Monday, October 9, 2017

Homecoming Traditions...With a Twist

by Casey Gamble and Bryan Whitledge

We are all familiar with the excitement that Homecoming week brings to campus. Students have fun building up to Homecoming weekend by decorating their residences or joining in on the Medallion Hunt. Student organizations put the finishing touches on their floats. Alumni and CMU fans begin gathering all the maroon and gold they can find to wear for game day. The people of Mount Pleasant enjoy the parade in the morning, the tailgating and football game in the afternoon, and dances and other social events later on. These tend to be the usual festivities planned for the Homecoming, except one year, 1971, when things were shaken up.

The Student Alumni Association decided to get rid of the parades, dances, residence hall decorations, and even the Homecoming court. It was reported that students didn’t particularly care about the court and that there were simply not enough parade participants to make that tradition worthwhile. The Student Alumni Association wanted to try something new that all students and alumni could enjoy, so they organized a carnival, a bazaar, and a "style show" instead. The only traditional aspects they held onto were the pep rally, the snake dance, and the football game.

Homecoming Carnival, 1971

But this idea did not turn out to be such a hit. According to an editorial in CM Life following Homecoming weekend, returning alumni were unimpressed with “coming home” to a ferris wheel ride, and many people felt there was a lack of school spirit. They suggested that the next time big changes were to be made for an event such as Homecoming, those changes should be voted on by the student body to see just how many people care what weekend festivities might be enjoyed. 

Miss CMU Trudy Yarnell took the place of the Homecoming Queen in 1971

This would seem like a fair compromise, but in a rebuttal editorial post published two days later, the Co-chairmen of the Homecoming Steering Committee had many answers and explanations for the series of complaints. They felt that the Homecoming queen did not really represent CMU in its entirety, and that Miss CMU, who took the place of the queen and her court, would be a better fit. They also found that “at least 50 groups requested to build a booth for the bazaar,” which seemed to mean that there was more interest shown for the bazaar than previous parades. The Homecoming Steering Committee also noted that they did not intend for students to refrain from decorating their dorms, only that students should decorate lightly and donate to charity the rest of the money that they normally would have spent on decorations.

The experiment of the alternative Homecoming of 1971 was a one-time event that did not quite resonate with all the attendees. But the spirit of updating some of the traditions of Homecoming to better reflect the University has lived on. Since that time, the Homecoming Ambassadors have replaced the queen and her court, the dances are not as popular as they once were, and the Medallion Hunt, started in 2003, as well as the cardboard boat race, started in 1998, have become campus favorites. As long as Homecoming is a tradition at CMU, there will always be students and alumni reinventing the traditions to make them their own.

This blog post originally appeared in a slightly different form October 2, 2014. It is one in a series of information detailing the history of Central Michigan University in celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the institution. Be sure to check out the official 125th Anniversary website – – and the Clarke’s fall exhibit, on display through February 2018, for more great stories.