Homecoming Traditions

October 18, 2021 Mary Burke

Hardin-Simmons University’s Homecoming is right around the corner!

The first recorded Homecoming at HSU took place May 30 and 31, 1917, coinciding with graduation. Highlights included a large BBQ and gala.

As Homecoming solidified into a yearly tradition, the school moved the event from graduation to take place around a sporting event. The years HSU did not have a football program, Homecoming took place during the Spring semester, with basketball games as the rallying point. When football was not on hiatus, Homecoming took place in the Fall to accommodate the football schedule.

The Fall 2020 football season was postponed due to COVID-19, so in keeping up with tradition, Homecoming 2020 shifted to the Spring semester of 2021. The Fall 2021 Football season is back to normal, so Homecoming is back to its Fall-schedule.

There are many aspects of Homecoming that have stayed the same over the years: alumni returning to campus, an abundance of food, sporting events, and school spirit. Let’s look at some of the traditions that surround HSU Homecoming. You’ll see some are still celebrated today!


LARGE bonfires were a regular tradition during Homecoming. These massive fires were hosted at the Rodeo Grounds, located off Grape Street. The student-led bonfire committee’s goal was to build a pile of debris as tall as, or taller than, the nearby telephone poles.

The bonfire was made with whatever the committee could get its hands on: wood, old furniture, boxes, trash, brush, and more.

Students, alumni, and community members would gather around the bonfire, where they would sing the school song and share in each other’s company.

Montage of older homecoming photos

Homecoming parade floats

Campus theme and decorations

We are familiar with the balloons, streamers, and signs on campus that accompany homecoming week. Students decorate their car windows and various clubs make sure their presence is known to the incoming alumni.

In years past, the campus was decorated on a much larger scale. All in unity, under the same theme, the social clubs, res-halls, sports teams, and any other grouping of students would be responsible for decorating their assigned area of campus.

Intense rivalries developed between the residence halls to determine who had the most elaborate decorations.


School spirit continued downtown in the Homecoming Parade. Student groups created intricate parade floats to highlight the upcoming football/basketball match, advertise their clubs, or just to celebrate their school spirit.

Competition between the groups made the quality of each float topnotch.

In true HSU parade fashion, the Six White Horses and Cowboy Band would be in attendance.

University Queen

Each homecoming, a university court was (and still is) voted on by the student body. Originally, only women were nominated to hold the title of University Queen. As the years have gone by, men have been added to the lineup with the opportunity to be University King.

Students are nominated and voted on by their peers. The coronation takes place at halftime of the football (or basketball) game. Those who are crowned University Queen and King carry various responsibilities throughout the year. One of those duties is to participate in the Golden Reunion gathering (alumni who visit campus for their 50th anniversary).

Alumni Awards

With many alumni back on campus, the university takes this opportunity to award the yearly honors reserved for alumni. These awards are the John J. Keeter, Jr. Alumni Service Award (began in 1943), the Distinguished Alumni Award (began in 1970), and Outstanding Young Alumni Award (began in 2004).

Alumni must be nominated to be in the running for these awards. Nominations are voted on by various committees and boards, with the winners announced at Homecoming.

Read about previous award winners.

Montage of homecoming Sing event photosSing!

In March of 1962, Sigma Alpha Iota and Phi Mu Alpha collaborated to create a show to bring students together. The original goal of Sing! was to encourage various clubs to find community through dancing and singing. It was not until 1967 that Sing! became what it is more well known for today: a musical competition between clubs on campus.

In its 59-year history, Sing! has become a foundation of Homecoming. Current students perform, while alumni watch from the crowd remembering their past and when it was their turn on stage.

To participate in this year’s events, check out the Homecoming schedule.