Lost traditions of Hobo Day



Hunter Dunteman and Emily Seaton

It’s sort of silly, really,” begins a 2012 Collegian article by then-Managing Editor Marcus Traxler, “to dress up as bums … and party like it’s 1912 every year … but we love it.”

The week that staff and students and the entire South Dakota State University community has been waiting an entire year for is finally back.

The 2018 tag line for Hobo Day is “Together in the Tradition,” but new Jackrabbits may not be aware of just how much Hobo Day has changed over the years.

Many traditions haven’t withstood the test of time, but The Collegian is opening the history books to uncover those which have phased out.


Watch how we celebrate Hobo Day in 2018:

The Nightshirt Parade

“The College on the Hill,” a book by Amy Dunkle published in 2003 outlining the history of SDSU, details the beginning of the Nightshirt Parade. 

SDSU, South Dakota State College at the time, had a bumpy start to their 1907 football season, taking losses to Huron College and Grand Forks, North Dakota, SDSC needed to rally up the morale for their upcoming game against powerhouse Dakota Wesleyan.

Men from all corners of campus lit campfires and stayed up late practicing new cheers and attempting to create hype for the game. As campfires died down, men and women in their nighttime apparel lit torches and marched the city into the late hours of the night to the train station and waited for the arrival of “the Wesleyan eleven.”

SDSC went undefeated for the rest of the season.

Canceling Class

“The College on the Hill” remembers canceling classes after 10 a.m. all week long. Simply put, it’s no surprise why we don’t do that anymore.

Kangaroo Court

Dating back as far as the 1940s, the Kangaroo Court was a student-run mock judicial system sponsored by the Blue Key Society that lobbied charges against students who didn’t participate in Hobo Day events. Students would be locked in a cage and tried by the Kangaroo Court in front of hundreds of students in the Barn. 

The SDSU Alumni Association Archives recall that “almost every defendant was found guilty and ordered to perform some zany act.”

“It seems kind of funny to me,” said sophomore natural resource law enforcement major Miranda Zinola, “and it would be hilarious to watch.”

Despite the comedic value in the Kangaroo Court, not all traditions were meant to stand the test of time. 

A changing societal culture is a major factor behind these traditions fading out, Zinola said. But, she believes that when it comes to current traditions, every student should do what they can to get involved in the Hobo Day festivities.

“The students choose to go to this school, but they should celebrate the school in some way,” Zinola