Top 10: Most Outrageous Homecoming Traditions

The annual homecoming game brings out the best of us in our homecoming traditions. Whenthe rock at hhs ny I was a student at Huntington High School on Long Island, we used to paint this big boulder at the corner of the back entrance of the parking lot to our school. Not just at homecoming, we would paint it in different themes throughout the school year and for special events, memorials and other such things. It’s one of those traditions that technically we were all vandalizing school property, but officials just looked the other way for the sake of tradition. We had some very talented artists so it was a really great way to get attention from the community.

All over the US students have very creative homecoming traditions to celebrate the occasion. Some traditions are associated with homecoming dances where women adorn themselves in gorgeous homecoming dresses and others are directly related to the game. Many schools and towns host a homecoming parade with floats made by students and teams. Other traditions include pranking the visiting team. Here is the countdown of the top ten truly unique, cute and quirky traditions across America.

 10. Student Participation

tug o war oregonThose students who aren’t athletes or band members also get in on the school spirit. Long standing rituals in high schools and universities encourage everyone to join in. Like the University of Oregon, located in the city of Eugene. They host an annual tug-of-war game before the homecoming game. This is a well-established tradition, going as far back as 1967. This playful game has taken hold in other states, going beyond the homecoming season. Such events have inspired the Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce to hold an official event during Summerfest in Wisconsin.

The University of Wisconsin at Platteville is the site of a large-scale construction project.the big m First created by mining students in the 1930s, a large letter “M” was created on the slope of a large hill just east of the city of Platteville. The project is  simply known as “The Big M”, which occupies a large area of 214 x 241 feet on the south slope. Students moved 400 tons of whitewashed stone to make this. The university has a past practice in mining engineering, hence the “M” stands for mining. Before the homecoming game and the dance, students use flares to illuminate the Big M, to pay homage to their rich history.

 9. Costume Parties

marching band costumeSome homecoming games fall on a date that is close to Halloween, on October 31. Schools take this opportunity to host a Costume Ball as a part of the festivities of homecoming week. At some schools, this dress up dance is exclusive to a certain group, like the football team or marching band members.


This practice is going strong after all these years at C.E. Jordan High. Located in Durham, North Carolina, C.E. Jordan High School has been hosting this dance since the 1980s. The band members wear scary costumes during their performance at the halftime show. These kind of rituals help break the monotonous routine that band members happen to be more prone to since they have a strict practice schedule.

Even though the homecoming game at C.E. Jordan doesn’t fall anywhere close to Halloween anymore, this annual costume competition seems to have stuck around. Now it’s all about one-upping each other. The winner doesn’t receive a trophy or ribbons. It is all about the right to brag about taking the title for the rest of the year. Some march as witches or ghosts in locally purchased drugstore costumes. Other students go all out, investing their time and money in elaborate costumes like comic book characters or popular movie heroes.

 8. Bonfires

Many schools hold an official yet unofficial bonfire where teammates and students gather. Either on a beach or in a clearing in the woods, people generally come together to make s’mores, enjoy cold beverages and amp themselves up for the upcoming football game. It’s also a place where the football team will make plans to prank the visiting team.

 7. Soap Box Derby

At Texas State University the college plans a week of events for both students and faculty tsu soapbox derbyto play their parts in. One of which is a good old-fashioned soap box derby. Those younger readers may have no idea what that is. TSU on campus fraternity Order of Omega has organized this event since the beginning, in 1967. Vaughn College and Hopkinsville Community College also hold similar box car races. It is a big draw, bringing a lot of great attention for the school and rallying the students. Campus organizations, Greek houses, and Resident Halls all elect to build a small car with no engine, usually just plywood and wagon wheels. These little cars are painted in house colors and usually fall apart on impact, but not to worry. Top speeds don’t break the sound barrier so there’s rarely any injury.

 6. Car Smash

Some schools will paint a car in the rival team colors and allow students to rip the junker apart. It’s a symbolic way to let off some steam. Some school officials plan to phase this practice out because of liability issues. But wearing rawhide gloves and safety goggles, students really get into it with crowbars and sledgehammers. Usually, the auto shop students locate a car in a dump and then take out the engine and other interior parts. This way it is just the body and the wheels, making it easier to get a nice dent or gouge into the vehicle.

