event was the benefits not just for our students, but for the community,” Dunne said. “It’s a two-way relationship. Let’s bring our students to their businesses to be their customers and clients. But let’s bring those businesses onto our campus so they have a presence.

“When we went looking for sponsorships, we – in effect – said that we weren’t looking for a handout. We wanted a handshake.”

This year’s homecoming theme is “The Great Adventure.” Approximately 40 events are planned for throughout the weekend, and while some of those are “of course” dedicated to alumni, some will be of interest to many in the community, Heady said.

For instance, she said, the university will host Underwood’s Cobbler on the Campus, a dessert social open to all campus visitors, from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Friday at Muse Plaza and Mall. HPU alumnus Clay Tyner will perform.

From 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday evening, the university will host the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce pep rally and fireworks show at Don Shepard Park (HPU’s baseball park).

A traditional Howard Payne Homecoming highlight is the HPU Theatre and Drama Department’s musical, and this year’s production is a must-see hilarious performance.

“We’re doing ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ and are so, so excite d. Alumni, students and the community will want to see this,” said Dr. Nancy Jo Humfeld, director for the play and department chair.

Though plays previously have been to sell-out crowds, there is certainly room for more this year because the play is being staged on the university’s Mims Auditorium. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. next Sunday. For ticket information, contact the School of Music and Fine Arts at (325) 649-8500.

The Big Country Ford Parade will travel around the HPU campus starting at 11 a.m. Saturday from HPU’s Doakie Day Art Center around the Mabee University Center, down Fisk Street to Austin Avenue, where it will turn and re-enter the campus on Center Avenue, then end on HPU’s Wilson Walkway.

It will be followed by the TexasBank Picnic on the Plaza, which will begin at noon Saturday at Muse Plaza and Mall.

A variety of reunions and other events will be held throughout the weekend. A complete schedule of events is available online at homecoming.hputx.edu or by calling (800) 950-8465 or (325) 649-8069. A full calendar of events, various ticket packages and information about this year’s honorees are also available online.