Although the University of Wisconsin’s Homecoming has evolved throughout 103 years of celebrating what is means to be a Badger, some traditions have stood the test of time.
Homecoming first began in 1911, and students took the reigns of the event four or five years later when UW realized students should be the ones to plan the event, Chris Ruska, UW Homecoming Committee president, said. This is when traditions like “Yell Like Hell,” decorating contests and the annual parade began, he said.
Yell Like Hell was introduced around 1915, Ruska said. The event originally entailed students making chants to stir up energy and school spirit, he said. Now, the Yell Like Hell contest now more pop culture aspects.
“I think it’s a really great way to get the student body excited for the week, it brings a lot of people together — a lot of different Greek teams, student organizations,” Ruska said.”You get a lot of different bodies of students together that might not necessarily be at the same place and you get to hear them be creative and think about UW and the ways UW has impacted their life.”
Many student organizations and Greek houses have been active participants in the week’s traditions every year since it began.
Natalie Bowman, a Wisconsin Alumni Student Board member, said WASB has been participating in the event as long as she can remember.
“There’s just so much fun Badger pride that goes along with Yell Like Hell, it’s a lot of fun and people always come out and are really silly,” Bowman said.
Mike Fahey, Wisconsin Alumni Association managing director, reflected on the days he participated in Yell Like Hell as a student living in Kronshage Residence Hall. Fahey said he participated in the 1986 event held at Memorial Union and remembered winning the competition that year.
Yell Like Hell was a unifying experience for everyone and even though it was a bit silly, it brought everyone together, Fahey said.
While other homecoming traditions have changed, Yell Like Hell is one of the things that remained a mainstay through the years, he said. It is a great tradition he looks forward to continuing, he added.
One of the major changes to Homecoming in recent years has been not specifying a particular theme, a change made in 2012.
WAA was rebranding and wanted a concrete image that people could identify as Homecoming, Anna Mauer, a UW Homecoming Committee member, said.
Homecoming now focuses on UW’s traditions and giving back not only to campus but also Badgers across the globe, she said.
One of the oldest UW Homecoming traditions was a large bonfire that served as a pep rally for students the night before the football game. However, after a near-riot erupted in 1946, the event was cancelled, the WAA website said.
Friday’s Homecoming Parade serves as the new version of a pep rally, Fahley said. The tradition of holding a parade began many years ago, but he said the parade only became a major Homecoming event in recent years.
UW Homecoming have also evolved from its original traditions to include different special recognitions for students. The traditional idea of a Homecoming Court has changed into the On Wisconsin Society award which honors exceptional students.
A relatively new Homecoming event is the Wisconsin Rewind Lecture, an event which brings a distinguished UW alum back to campus to share his or her thoughts and advice with students, the website said.
Ruska said the events planned by the UW Homecoming Committee, such as Yell Like Hell and the Rewind Lecture, along with Saturday’s Badger football game, are geared toward capturing expressions of what it means to be a Badger.