Homecoming since 1935


The front page of The Northern College News in 1950

This year, NMU’s homecoming week starts Sunday, Sept. 16 with the Dead River Games. Current students at Northern are probably familiar with the list of activities that have become tradition during homecoming week, including the scavenger hunt, stepping competition, king and queen competition, and more. And, of course, next weekend brings the homecoming parade, tailgating events, football game and late-night party. Even though homecoming has changed over the years, some key activities have remained.


From a 1982 edition of The North Wind

The two pictures in this post highlight what events have happened in Northern’s homecoming past. In 1950, NMU students participated in the typical parade and football game. There was also a pep rally and a dance hosted by Phi Kappa Nu. And in 1982, besides the football and parade, there were a handful of “games” that are different than the Dead River Games we have today. There was, however, a dance which is similar to 1950’s homecoming.

A big difference is the time of year that homecoming took place. In 1982, homecoming happened mid-September. In 1950, it took place the first week of November. This year’s is even a week before last year’s; it seems homecoming has started earlier and earlier in the school year over time.

According to Russ Magnaghi’s A Sense of Time, homecoming as we know it first took place in late October 1935. That first year, there was a homecoming football game, parade and a dance. Since then, there have been semi-regular events like tug-of-war, pep rallies, bonfires and a couple of attempts at achieving a Guinness World Record (for the largest game of musical chairs in 1977 and the world’s largest pasty in 1978).

“The (1935) event was the beginning of a tradition meant to bring alumni and current students closer together,” the book says.

The importance of incorporating alumni has also remained throughout the years. As seen by The Northern College News front page in 1950, the homecoming headline is welcoming alumni. And this year, the NMU Alumni Association has a weekend-full of events designed to, like in the 30s, bring students and alumni together.

Though some of the activities have changed and evolved over the years, NMU’s homecoming is remarkably similar to when it first started.

Written by Lucy Hough


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