It’s homecoming week! For most of us, when we think of homecoming, we think of football and dances. We think of rivalries and time-honored traditions that are portrayed in movies and television shows. Having been around since organized college football, many universities claim to have started both these rivalries and the celebration behind the returning of alumni to cheer on their alma maters. No matter who started them, there are many such traditions that have gained a reputation for being strange or odd. The universities that claim these unique traditions also seem to embrace them. So, as we celebrate our own homecoming this week, here are five homecoming traditions from universities across the nation:
Since 1967, Texas State University has hosted a Soap Box Derby each year during homecoming. Imagine building a car from nothing but wood, nails, glue and determination. Then, imagine getting into that car and racing it down a giant ramp, trying to beat a bunch of other coffin-shaped, glorified skateboards to the finish line. Luckily, the cars don’t have engines and there are hay bales at the finish line in case the brakes fail. Oh, and the cars only fall apart if something hits them. Sounds fun, right? Students at Texas State love it. There are competitions between student organizations, Greek and residence halls, keeping that spirit of rivalry alive throughout the years.
Howard University puts on a widely anticipated music festival each year during their homecoming week. Yard Fest might sound familiar to hip hop fans as the festival that host rappers like the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, DMX, Drake and Kanye West. This concert quickly became the most popular homecoming event at Howard and one of the more unique traditions celebrating this time of year.
Since 1980, Ball State University has sponsored an annual Bed Race during their homecoming. In the race, it’s up to five-student teams to build a race-able “vehicle” out of a mattress. While this task might seem daunting, it is the finished products — complete with wheels and accoutrements — combined with wild costumes that make this homecoming tradition a crowd favorite.
Some traditions during homecoming are meant to signify an important “passing of the torch” from graduating seniors to the next group to carry that honor. Arizona State University takes this a step further with their Lantern Walk, including students, alumni, staff, family and friends in the event. Every year since 1917, students have gathered around “A” mountain, also known as Tempe Butte. They climb the butte with lanterns and, once on top, collect themselves into the shape of a giant “A.” While not the strangest of traditions, it does show a certain uniqueness and expresses a level of unity rarely seen between a university and the community that supports it.
Dooley Days, Emory University
While Dooley Days aren’t a homecoming tradition, they are considered to be one of the most anticipated and celebrated events at Emory University. Besides, what is cooler than a skeleton who can grant a week of fun and relaxation for students and staff alike? Dooley, also known as the Lady of Misrule, is an actual skeleton in the biology lab on campus. With a tradition dating back over 120 years, it is also no surprise that Dooley has more doctorates and master’s degrees than anyone else, well, alive. Each year, around spring break, students eagerly await her arrival, knowing that with her haunting footsteps comes a week-long festival and celebration. She is almost like a creepy Santa Claus, giving the gift of no classes to students all across campus.
More than just an excuse for football rivalry, homecoming is all about tradition and celebrating those who have come before us. The alumni of UVU represent the future. In honoring our school this week, we are also honoring those who have made words like “tradition” actually mean something. While many traditions out there seem odd or strange, they also bring a campus community together to recognize that a school is something to be proud of. So, thank you to those UVU graduates who have given us something to look forward to and something to celebrate during this homecoming week.