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A Tradition Unlike Any Other: Guarding the Fraternity Homecoming Floats

It’s a tradition as old as time, yet no one seems to remember when it started: fraternity pledges guarding their Homecoming floats. After a long week of pomping and dressing up for their weeklong themes, the fun continues for the young fraternity gentlemen with night shift guarding of their floats for tonight’s Homecoming Parade.

“Traditions get passed down from pledge class to pledge class for years,” said one surprisingly optimistic pledge. “One day when we are seniors, we will have a way to stay connected to the past, the present and the future of our fraternity.”

In a tradition — which shouldn’t be considered hazing by any measure — pledge classes stand watch over their tissue paper creations at all times throughout the week. The reason for guarding the floats is pretty clear once you take a stroll around Fratland at night: drunk students.

“We mostly guard it for safety precautions,” said one fraternity brother. “I would like to think that no one would try messing with it, but you can’t always trust drunk college kids.”

Another reason could be rivalries between frats or just plain weather problems. If it rains, there needs to be a tarp to protect the pomps, and the pledges worked too hard all week to allow a couple of drunken frat-goers to ruin their achievement.

“Pledges from other frats are kind of told to try to screw around with other floats,” said another bro. “The pledges don’t really have anything else to do, so they really bond throughout the shifts.”

This brotherly bonding starts extremely early, too. Some fraternities are paired up with another fraternity and a sorority, called a “triad,” so the pledges have a (somewhat) easier time guarding. However, “as soon as the sun goes down,” pledges start watching the floats. The two fraternities in the triad rotate which frat has pledges watching and ideally, the pledges switch every four hours.

While some fraternities make their pledges guard their floats the whole week with hour shifts at a time, others only guard it for one night.

“When I had to guard it, it was just all the pledges there until 6 a.m. on Thursday night,” said a brother. “Our only rule was, don’t let anyone touch the float.”

And this rule is taken extremely seriously, with one brother commenting that the float would “probably get burned to the ground without us there.” We all know that the destruction of the float is probably the last thing a pledge would want going through their “bonding” period of the fraternity brotherhood process.

You can come out and see the creations in all their glory tonight at the Homecoming Parade!

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About the Author

Bridget Markham

Bridget is a junior majoring in journalism with minors in Spanish and art history. She still hasn’t figured out what she wants to do with her life yet, hence the art history. Like the typical north Jersey native that she is, Bridget enjoys Bruce Springsteen, the Yankees, and the Jersey shore… and she refuses to acknowledge that she has an accent from her home state. She can usually be found at either Saint’s or Webster’s, and if not there, the hiking trails. You can contact her at [email protected]

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