Punch lines aside, it does in fact take 190 BYU students to screw in a light bulb.
Participants lined the sidewalk of the Hinckley Center early Tuesday afternoon hoping to be one of the first 190 students to make it to the Y in order to secure a coveted bulb and participate in the traditional Homecoming week event.
Sydney Wilder, a sophomore from Nampa, Idaho, studying early childhood development, agreed that while it may appear to be a simple thing, screwing in that light bulb is exciting.
“Last year we were some of the first ones up there and got a light bulb, and people came up to us after asking if they could just share it with us,” Wilder said. “It was kind of funny. We obviously put it in, they just wanted to share the moment, but it was awesome.”
The tradition, which is rumored to have started in 1924, began when students hiked the Y and lit mattress stuffing on fire. Lighting the Y became an annual homecoming event, and for some families it is even a family tradition. Brianna Clineline, a freshman from Clarence, NY, studying industrial design, continued the tradition for her family.
“When my mom was here they didn’t light it then, they just painted it or covered it with fabric, but she told me to make sure that I did it,” Clineline said.
The BYU Student Alumni Association sponsors the event and this year ordered over 500 mini flashlights, passed out t-shirts, arranged for shuttles to take students up to the base of the Y and even provided refreshments and music after.
In Disney-like magic each year since 1988, students make the tiring hike to the top. This year hikers heard from keynote speakers: Michael O’Connor, Alumni Association President, Jared Colton, Student Alumni President and Roy Peterman, director of BYU grounds crew.
That light on the hill stands not only as an icon for the University but for the Provo community as well. For Kelsey Partridge, a sophomore and Provo local, the Y has been a long- standing symbol.
“I can remember being little and looking up and seeing it lit; it was just kind of a cool thing to see,” said Partridge. “I’ve hiked the Y before, but this is the first time I am actually hiking it with the group to light it,” said Partridge.
While it stands as a symbol of the University throughout the year, during Homecoming the Y becomes a light on a hill, a beacon to the community, an honored tradition. It inspires students like Joshua Bleggi, a sophomore from Ellensburg, Wash., studying advertising.
“I don’t know if ‘magical’ is the word I want to use, but there is definitely something powerful about seeing that Y lit up,” said Bleggi. “It makes you feel proud to be a BYU student and to belong to this campus.”