Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Time travel through The Hatchet’s archives to learn about bygone GW traditions

Homecoming? Where we’re going we don’t need homecoming.
Photo Illustration by Auden Yurman | Senior Photo Editor
The front page of a 1986 edition of The GW Hatchet.

GW is full of weird traditions.

Students today stay up until midnight to eat cereal each December and collect free apples in Kogan Plaza every fall. But a look into The Hatchet’s archives reveals that the University’s calendar used to be peppered with happenings so foreign to current GW students you’d be forgiven for thinking they were happening at Georgetown. 

Here are three GW traditions that have gone the way of the dinosaur and whether or not they should stay extinct or experience a “Jurassic Park”-style resurrection.

The Old West, Niche Disney Flicks and the Roman Empire Once Celebrated Fall

While GW’s Spring Fling remains a time-honored tradition, the cherry blossom season musical event used to have a fall counterpart known as Fall Fest. Each year, students would crowd into the “Quad” — now University Yard — for a themed carnival. Activities included everything from petting zoos and screenings of “Con Air” to free snow cones and high-stakes sumo wrestling showdowns.

Each year’s festival had its own theme — some of which have aged better than others. While the GW Program Board was ahead of its time for forcing the entire student body to think about the Roman Empire back in 1990, events like the 1997 festival, which was based around the largely forgotten Brendan Fraser movie “George of the Jungle,” might not capture the same attention in 2023.

The tradition wasn’t universally beloved, however. The festival held in 1990 was critiqued in a Hatchet editorial for having musical artists who weren’t in touch with youth — the Good Guys and NRBQ. The piece also griped about a problem GW students still face: trying to have fun at events sober.

“At an event sans alcohol, there needs to be something more for students to do than squish grapes,” they said, complaining about the festival’s overall lack of entertaining activities.

Fall Fest’s last hurrah was in 2017, mirroring the style of Spring Fling with a musical event featuring club artist Grandtheft and rapper Little Simz in what is now the University Student Center.

Verdict: If Program Board picks more relevant themes, the ferris wheels and indie musical artists of Fall Fest should get to once again adorn campus, even if there’s still no alcohol.

Themed Balls, Parties and Parades: The Glory of GW Homecoming

Much like the festivities that surround a typical high school homecoming week, GW used to put on an annual, weeklong extravaganza in late January and early February. The themed week would include activities like block parties, parades, talent shows and obstacle courses, concluding with the naming of the GW homecoming king and queen.

Past themes range from “The World Around GW,” which had a multicultural emphasis, to “GW in the Mood” which focused on music and dance. While nowadays, GW’s homecoming weekend consists of men’s and women’s basketball games with GW Athletics Hall of Fame inductions, basketball was only a small part of the old Homecoming celebration.

The week typically kicked off with an annual talent show followed by movie showings, block parties and parades and concluded with basketball games. At the traditional Friday night dinner dance, students could bop along to WRGW-provided music, ending the night by voting on a GW homecoming king and queen. 

Verdict: College — and the adult world — is stressful, and there is a nostalgic beauty in reminiscing about high school traditions like homecoming. Bringing the event back to GW can help students live out their “High School Musical” fantasies.

An All-Night Camp Out to Register for Classes

There are few times of the year people at GW dislike more than class registration — it always seems like that last spot in the Scope and Methods class you absolutely need to graduate gets snagged right before you register. But as stressful as signing up for classes is now, somehow it was even worse 30 years ago.

Prior to the internet, class registration at GW was done on a first-come, first-served basis. Students would stay up all night waiting in lines outside the Smith Center to write their names on class lists in the morning.

Before 1986, everyone from first-years to grad students would register on the same day. Anyone enrolled at the University would crowd 22nd and G streets until the wee hours of the morning.

At times, like in the fall of 1985, the situation was made even worse as the University wouldn’t post class lists until a week before the mad dash to register. This schedule made it even harder for people with limited time in school or a limited willingness to sleep outside to get into the classes they wanted.

In 1986, this process started to resemble more of what we have today, with registration split up over a few days based on people’s class year.

Verdict: Leave this tradition in the past — registration is hard enough as it is, and there’s no need to add an all-night camp out to a process that already induces stress for weeks on end.

More to Discover
Donate to The GW Hatchet