Tag Archives: homecoming

Homecoming Week Spotlight

As I’m sure you all know, this is homecoming week. Many events have occurred this week, including the Dead River Games, the King and Queen competition, the Scavenger Hunt, the Stepping Competition, Capture the Flag, the parade, and the Tailgating Party. However, these events are only forerunners to the main event- the football game. This year, we thought we would share some photographs from past football teams, games, and homecomings which haven’t been seen before. All pictures below can be found in the Photographic File, ARCHIV-014.

There has been a football team at Northern since at least 1909, with varying successful years and other less fortunate years. Pictured below are members of the team of 1975, which went on to be the NCAA Division II Champion, making a group tackle. Hopefully this year’s team will have as good a record as the 13-1 championship team.

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Below are fans at a football game in 1957. There will surely be many more fans this year. On the top right appears to be a student section. If you look carefully you may spot fans holding the white cone-shaped “megaphones” to cheer with.

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Pictured below is a game from an unknown year where Northern played Hillsdale. Hillsdale is the opponent for NMU this Saturday, with the game scheduled for 4pm at the Superior Dome.

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In these next few photos, the evolution of the uniform can be easily seen. The first picture shows members of the 1919 team in practice, with minimal pads and no helmets. Next are four men with long-sleeved jerseys from the 1939 team, which likely helped keep out the cold in later season outdoor games. Third, members of a team from 1960 or ’61 run out onto the field dressed in white and with newer jerseys and more modern helmets.

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Below, some players of the Northern Michigan College team wrap themselves in blankets on the bench during a cool evening circa 1960. Games were usually held outside, as the great Superior Dome wasn’t completed until 1991.

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These last two pictures show a stark difference in team size between the 1929 team and a more recent (ca. 1980’s-1990’s) team. Happy Homecoming, and go Wildcats!

photo 8photo 9Written by Stefan Nelson


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:

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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

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