Illuminated Canoe Parade
A century ago, during the 1909 commencement week, a group of seniors decorated five canoes in preparation for what we believe to be the first water parade. This initiated a tradition that continued for several decades, with each year’s parade becoming bigger and better than the year before. To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School in 1910, an illumination night on Lake Massasoit highlighted a few special and splendid displays and drew hundreds of onlookers from surrounding neighborhoods. In 1914, seventy-five canoes formed an “S” in red fire. The “S,” of course, stood for “Springfield,” the more popular name for what was then the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training College.
The Springfield Student
, in describing the 1922 parade, noted a similar procedure that we are using in 2009: “the canoes will be at the disposal of the students early Thursday morning . . . and the material for decorations will be issued previous to that time.” A band concert was also part of the event. In 1925, Leslie Judd, who was the College’s first full-time gymnastics coach, arranged to have a number of tableaux, or ‘living statues,’ on the illuminated floats carried by the canoes. This must have been an impressive and memorable sight.
Classes competed for prizes awarded each year in various categories that included the most artistically decorated, the most unique decoration, or the most effective class canoe. In 1931, the first prize in the humor category went to Peter Karpovich ’27, a world-renowned exercise physiologist. The canoe is pictured below with the programs identified as physical, secretarial, county, foreign, industrial, and boys. That year, the carnival attracted over 10,000 spectators desirous of good, cost-free entertainment during the Great Depression.
As part of the celebration of the 125th anniversary of Springfield College, the 2009 illumination canoe parade will take place on Friday, November 6, at 7 p.m., in conjunction with the annual Pep Rally on Rally Hill during Homecoming Weekend. At approximately noon on Friday, canoes will be dropped off at various locations on campus to be decorated with lights, glow-in-the-dark items, and other illuminations by each of the classes, the Student Government Association (S.G.A.), and the Campus Activities Board (C.A.B.). Once decorated, the canoes will be transported to the beach area by the home of President and Mrs. Flynn and launched for their arrival at Rally Hill.
Arriving ahead of the canoes in lighted golf carts will be this year’s alumni award recipients and athletic hall of fame inductees. Lining the hill will be members from each of the varsity and club sport teams, as well as other students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The Administration Building and the area behind it will be illuminated, and music from the decades will greet the canoes as they make their approach to Rally Hill. Michael Crowe ’10 will emcee for the event with the help of Coach Julie Perrelli G ’04, Ph.D. ’09, Coach Peter Avdoulos '85, and Coach Joel Dearing ’79. A competition for the best decorated canoe will be judged by a panel of distinguished professors. The winning team will have their name engraved on a special “Canoe Parade” trophy that will reside in the Office of Alumni Relations. During the Pep Rally, the canoes will continue to paddle around Rally Hill and will disembark to the beach area at the conclusion. It is hoped that the revival of this event for the College’s 125th anniversary celebration will be a tradition that will continue for years to come.
Written by Barbara Ernst and Betty Mann D.P.E, October 2009
If you have any questions about this event, or if you wish to participate, please see the Homecoming 2009 Web site
In addition, if anyone has any pictures or memorabilia from a canoe parade of the past, please consider donating to the Springfield College Archives and Special Collections. To donate, contact Jeff Monseau, Springfield College archivist, at (413) 748-3309 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org