Written by Thomas Baccaro ’18, Student Alumni Association Member
Traditions have always been important at UConn since its founding in 1881. When thinking about traditions today, OOzeball and One Ton Sundae come to mind, but these have not been the only traditions during UConn’s long history. Looking back as far as the 1890s, we will take a quick look at some past traditions.
1. 1890s: The Horse Rush
This tradition, spanning back to the early days of what was then Storrs Agricultural College, was a competition between juniors and seniors. The objective was simple: a single senior, along with the rest of the senior class protecting him, would try to ride a horse for a 300 yard stretch on Storrs Road while the junior class tried to prevent this from happening by pulling the rider off. This event ended around the beginning of the 20th century when the upperclassmen decided the event was beneath them.
2. 1900s: The Rope Pull
Around the beginning of the 20th century, the underclassmen wanted their own tradition and came up with the annual rope pull which pitted freshman against sophomores. A rope was stretched across either Swan Lake (then known as Duck Pond) or Mirror Lake with each class on a side. This tradition held for 46 years until the 1950s.
3. 1913: The Freshman Banquet
This tradition was described as “an annual event that broke more heads, smashed more furniture, wrecked more hotel dining rooms and lobbies, and sullied the college’s reputation more than any combination of previous class contests.” The banquet pitted freshmen against sophomores. The incoming first-year class had to hold a banquet sometime during a one-month period (later cut to 16 days) in the fall semester, and sophomores had to prevent it from being held. The rules were:
- The freshman class president had to attend the banquet and couldn’t be held prisoner by sophomores for more than 24 hours prior to the event
- The banquet had to be held within 65 miles of the Storrs campus
- 50 percent of the freshmen class had to attend
Besides those rules, essentially nothing was off limits. Sophomores were often seen around campus with weapons, road blocks were set up on Route 195 to check each passing car, and often telephone lines were cut.
The Freshman Banquet ended in 1921 after being abolished by the student government due to the costs, the property damage, and the bad publicity it gave the college. It was soon replaced by the next tradition…
4. 1922: The Pig Roast
Following the Freshman Banquet was a modified event called the Pig Roast. The rules were similar:
- Freshmen had to roast a pig weighing at least 50 pounds over a wood fire for at least one hour in the open air
- The class president and 50 percent of the class membership had to be present for the event
- A revised rule later said that if the president was not present for the Pig Roast, 70 percent of the class had to attend
- Using automobiles during the allotted time was prohibited
- Constraining any freshman for more than five hours was prohibited
- Using weapons was also forbidden
This event came to an end in 1925 when University President Charles Beach banned all forms of freshmen hazing.
5. 1932: The Pied Piper Parade
In 1932, then President Charles McCracken wanted an alternative to the Pig Roast and asked the new director of music, Herbert France, to come up with an idea. What he came up with was the Pied Piper Parade, a tradition that would last 40 years. For the first parade during Freshmen Week in 1932, France dressed the president of the Student Organization (the 1932 equivalent of today’s Undergraduate Student Government) in a costume like that of the legendary Pied Piper. The Piper led the 35-member band through the campus, first to the home of President, who fell in line behind the band, and then on to the women’s and men’s residence halls. The halls emptied, and even townspeople joined in the parade that marched to Beach Hall.
The first parade drew 1,500 marchers, at a time when total enrollment was only 706 students. At bleachers set up outside Beach Hall, participants heard the Men’s Glee Club and soloists sing, and there were humorous skits and speeches. Over the years, the event changed to include an annual mock election for “The Mayor of Storrs,” and later a candle-light ceremony, with each freshman lighting his or her candle from a neighbor or from the Pied Piper’s torch. The last Pied Piper Parade was held in 1972, the last year that Freshmen Week was held.
For 21st century Huskies, the UConn community has many beloved traditions. Our 81 Things to Do Before You Graduate list catalogs several of these, and we encourage you to check it out! We’ll also be featuring more traditions on this blog, so come back next month.