Traditions make Hobo Day what it is

Kicking off Hobo Day with Rally at the Rails, dressing up like a hobo and hearing cowbells everywhere on campus are just a few Hobo Day traditions. Hobo Week has an event every night of the week leading up to the football game. 

“Hobo Day is a celebration of the rich heritage of SDSU,” said Nick Wendell, the director for student engagement. “It’s a celebration for alumni, for current students and the people of South Dakota.” 

Hobo Day is the equivalent to homecoming at other schools. It is known as the ‘Biggest One-Day Event of the Dakotas.’

“It [Hobo Day] is a multi-generational shared experience,” said Doug Wermedal, associate vice president of student affairs and associate professor. 

The Hobo Day events are planned and overseen by the Hobo Day Committee and their adviser Daniel Biel.  

“We want Hobo Week to be more than just one day with a parade and a football game, but this build-up to this huge day where we’re all one SDSU,” said Scott DesLauriers, Grand Pooba.  

According to Wendell, the Hobo Day committee is student driven and the committee embodies the “hobo spirit.”

“It’s a great tradition and people seem to be very proud of it,” said Talia Otto, a freshman undecided major. 

Otto looks forward to participating in the parade with The Pride of the Dakotas. 

Wendell said that the parade is one of the traditions that is being “resurrected.” The parade focuses on showcasing the floats. Student organizations and clubs submit an application to be a part of the parade. 

“We provide, not only funding to buy the material, but we provide training workshop,” Wendell said. 

Wendell said that the parade and float building is a way that students can bond with their student organizations and to build a community within their organization. 

Jill Honermann, a senior nursing major, said her favorite part of Hobo Week is the parade. 

“It showcases our different … majors and talents,” Honermann said. She enjoys seeing what the Construction Management float looks like. 

The Bummobile, a 1912 Model T Ford, carrying the Grand Pooba, DesLauriers, and Weary Wil and Dirty Lil follows the grand marshal in the parade every year. 

Wendell said his favorite part of Hobo Day is the honoring  of Weary Wil and Dirty Lil. 

“I think it’s a really neat way to honor people who have contributed to Hobo Day over the years,” Wendell said. “I think it’s a … way to connect our alumni to our current Hobo Day Committee.” 

Two alumni dress up as Weary Wil and Dirty Lil during Hobo Week. Their identities are kept secret until half-time of the football game. 

DesLauriers’ favorite part of Hobo Day is meeting past Hobo Day committee members. 

“In the last three years, we’ve worked to foster those relationships with these past members, and I largely believe a huge portion of the success we’ve seen with Hobo Day since 2012 is because of that alumni engagement,” DesLauriers said.

Another Hobo Week tradition is Bum-A-Meal. Students can go to a Brookings community member’s home and have a homemade dinner.  

“The Bum-A-Meal tradition … is rooted all the way back to the celebration in 1912,” Wendell said.  

According to Wendell, during the first Hobo Day, students passed through Brookings and went to homes that had porch lights on. They were given food that would ultimately be put in the Hobo stew. 

Each year the new Hobo Day Committee members try to implement new traditions during the Hobo Week celebrations.  

“I think the new traditions come about because students see great value on putting their stamp on a 102-year-old event,” Wendell said.  

New traditions include the Hobo Shoppe, which began in 2012 for the 100th Hobo Day celebration. The Hobo Shoppe is open the 10 days leading up to Hobo Day and it includes Hobo Day products.  

“Oversight of the Hobo Shoppe come from staff of  The Union,” Wendell said, he developed the Hobo Shoppe idea. 

On Thursday night of Hobo Week, another tradition, the Bum-Over, takes place. It is hosted in the Market of The Union. Students can take part in building shanties and other Hobo Day related activities. Wendell said that the Bum-Over allows students to enjoy a fun, relaxed environment. 

Wermedal encourages students to participate in the Hobo Day celebrations whether they are long lasting or new traditions. 

“Coming to SDSU and not participating in Hobo Day,” Wermedal said. “… you just missed out on a signature event.”