Author: Lisa V., C’02
With Penn’s annual Spring Fling weekend just days away, I find myself thinking about the origin of this famous (some might say infamous) Penn tradition.
According to University Archives, Spring Fling actually grew out of an earlier Penn tradition known as Skimmer. Beginning in 1949, Penn students would gather on a Saturday each spring on the banks of the Schuylkill River to encourage the Penn crew team. This tradition soon expanded to become a weekend of social, musical, and athletic events both along the river and on-campus. Soon thousands of students from up and down the East Coast flocked to Skimmer, enjoying not just the races, but also the jazz bands, the motorcades, the “co-ed” poster contest, the concerts, the dances, the fraternity parties, and the beer.
Unfortunately, the event turned out to be too popular for its own good. Large crowds, combined with youthful high spirits (and alcohol), eventually led to injuries, property damage, and arrests. Over time, the focus of Skimmer Day/Spring Weekend shifted more and more away from off-campus activities along the Schuylkill River to organized events on-campus.
Like all traditions, Spring Fling is one that has evolved over time. As per University Archives, “The first official Spring Fling was held the weekend of April 21, 1973. Almost all of the weekend’s activities – which included carnival booths, art exhibits, and five hours of square dancing – took place in the Quad, and the concert, then gratis, featured a no-name guitarist named Dave Weinburg, who played from a chair on the grass of the Quad in front of McClelland Hall.”
This year, Spring Fling activities will take place across campus – from the headliner concert at Franklin Field to the carnival in the Quad and everywhere in between – and will attract nearly ten thousand revelers. The headline concert in Franklin Field – featuring Lupe Fiasco, Ratatat and Flo Rida – has already sold out at over 8,000 seats. The campus may have changed over the years, but the spirit of celebration at the start of this new season has not waned. In fact, it grows stronger each year.