Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
By Jen Wendel Opinions Editor
Kalamazoo College held the first homecoming celebration in 1919. Taking into account the three-year hiatus for World War II, this weekend will mark the event’s 90th anniversary.
For the anniversary this year, special projects manager for the Office of Student Involvement, Ian Flanagan ’13 made a “Homecoming Traditions” display in the hallway outside the OSI in Hicks.
“The changes in homecoming do tell you a lot about changes at Kalamazoo College,” said Flanagan. “There are lot of the traditions that you see [in the exhibit] that aren’t in practice anymore.”
For example, every year up until the ’90s, K held a bonfire on the football field the night before the homecoming game. And at least for a while, students burned their belongings in the fire. First years, until the ’70s, had to wear green caps around campus called “pots.”
“The night before Homecoming they’d all get together and burn their hats to mark their assimilation into college life,” said Flanagan.
Homecoming dances used to be themed. Some were historical, like space-themed, commemorating Sputnik, or Civil War-themed during its 100th anniversary.
Student literary societies, and social groups used to host a display contest the night before the Homecoming game. Many of the groups mocked opposing teams, but some were more serious, like the year students created a Vietnam War protest on the lawn in front of Hicks.
Until the early ’70s, K traditionally elected homecoming queens and hosted alumni-student banquets in the dining hall. Only on-campus males were allowed to vote for Homecoming queens. Banquets would happen only after the student body could all fit inside the dining hall.
“In the original homecomings from the ’20s and ’30s, all events were about bringing students and alumni together,”said Flanagan.
As the College stopped hosting alumni banquets and literary societies slowly disappeared in the ’70s, the look of K’s homecoming changed.
“They started emphasizing homecoming as a weekend for alumni, not a weekend for alumni and students,” said Flanagan.
Without the organizing structures on campus, attendance for Homecoming dropped in the ’80s. But now, homecoming participation is on the rise.
“I think student interest in homecoming has actually increased in the past couple of years,” said Flanagan. “There were over 1,000 alumni here last year,” he said.
This year, homecoming will feature reunions for 11 graduated classes on campus, the Career and Professional Development Institute sponsored by the CCPD, a homecoming dance and dozens of other on-campus activities.