Peace, Love and the First Decade of Fling
The Flings of yesteryear included square dances, a Candy Pants Eat-Off, and a wet t-shirt contest.
April 10, 2014, 4:51 pm · Updated April 11, 2014, 2:04 am·
This year’s Spring Fling theme of peace, love and fling takes students back to when it all began.
The first Spring Fling was held on April 21, 1973, as a revival of the Skimmer Day carnival-style tradition. Skimmer Day, which had been suspended in 1963 due to alcohol policy violations, was a celebration of the University’s rowing team and marked the beginning of spring.
The second Spring Fling was much larger. Due to weather conditions, a square dance was held in Houston Hall and was the “largest dance the University ever held.” After a weekend of crowds, fun and dance, Fling organizers reveled in the success of the weekend and the establishment of a new University tradition.
Arts and crafts were prominent during the Fling of ‘75. Artists primarily from Philadelphia, but also from all over the East Coast congregated in the Lower Quad to sell their work. The purpose was to get more creative people involved with the Spring Fling festivities.
Three years after the official start of Spring Fling, the first official large concert was held. Blues artist Taj Mahal performed in the Quad and offered Penn students “a close alternative” to Woodstock , The Daily Pennsylvanian wrote. At this time, the concert was free for all Penn students.
Fling of ‘77 was a “multiple arts bazaar” that included more types of crafts than in previous years. Jewelry, pottery, woodwork and photography were just a few of the newly added types of art. Buttons with photographs and puppets were also available for sale and everything was “geared towards a student budget” of $15 to $20.
New events were created by the Fling Committee to give students greater involvement and “create a circus atmosphere.” Perhaps the most bizarre was the Candy Pants Eat-Off, which consisted to two team members — an eater and an “eatee” wearing candy underwear. Other contests included wet T-shirt and wet jockey shorts contests and the Ivy League Twit of the Year contest.
In 1978, costs totaled to about $12,000. In 1979, Quad officials wanted the Spring Fling closing concert moved out of the Quad or $8, 000 in advance for future damages. At the last minute, the Student Activities Council frantically sought to secure the Quad or River Field, according to a 1979 DP article. While SAC hoped to continue the outdoor tradition, an indoor concert at the Palestra was the only option due to the lack of security on Hill Field. SAC secured the Quad after negotiates were made to hire more personnel and get portable bathrooms, but was required to have a canopy due to forecasted weather conditions.