Homecoming through the Years

This week is homecoming at Northern Michigan University. To celebrate, we thought we would share some photos from past homecomings.

Northern held its first “homecoming” in 1924 when the school invited alumni to come to a Northern-Tech football game. However, homecoming did not become an annual tradition until 1935. Activities at this time included a king and queen competition, tug of war, pep meeting, parade, bonfire, football game, and dance.

Two of the quirkier homecoming traditions were the bonfire and the snake dance. In the snake dance, students joined hands and ran across campus. This usually ended in the bonfire location. Over time, the bonfire became a “mourning ceremony” in which the “coffin” of the opposing team was burnt.

Below are two pictures from the 1950s, one of the bonfire and another of a homecoming float against Michigan Tech.

19531957At Northern, homecoming, despite occurring in September or October, can sometimes be a wintry event. For instance, this picture from the homecoming game of 1971 shows Jamrich greeting the homecoming court in a snowstorm.

1971In this photo from 1976, students participate in a tug-of-war event in a cold pond. Note the snow on the ground and the winter jackets.

1976Traditionally, homecoming also included a dance. This photo from 1972 shows one such dance.

1972 5Over the years, Northern students have invented many interesting floats. Below is one such creation from 1980 (apparently, the “underwater basket weaving” joke is older than many may have thought).

1980 6 - 2Another parade photo (no date) shows us an older and more ferocious conception of Wildcat Willy.

n.d.Another tradition at Northern is the Dead River Games, held on the Sunday before Homecoming Week. The earliest photos we have which explicitly call the event the “Dead River Games” are from the 1990s. However, we do have photos from 1979 which depict a very similar event:

1979 - 11979 - 2Below are two more possible “Dead River Games” photo from 1980 and 1982 respectively:

1980 6 - 31982During the 1977 and 1978 homecomings, Northern landed in the Guiness Book of World Records twice. In 1977, Northern played the largest ever game of musical chairs on Memorial Field. This is what the early rounds of the game looked like:

1977 2

1977The winner of the game was Mary Lynn Webster, pictured below in her winning moment.

1977 3In 1978, Northern created a distinctly Yooper world record: the largest pasty. Here is an image of the creation of the dough and the cooking of the finished product:

1978 21978Written by Annika Peterson

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