Carnegie Mellon University

The Piper

CMU Community News

Piper Logo
April 07, 2014

Spring Carnival Turns 100

By Kelly Solman

Carnival LogoSpring Carnival has had many ups, downs, starts and stops during its first 100 years - and that doesn't just refer to the Ferris wheel.

In a nostalgic look at the century-old Carnegie Mellon tradition, carnival goers this year will be treated to the "Best of the Best" from days gone by, as the university honors the event's most memorable booth themes, traditions and more.

Spring Carnival's history will be on display in the University Center, from photos taken through the decades to models of buggies past and present.

"From its humble 'Qualification Day' beginnings in 1915 to today's sleek buggy designs and multi-level booths, Spring Carnival has seen loads of creativity over the years," said Jackson Gallagher (A'14), co-chair of the Spring Carnival Committee along with Emily Hrin (DC'14). "It seems only right to honor the creativity of generations of CMU students as we reach this special milestone."

The origins of Spring Carnival can be traced back to Carnegie Institute of Technology's "Qualification Day" - the official acceptance of freshman plebes - and the May Festival of the Margaret Morrison Carnegie College. In 1920, the tradition grew into "Campus Week" and the first Buggy Sweepstakes with crates and rain barrels on wheels. A "Campus Queen" was voted on annually for several decades.

The last "Campus Week" took place in 1929, after which Carnegie Tech Dean Arthur Tarbell wrote the Student Senate saying the faculty moved to abandon the festivities. The motion caused a campus-wide stir and ultimately led to an agreement on new programming in 1930.

Float parades, which began in the 1930s, became Booth in the 1950s, the same decade that the popular canoe tilt evolved into plank jousting. The canoe tilt involved teams of two standing in canoes in Panther Hollow Lake and each attempting to knock the other team into the lake. Similarly, plank jousting involved using a pillow to knock the other team off a wooden plank into a mud pit.

The last Campus Queen was crowned in the 1970s, a decade that saw a shift in focus to more entertainment-based programming. An Activities Board was established, which began organizing concerts. Performers included B.B. King and Carlos Santana.

The '70s also saw the advent of "gazorching," a combination of shot put and water balloon launching.

Victor, a 650-pound bear that enjoyed drinking 7-Up, arrived on the scene in 1981 to wrestle five fraternity men in that year's carnival. The bear's record? 5-0.

One tradition making a comeback this year is chain-link stamping. Prior to the 1940s, each class beginning with 1908 had their class year stamped into the link of an iron chain, now kept in University Archives. The chain represents the unbreakable bond of the individual classes as well as all students who pass through CMU's doors. The tradition was lost when the university's forge was dismantled during World War II.

Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and Councilman Dan Gilman (DC'04) will be on hand to proclaim April 10 "Carnival 100 Day," commemorating the anniversary.

Other highlights include:

Thursday, April 10

Alumni - Faculty & Staff Breakfast
(invitation only)
8:30-10:30 a.m., Alumni House
The Office of Alumni Relations &
Annual Giving invites more than 1,000 alumni faculty and staff to a breakfast in honor of their continued commitment and service to their alma mater. For more information, contact Dawn Gianotti at 412-268-2024.

Sweepstakes Buggy Design Competition
10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Wiegand Gym,
University Center (UC)
Bigger and better than ever, the design competition includes Buggy history and an interactive display for kids.

Carnegie Tech Radio Club 100th Anniversary Celebration
5 - 8 p.m., Singleton Room,
Roberts Engineering Hall
Join current members and fellow alumni at a reunion event celebrating 100 years of the Carnegie Tech Radio Club.

Friday, April 11

Preliminary Sweepstakes Races
8 a.m., Schenley Park
Mayor William Peduto will serve as Grand Marshal.

Alumni House Open House
10:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Tour the newly renovated Alumni House; learn about its history and what the Alumni Association has to offer alumni, students, parents and friends.

Naming Ceremony for the Jared L. Cohon University Center
Noon, Kirr Commons, UC
Please join President Subra Suresh and members of the Board of Trustees for a special ceremony naming the University Center in honor of President Emeritus Jared L. Cohon, University Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy.

Dunk a Cop for Special Olympics
New to the Midway, carnival goers can try their luck at dunking a CMU police officer to benefit charity.
Zero Waste BBQ
Noon - 2 p.m., Merson Courtyard, UC
Celebrate campus sustainability while enjoying the Zero Waste All Campus BBQ. Students from CMU's Solar Splash, Engineers without Borders, Project Greenlight, Sustainable Earth and the Carnegie Mellon Community Garden Group will share projects, demos and hands-on activities. (Loyal Scots: Wear your Loyal Scot pin to gain access to the "fast-pass" lane and bypass the crowds.)

JGC60: A Celebration of the Life and Work of Jaime G. Carbonell
4:30 p.m., 4401 Rashid Auditorium, Gates and Hillman centers
CMU will celebrate the 60th birthday of University Professor Jaime G. Carbonell, the Allen Newell Professor of Computer Science and director of the Language Technologies Institute, by hosting a symposium honoring his life and work, April 11-12, in Rashid Auditorium of the Gates and Hillman centers.

Celebration of Hugh Young's Life and Legacy
6 - 8 p.m., Kresge Theatre and Great Hall, College of Fine Arts
Hugh D. Young's 52-year career at CMU left an indelible mark on generations of students, colleagues and alumni.

Larry Cartwright Celebration
6 - 9 p.m., Singleton Room,
Roberts Engineering Hall
Celebrate the impact Larry Cartwright, teaching professor emeritus, has made on the Civil and Environmental Engineering department and CMU over the past
35 years.

Saturday, April 12

Sweepstakes Final Races
9:15 a.m., Schenley Park
Following Final Races, a special alumni Grudge Match is new this year, so be sure to cheer on your favorite team! Watch the Buggy Alumni Association website for updates and announcements regarding additional alumni races.

Decade Reunions (1970s, 1980s, 1990s and Young Alumni)
Join classmates and friends in a celebration for all alumni from each decade. Check the schedule for specific times.

Scotch'n'Soda Gala
6 p.m., Rangos Ballroom, UC
(Adults: $25; Students: $15). The evening will feature a one-night-only dinner theatre performance of Scotch'n'Soda's 100th Carnival Show, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," as well as the world premiere of a new documentary about Scotch'n'Soda Theatre. Attendees will have a chance to bid in a silent auction and share their favorite S'n'S memories to be stored in a 100th Carnival time capsule.

For updates and the full schedule of events, see