The first Little 500 turning the corner of
Seminary and Locust streets in 1957.
it comes to student festivities, traditions rise and fall rapidly
on college campuses. DePauw's oldest continuing festive tradition
is probably Old Gold Weekend, which began as Old Gold Day in 1907.
Even now yellow chrysanthemums are worn at the Saturday afternoon
homecoming football game, balloons are released after DePauw's first
score, and the Old Gold Day Queen is crowned at halftime. But gone
are the class scraps, the campus bonfire, the living unit decorations,
the wearing of freshman beanies and senior cords. They have all
disappeared into the limbo of lost traditions, along with mock chapel,
Gridiron Dinner, Monon Revue, Sigma Chi pledges ringing the East
College bell after football victories, and other half-forgotten
students are inventive enough to create new festive traditions in
every college generation. Since the close of World War II many have
been instituted on the DePauw campus, including beautiful legs contests,
ugly man contests, watermelon busts, rock concerts, and Octoberfests.
The most enduring festivity of all has been the Little 500, which
has expanded from a single afternoon of men's bicycle racing to
nearly a week of varied activities involving a large part of the
student body. DePauw's Little 500 began in 1956, just five years
after a similar event was held at Indiana University in Bloomington.
Both were bicycle races inspired by the famous 500-mile auto race
held at the Indianapolis Speedway each Memorial Day.
In the first DePauw Little 500, 14 teams from men's living units
pedaled 30 miles on the streets around East
College on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Lambda Chi Alpha won
that race as well as the next three in succession. In the interests
of safety and crowd control the race was moved in 1957 from Greencastle
streets to the cinder-now Uni-Royal composition-track in Blackstock
Stadium, where it has been run ever since. In the early years the
late Tony Hulman, owner of the Indianapolis Speedway, drove the
pace car and started the race.
In 1966 a faculty bicycle race was added to the program. Mason Hall,
then a women's dormitory, entered a team in the 1973 race, and two
years later the Little 500 steering committee substituted for the
faculty race a women's bicycle race, which has been held every year
since, just prior to the men's contest. Rector Hall was the initial
victor in that event. One of the first signs of spring in and around
Greencastle these days is the appearance of helmeted men and women
cycling determinedly through the streets in practice for the Little
and women's living units have from the beginning been paired for
competition in some of the ancillary events of the Little 500. Chief
of these has been the Mini 500, a tricycle race taking place in
the street outside the Student Union Building on Friday afternoon.
Other happenings, many added in very recent years, include a tug-of-war,
obstacle course run, bathtub race, pie-eating contest, a mud volleyball
tournament, and an all-campus picnic.
Music has always been part of the festivities too, with either a
Saturday night dance or a performance by a popular rock group. In
1987 "spirit awards" were offered for the first time for
participation by the various living unit pairs, and President Robert
Bottoms hosted a special awards banquet on the Sunday after the
race. Thus do new traditions arise.