A Beardless Hobo and Other Homecoming Traditions

I cannot grow a beard. Whenever I try, it looks like those photos we all have of our children the first time they grab a pair of scissors and give themselves, or their favorite doll, a haircut: bald spot here, 3 inches of scraggly growth there.

That’s why I sadly never took part in one of my alma mater’s most time-honored homecoming traditions. The One Month Club at South Dakota State University is for students who want to look their hobo-est by the time Hobo Day arrives. Exactly a month before the homecoming game, men stop shaving their faces and women do the same with their legs. It’s all in good fun and a fine way to show school spirit, but I could never compete with my classmates who looked like the guys in ZZ Top after 30 days.

It’s homecoming season at colleges and universities around South Dakota, and when I thought of the One Month Club I wondered what unique traditions students observe at other schools. So I asked around.

One that warms my Scandinavian heart happens at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, where the students nominated for Viking Days king and queen don Norwegian sweaters. It seems appropriate for a school founded by Lutheran Scandinavians, and practical, too. I bet those sweaters take the chill off the cool October morning air on parade day. Incidentally, to celebrate Augustana’s 100th year in Sioux Falls, the school unveiled its version of the popular Monopoly board game, called Augieopoly. One of the game tokens is a Norwegian sweater modeled after one owned by the late Dr. Lynwood Oyos, a longtime history professor.

Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell crowns not one king and queen, but two. In addition to the royal pair that reigns over Blue & White Days, two members of the freshman class are chosen Beanie King and Beanie Queen. They perform many of the same duties as the homecoming court, but wear blue and white beanies, festooned with optional decorations. The tradition began in 1926 and included all members of the freshman class, but over the years has been whittled down to just two.

Students at Dakota State University in Madison enjoy a citywide scavenger hunt. The Student Services department hides a small statue called the Traveling Trojan somewhere on the DSU campus or around Madison. Clues are given on local radio and on the school’s Facebook page. Whoever finds the statue receives a prize package.

West River students incorporate the Black Hills in their homecoming traditions. During Swarm Week at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, students make an annual pilgrimage to a giant letter H that sits on a mountainside near campus. Visitors to Rapid City may have noticed a similar M on a hillside above the city. Students at the School of Mines make a homecoming trek to whitewash the M, a tradition that dates back to the very first M-Day on Oct. 5, 1912.

Alumni of other colleges and universities surely have their own favorite homecoming traditions. Hobo Day will always hold a special place for me. I’m pretty easy to spot watching the parade along Main Avenue or at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium for the football game. I’m the clean-shaven one.

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