The Crimson White

The stories behind homecoming traditions

Brittney Knox

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During Homecoming week around campus, sorority houses are filled with young women singing and dancing as they work diligently on pomping for their annual direction contest.

 There are many different traditions of Homecoming, a time to call all alumni back “home” such as pomping, the bonfire, the parade and the pep rally.

An article from the Columbia Missourian suggest that the battle for the title of what school had the very first Homecoming is between The University of Missouri in 1911, The University of Illinois in 1910 and Baylor in 1909.

Although there is no definite answer, Homecoming origins date back to the early 1900s with the traditions such as the bonfire, which was first spotted at Baylor University in 1909, according to an article from Baylor’s student newspaper, the Lariat.

The purpose of the bonfire was for freshmen men to ward off any intruders from the rival school that may come on the campus during the time of Homecoming.   

“On campus, the bonfire dates back to before I was at the University in 1967, but there have been several changes to the structure of the bonfire over the years,” said Tom Strong, a former dean of students.

He said a bonfire tragedy at Texas A&M in 1999, when the bonfire stack collapsed and killed 12 people, made every university look at their bonfires.

Another homecoming tradition Strong recalled was remembering the artistic figures that the sorority women created while pomping.

Articles from The Crimson White date pomping back to the 1930s. In an article from The Crimson White, it talks about the judging of homecoming decorations by sororities and fraternities and awarding a cup to the winner.

“There have been several changes in pomping including the sophistication and amazing artistic way the students create their figures,” Strong said. “Every year each sorority tries to outdo the other, and they continue to grow in size.”

The article begins with how great it was for the campus to welcome back Isham Dorsey, a former student, who after 51 years returned back for Homecoming.

When Dorsey left campus in 1886, he left nine buildings and 241 students in enrollment. He came back to 100 buildings and 5,000 students in enrollment. The article also describes current traditions we still are a part of such as the pep rally, and the annual parade.

 “The traditions of homecoming have been going on a long, long time,” said Clark Center, curator in Hoole Special Collections library.

He said some things such as the bonfire and the parade are great ways to celebrate things and enjoy the time together.

“I can recall in the past for the homecoming parade; they used to bring in a real elephant,” he said. “But, over time it got too expensive to do.”

He said Homecoming has gotten a lot bigger, and he can recall when the campus and festivities were smaller and he would go with his friends to the bonfire and watch the parade.

The theme of this year’s Homecoming is “Share the Pride, Celebrate the Tide” and alumni are still able to participate in traditional Homecoming activities including the football game against Ole Miss on Saturday.

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The stories behind homecoming traditions