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Carrying the torch

By Audrey DeAnda
Arizona Summer Wildcat
July 28, 1999
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Arizona Summer Wildcat

While UA students say good-bye to the long-standing tradition of movies at Gallagher Theater and the campus gets ready for a major facelift, a set of time-honored campus rituals will continue.

At the beginning of each year, the incoming freshmen have the honor of re-painting the "A" on "A" Mountain. Students journey to the Westside peak where they whitewash the Wildcat landmark and bond with their classmates.

Tom Sanders, the associate director of UA heritage, said the tradition of the freshmen painting the "A" dates back to the construction of the "A" in 1915.

"The freshmen class was assigned to build it. It took them a long time because they only worked weekends," Sanders said. "Finally the president at the time canceled classes and sent the entire student body to finish it."

It took more than a year to complete the construction of the symbol because the university only had about 200 students, he added.

Every fall, the university celebrates Homecoming to welcome back alumni. The event, which dates back to 1919, is sponsored by the UA Bobcat Senior Honorary. Each afternoon during the week-long celebration offers many diversions for students.

The week ends with the University of Arizona parade along the UA Mall followed by the homecoming football game.

The blooming of the flowers and warming temperatures signify the approach of Spring Fling.

Spring Fling is the largest campus event at the UA. It started in 1975 with only a handful of carnival rides and about 20 booths, but has grown to become the largest student-run carnival in the nation.

Besides official UA traditions, university students follow a set of unspoken rituals.

While UA basketball student tickets can be difficult to find, the select number in attendance should be aware of one cheering rule - the crowd must remain on their feet at the beginning of each half until the opposing team scores.

At UA football games, comfortable shoes are a necessity, because the students stand during the entire game.

Also, at every kick-off, the students shake their keys in the air until the ball is kicked downfield. During high-scoring games, this ritual can become quite tedious, but participation is a must.

After the wildcats score, university mascot Wilbur the Wildcat is hoisted into the air by cheerleaders and performs his famous one-handed pushups - one for every point the team scores.

Wilbur has also been known to pounce on the students and crowd surf to the top of the stadium.

At halftime, students can listen to the unique sounds of the UA marching band who jam to alternative music. The famous tuba dance - a unique display of talent from an oft overlooked band section - highlights the halftime show.

Another unmentioned tradition that only a few have dared to accomplish is the painting of Arizona State University's "A," located atop a mountain on the Tempe campus.

The night before the football game ASU, students have been known to travel to Tempe and leave a swath of red and blue on the Sun Devil "A".

Successful perpetrators of this crime earn the admiration of their fellows and bragging rights for years to come.

This can be a tricky situation, vigilant Sun Devils have been known to camp out on the mountain to protect their symbol. Not to mention the inherent dangers of walking around a cactus-coated desert peak.

Beware - this tradition is also illegal and students can face serious criminal charges if caught in the act.

So, while some may feel daring and want to venture into Tempe, the safer bet would be to stay in Arizona Stadium and wave your keys.