5. Live Animal Mascots

texas aandm Some universities, even high schools, adopt a live animal as their mascot. Like Texas A&M’s beloved collie. They are so hardcore devoted to this mascot, during the remodel of the football field they erected the new scoreboard over top the graves of the previous mascots that have held the title of “Reveilles”. The University of Tennessee has also kept the tradition of a live dog as their mascot since 1953. Always a Bluetick Coonhound, their symbol for game day is named “Smokey”, always in white and yellow checkered attire for homecoming.

The most famous dog in the pantheon of animal mascots is Handsome Dan of Yale dan the firstUniversity. Since 1889 Yale had used the Bulldog as their emblem for the university football team. Their fierce competition with Harvard University is so strong that Handsome Dan has been the victim of kidnapping plots in years gone by. It isn't as malicious as it once was between these two ivy league heavyweights. Today it is all in good fun. Harvard Football players usually take Handsome Dan to the parking lot and play with him for a few hours before the game as Yale officials frantically look for their mascot. It’s a cute and fun way to get people into the school spirit. Even if students don’t really follow the football team, it’s guaranteed that everyone rallies around an adorable dog.

 4. Funny “Fight” Songs

Some schools adopted a humorous fight song to feed school spirit during homecoming week, like Central High School. Located in Tennessee, this particular school holds a pre-game dance where football players rock it out to Will Smith’s hit “Men in Black”. The song may be dated and a little lame, but that’s the point. It’s a fun way to rally the students together.

 3. Crossdressing

In many places, students are encouraged to swap gender roles during homecoming week in a whimsical just for fun tradition. In some places, parents, as well as students, have put a stop to it. Some think it makes light of transgender people, others think it just distasteful. But some schools have kept the tradition, which is completely voluntary. At some schools, to run for homecoming queen holds certain requirements. First, a football player must represent you during the big game. At the pep rally, the homecoming court swaps their clothing, with girls in football uniforms and boys in fancy dresses.

In Spurger County in Texas, this tradition was a long-standing ritual until 2010 when parents complained. It was called TWIRP, an acronym for “The Woman Is Requested to Pay”. This was just a light and comical way to reverse roles for students. Upper-class girls would invite younger classmen on dates and pay for small items like junk food at their lunch period. This ritual also included cross-dressing at the homecoming pep rally.

It isn’t supposed to be mean spirited toward any particular group of people. It was just a way to explore the role reversal between genders, and maybe through this practice boys and girls could appreciate different aspects of gender roles.

 2. The Speedo Dash

Some traditions are just invested for the shock value. They are attention grabbing, they give the community a claim to fame and they are just simply fun. The Cupertino High School hosts a mad race during the game. After they crown homecoming royalty at halftime, the water polo team runs into the football field with just their swimwear on. It doesn’t really matter who wins the race, it’s really about raising school spirit and getting the crowd up off their feet to cheer.

 1. Mums of Texas

ben brown via flickrMums are really unique homecoming traditions in Texas. They say everything is bigger in Texas and it’s the truth! Large corsages made from silk chrysanthemums, long cascading ribbons and even stuffed bears in school colors have been the homecoming habit. It’s not limited to one school, but basically all of eastern Texas. Even the guys get to wear them, usually as arm bands with their football uniforms. Members of the marching band also sport these armbands with pride. Cheerleaders and baton twirlers also manage to wear these heavy emblems while doing their thing on the football field.

They are called mums just as a general term to classify these oversize, over the top, over embellished corsages. They overpower the girls dresses, often the center of the corsage is larger than my head, with ribbons and streamers falling from the center all the way down to the ground. These are so obscure that they were the center of a fine art photography series. Nancy Newberry, famous for her editorial and portrait work, used this special tradition as the theme of a series of works back in 2012.

Often these mums are exchanged between people as gifts. It’s a really expressive form of art. The use of silk flowers and ribbon and small objects is compositionally complex. It really is a feat of physics that these things not only stay together but stay put on the wearer.

Across this country, students come together during homecoming week in different ways. It is a great way to celebrate the history of a particular area, or just to have some fun in a unique regional way. Other methods are broader and span across different geographical areas. But all of them have one common goal, to have fun! Keep homecoming quirky. Celebrate this ritual in your own way and always stay true to yourself in the process.

If we've missed any wild, crazy, or quirky Homecoming traditions, please let us know in the comment section!


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