Homecoming Highlights Since 1935
A temporary world record in musical chairs and the largest pasty ever baked and eaten have marked NMU Homecoming celebrations over the last 75 years. The tradition might have started more than a decade earlier, but little came of the first attempt to encourage alumni to attend the NMU-Michigan Tech football contest in 1924 and make it “a homecoming game.”
It wasn’t until President Webster Pearce announced plans for the first traditional celebration in his 1935 fall assembly address that Homecoming launched into an annual event. It’s been held each fall except 1943-47 because of World War II.
Inaugural activities included a pep rally and parade on Friday evening, followed by a bonfire. Area high school students received free tickets to join alumni and other NMU fans at the Saturday football game. A Homecoming dance capped off the weekend. Through the years, students dressed in green and gold participated in variety of activities and competitions, some of which continue to this day with the Dead River Games (pictured is the 1982 version). The bonfire, which did not endure, morphed into a “mourning ceremony” where NMU students would burn the “coffin” of the opposing team to signify anticipated victory.
“In 1977, there was an attempt to hold a gigantic musical chairs game to get into the Guinness Book of World Records,” said Russ Magnaghi (History), author of A Sense of Time: The Encyclopedia of Northern Michigan University. “They set a temporary record with 1,674 people participating, but it was broken before the next edition of the book was published, so Northern never made it in there.”
One year later, what was then the world’s largest pasty was baked and eaten as part of the festivities. A more elaborate Homecoming was held in 1998 as part of activities leading up to the university’s centennial.