Looking back at past homecomings

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Homecoming week is packed full of activities for students. BYU sponsors events every day of the week, from lighting the Y to True Blue Foam to Saturday’s football game.

BYU Homecoming dates back several decades, but it has evolved substantially over the years. Although its purpose of promoting school pride has remained the same, many events have come and gone while others have changed to make the Homecoming week we know today.

University archivist Cory Nimer shared some photos and stories from BYU homecomings of the past.

The homecoming parade has been a staple of BYU Homecoming since 1930. This 1934 photo shows what the parade looked like during the Great Depression era. (Courtesy L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library)
The homecoming parade has been a staple of BYU Homecoming since 1930. This 1934 photo shows what the parade looked like during the Great Depression era. (L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library)

Homecoming parades and queens

Nimer said the first BYU Homecoming took place in 1930. There was a football game and a parade with floats, Nimer said, but not much more.

“Other things were added on a few years later,” Nimer said. “Starting in 1937, there was a homecoming queen contest, which kept going for 50 years.”

The BYU Student Association cut the homecoming queen contest in 1988 because of decreasing interest and the negative implications of beauty pageants.

The queen might have been dethroned, but the parade lives on. This year’s parade will take place 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, beginning in the Marriott Center east parking lot.

Homecoming activities used to include a football game played in eight inches of mud. (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)
Homecoming activities used to include a football game played in eight inches of mud. (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

 

Mud Bowl and True Blue Foam

“The Cougar Club started a mud football contest in 1963,” Nimer said. “That slowly transitioned to become the True Blue Foam event that we have today.”

The Mud Bowl was a football game students played in about eight inches of mud on Helaman Fields. Nimer also said female students raced across the field at halftime to compete for the Mud Bowl Queen title.

Students began playing flag football in blue foam in 1997, according to The Universe’s archives. This later transformed into the True Blue Foam event.

Today’s students play in pits and run down slip ‘n slides covered in blue foam. The event attracts nearly 2,000 students each year.

The Y has been lighting up since 1924, when students used mattress stuffing as fuel. (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)
Students have been lighting the Y since 1924, when they used mattress stuffing as fuel. (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

Lighting the Y

Lighting the Y is a tradition that dates back to 1924, before BYU had even established a homecoming.

Students used to go on a torchlit procession up Y Mountain. The Y was lined with mattress padding soaked in gasoline, and students lit the Y by setting fire to the gasoline.

Nimer said the Y didn’t stay lit for very long back then – only 20 minutes, according to some of the records.

1988 was the first year that BYU used lights instead of fire.

Lighting the Y is a popular tradition nearly 100 years strong. Hundreds of people participate and hike up the trailhead to light the Y every year.

The Y can be seen from all around Provo and lights up every night of Homecoming week.

 

Students wrestled tigers during the 1968 Homecoming week. That year's activities also included ostrich races. (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)
Students wrestled tigers during the 1968 Homecoming week. The year’s activities also included ostrich races. (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

Tiger wrestling?

Not every homecoming activity has become a perennial event.

Students wrestled tigers during the 1968 Homecoming week. That year’s festivities also included ostrich races.

Nimer said he was surprised that tiger wrestling and ostrich racing were approved in the first place.

Student committees were responsible for much of the homecoming planning that year, and Nimer speculated that they were the ones who proposed those ideas.

Neither event lasted, and there’s next to no chance that either will ever be brought back to Homecoming week.

The spirit of homecoming

Some events have come and gone over the years, while others have stayed the same or changed to make up the current BYU Homecoming week.

“There are many things that have survived,” Nimer said. “The parade, lighting the Y, the football game.”

Nimer said the spirit of homecoming has remained the same over the years, even as the week’s activities have evolved.

“The main focus of homecoming is bringing everyone together, whether it’s the student body or alumni and others, to celebrate as a campus community,” Nimer said.

A full list of Homecoming 2015 activities is available on homecoming.byu.edu. Homecoming week runs from Tuesday, Oct. 6, to Saturday, Oct. 10.

 

 

 

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