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Good Question: How Did Homecoming Traditions Start?

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(credit: CBS) Heather Brown
Heather Brown loves to put her innate curiosity to work to answer yo...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – This weekend, the University of Minnesota, along with many other colleges and high schools, will celebrate homecoming.

That had U of M senior Kelli Peterson wondering: How did homecoming traditions start?

For several years, many schools (Baylor, University of Illinois, University of Missouri) laid claim to holding the first homecoming celebration. But, in 2005, the archivists at the University of Illinois put the issue to rest with a research paper.

They found it to be Baylor University back in 1909.

The stated mission of the gathering: “A joyful meeting of former student friends, an occasion when old classmates could again feel the warm hand-clasp of their fellows, recall old memories and associations, and catch the Baylor spirit again.”

The University of Minnesota held its first homecoming in 1914.

“The events included a large alumni gathering, a dinner and a dance; and part of the focus was a football game,” said U of M assistant archivist Erin George. It wasn’t as successful as planners had hoped, because few alumni returned, so the school tried again in 1917.

“They got a lot more students involved,” George said. “They started working with the colleges, in particular, they worked with what would be predecessor to the College of Liberal Arts to get that college to coordinate their alumni events with the ones that were being planned by students in the Alumni Association.”

By the 1930, there was a house decorating competition, a variety show, a parade, a dance, and, of course, a football game.

“[The football game] was part of the reasoning, they would choose the premier rivalry with the idea that it would bring more people to campus,” she said.

The U of M put their homecoming on hold during World War I and the Vietnam War. During the early 70s, the U also stopped the homecoming queen tradition because some thought it was too much like a beauty pageant. It was brought back with a king in the late 70s.

“The energy of the stadium during homecoming is awesome,” said Judy Anderson, Class of 1975, who returned with her husband, Jamie, ’75 from San Diego. “Every year, it gets better and better.”

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