SDSU ‘Bum Band’ marches on for Hobo Day

Adam Foss, Reporter

Many people may be familiar with the SDSU Bum Band, but the history of the group is not as well known. 

 The Bum Band actually formed at the inception of Hobo Day. The traditional homecoming celebration was preceded by the Nightshirt Parade, in which a parade of students and faculty members dressed in nightshirts and bed sheets would march down main street. This began in 1907 and ended in 1912, when it was replaced by Hobo Day.

 On Nov. 1, 1912, the students and faculty dressed up as hobos and journied to the train station to greet the Yankton football team. This was the first appearance of the Bum Band, who led the march, under the direction of Carl “Christy” Christensen.

 This first iteration of the Bum Band was the school’s military band. This didn’t necessarily mean that they were associated with the military, but that they had specific instruments such as cornets, bugles, clarinets and flutes. 

“That core group was the marching band, concert band and Bum Band all wrapped into one,” said current Bum Band coordinator MaryEllen Kennedy.

 The Bum Band was a part of the Hobo Day tradition up to some time in the 1970s. The prevalence of the band decreased through this decade, and disappeared by the 1990s. 

It’s speculated that the disappearance of the Bum Band was due to lack of organization and general issues within the music department.

 The band didn’t appear again until 2015, when it was reinstated thanks to Miranda Mack, who was on the Hobo Day Committee at the time. 

“[Mack] was looking through some old yearbooks and saw people dressed up as hobos and playing in band ensemble groups and decided that we should bring that back,” Kennedy said.

 Since then, the Bum Band could be seen performing in the Hobo Day Parade as well as in other community events. It is made up of members of the Pride of the Dakotas Marching Band. 

While they have written music prepared to play, Kennedy, who is more-or-less the unofficial director, encourages the band to play without looking at the music and to improvise as much as possible.

 The Bum Band will perform again during the week of Hobo Day and in the Oct. 5 Hobo Day Parade.