Six Homecoming Traditions Every Vol Fan Should Know

It’s six days until the Homecoming game against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles and we’re celebrating six traditions that make the university’s Homecoming celebration unique.

Celebration of Homecoming
When it began: 1916
When/Where is it happening this year: All week, across campus

The first Homecoming was held November 11, 1916. Three hundred alumni returned to our hallowed hill to cheer on UT against Vanderbilt. There were members of graduating classes as early as 1872. The game was a close one, but the Volunteers came away with an upset victory (10-6).

Unfortunately, World War I prevented Homecoming from becoming an annual celebration. It wasn’t until 1925 that it started up again and lasted almost two decades until World War II. To support the war effort in 1943, the students donated their Homecoming budget to the Red Cross or used portions of it to buy war bonds. Since the war, Homecoming has been a grand celebration every fall, welcoming alumni from around the world home to Knoxville.

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Homecoming Parade
When it began: 1916
When/Where is it happening this year: Friday, November 4, 4 p.m., beginning at Fiji Island

The first Homecoming parade in 1916 was led by the marching band. Though they didn’t have the name Pride of the Southland until 1949, they proudly led a parade which consisted of university cadet corps in dress uniform. It wasn’t until 1955 when the first floats joined the parade. Every Homecoming since, there have been vehicles, decorative floats, and a proud band spreading the Homecoming spirit throughout campus.

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Dyeing of the Europa and the Bull Fountain
When it began: 2010
When/Where is it happening this year: Monday, October 31, 2 p.m., McClung Tower Plaza & Clarence Brown Theatre Plaza

Since 2010, students on campus have dyed the Europa and the Bull fountain near McClung Tower orange. The director of alumni programs was inspired by the iconic St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Chicago, when the city dyes the river green so it was decided to dye a fountain on campus. This year, the Europa and the Bull fountain and the Clarence Brown fountain will both be dyed orange.

Horses on the field
When it began: Shortly after 1953, when Smokey was named mascot
When/Where is it happening this year: Inside Neyland Stadium before kickoff

Vol fans will be surprised to know that not everyone was thrilled when Smokey became our mascot in 1953. There was some opposition from the university faculty who wanted a Tennessee Walking Horse to represent the school. To appease the horse lovers, UT began the tradition of having a Tennessee Walking Horse circle the field before each Homecoming game.

In 2012, we shifted our tradition and invited a flat shod Tennessee Walking horse to lead the exhibition. This year, Kasey Hines and her horse, DropBack, will continue the tradition in Neyland Stadium.

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Smokey’s Howl
When it began: 1990s
When/Where is it happening this year: Thursday, November 3, 6 p.m., Alumni Memorial Building Cox Auditorium

Just like Smokey’s iconic howl, students show their Homecoming spirit by getting loud and firing up the crowd. Smokey’s Howl began in the 1990s as a spirit competition that incorporates chants and cheer routines. Competition teams go head to head through a series of tryouts.

Barnwarmin’
When it began: 1921
When/Where is it happening this year: Sunday, October 30, 3 to 6 p.m., Fiji Island

Students today may be unfamiliar with the Barnwarmin’ event as it hasn’t taken place since the 1960s. The Barnwarmin’ dance was first held in 1921, sponsored by the Agriculture Club with support of the Home Economics Club. The first dances were held in November. Each year, a hay wagon traveled back and forth between Ayres Hall and the Ag campus, where the dance was held. Barnwarmin’ took place in Morgan Hall, where students could choose between two dance rooms, one for square dancing and one for popular dances of the time. For the fourth annual Barnwarmin’ they opened a third dance room intended for waltzing.

Each year, the event grew. From matching bandanas to a Barnwarmin’ queen, the festivities grew larger and attracted more students. In 1935, the entire event moved to the Alumni Gym. Despite its popularity, the last Barnwarmin’ was held in 1962 when the Agriculture Club came to an end. Barnwarmin’ is back for the first time in a more than half century and has been re-imagined as a fall festival with contests, pumpkin painting, and a car show.

For more Homecoming tradition information, visit the Homecoming website.