Traditions create continuity

lthough this year’s Homecoming celebration promises numerous activities and events, the first festivities could be considered a flop.
The creators of the first Homecoming found it was not only difficult to establish traditions, but also to make them successful. But as 82 years passed, more activities joined the Homecoming calendar of events.
The Homecoming tradition started Nov. 14, 1914, with the effort of Cyrus S. Kaufman, former president of the All-University Council.
There had been no festivities other than the pepfest at the University until 1914, although Homecoming celebrations were getting popular at other colleges in the nation.
Kaufman felt it was imperative to establish a Homecoming tradition at the University. He advocated making a continuance of University tradition as one of the main principles of the council’s constitution.
However, Kaufman ran into difficulty when he found that there was insufficient funds for the festivities. To raise money he sold Homecoming buttons and entered the buyers into a raffle. But he and his money-making idea soon met opposition from then-University President George E. Vincent.
Vincent said that selling the buttons for raffle purposes was an unethical form of gambling.
Although some of the alumni came back home during the first Homecoming week, the only events they could enjoy were the football game, pepfest and bonfire. According to historical records, many people came to the bonfire and pepfest.
As years passed, more activities were added to Homecoming week. However, they weren’t always successful.
Only one man attended the first Alumni Banquet. At the first Homecoming dance, only a pair of professors and their wives came. The evening concert opened with only eight people.
Some popular traditions followed decades after the beginning of Homecoming. The first parade joined the celebration in the 1920s and the first crowning of a Homecoming queen happened in 1932.
Today, 20 festivities are scheduled and University officials host one of the largest parades in Minnesota.
Although the first Homecoming may have been different from the festivities of today, there is one thing in common. Former president J.L. Morrill said in 1953, “Homecoming brings to the campus … a refreshing sense of tradition and continuity, as thousands of former students rejoin their classmates, and mingle with men and women who work and study here today.”