Wacky Spring Traditions at Other Colleges

A Drag from Dragon Day at Cornell in 2010 Photo Courtesy of Cornell Art, Architecture, and Planning

As the end of the school year approaches, bringing with it festive traditions such as Worthstock and Primal Scream, I couldn’t help but wonder what some “quirky” spring/end-of-year traditions are at other colleges. In the process, I found some truly wacky ones of which I decided to rank nine! 

1. UChicago Scavenger Hunt: I’ll be honest, I’m not sure where UChicago students get the time to do this amidst all their fun-killing homework assignments, but this is insane. It takes place over four days in May, and while the list of activities/things to scavenge isn’t yet out for this year, there are some truly mind-boggling ones from past years, many of which are intentionally unattainable (“a box that trembles away from us when we get too close” and an actual elephant). I’d love to see a Worm on a String-style faux mink scarf though. Additionally, it seems that in 1999 someone successfully made uranium. Swarthmore may have some funky things on the bucket list, but I wager building a homemade breeder reactor surpasses anything on our list. One last tidbit of information: every year, the scavenger hunt has a theme song, with this year’s being “Rock Lobster.” Personally, I think that if UChicago students can find the time to do this (with some going on a 1,000-mile road trip), Swarthmore students can too. Or we can’t and we can sadly proudly say that we’re busier than them. 

2. Watermelon Bash at Texas A&M University: honestly this sounds even more cathartic than Primal Scream. I think that destroying a watermelon with a sledgehammer would temporarily relieve me of every little bit of stress I had. And, I mean, there’s no reason you can’t scream while doing it too!

3. Renn Fayre at Reed College: As excited as I am for the jousting component in this year’s Worthstock, Renn Fayre does sound like it tops it (unless anyone here is planning on showing up naked and covered in blue paint, with seniors burning thesis notes in a bonfire). Then again, jousting doesn’t seem to be a component at Reed College, which is rather baffling for something named “Renn Fayre.”

4. The Naked Run at Wesleyan: This one is pretty self-explanatory, although I was so taken aback by it that I had to Google it separately just to make sure it was actually real. It does seem to have existed in the ’70s, but it no longer appears to be a tradition there.

5. Purdue Grand Prix: As you can likely guess, this is a go-kart race! It’s open to all students, and every five years there is one open to alumni. It just took place a couple of days ago. Even better, the money it raises from ticket sales to spectators goes towards scholarships for students at Purdue.

6. Primal Scream at Harvard and Columbia: As it turns out, while Harvard and Columbia do host primal screams shortly before finals, as far as I can tell, Swarthmore is the only one that also provides midnight breakfast. You heard it here folks, Swarthmore is better than several Ivy League schools! At Columbia, the primal scream occurs from dorm rooms. This was initially ranked a little bit lower, but I decided that the mental image of everyone in Mary Lyon shrieking into the dead of the suburban night was funny enough to warrant a slightly higher score. Harvard does it naked or in underwear though, as recently as 2023!

7. Dragon Day at Cornell: This event happens in March and seems to be a mix between Swarthmor’s pterodactyl hunt (which did make it onto one of the websites I was looking at!) and vaguely the Engineering Prank. A group of first-year architecture students creates a giant dragon which then ‘battles’ with a giant phoenix created by engineering students. Some years the dragon looks stunning, although more often than not it looks a little goofy. This event happens a little earlier than most of the other events on this list, taking place around St. Patrick’s Day.

8. Dolphy Day at LeMoyne College: This is a little underwhelming, but this event could never happen at Swarthmore. On one day in the spring, the college surprises students with a day off, with students finding out at 2 a.m. that day as fireworks go off on campus. Barbeques and parties make up the rest of this day.

9. The Undie Run at UCLA: This would have probably been higher had it not been for Wesleyan’s “Naked Run” which I’m still not sure I believe is real. This event takes place on the last day of classes for each semester (which could only happen in a place like California. Imagine running around in December sans clothes in Pennsylvania!). With this being the third event involving students running around either mostly or completely naked, I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot more people are exhibitionists than I thought. UCLA’s Undie Run does seem to still be a tradition, as it did happen in 2023.

As I continued researching this, I discovered that a couple of these traditions have fallen to the wayside, but personally, I think the roller coaster of emotions I went on while learning about these once upon a time traditions is one that you deserve to go on as well. 

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