Class boards bring Skimmer tradition back to its athletic roots

The tradition originated at Penn in the mid-twentieth century

· September 12, 2011, 1:33 am   ·  Updated September 13, 2011, 1:39 am

Elizabeth Jacobs | DP

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Sophomores and juniors will be flying high on Sept. 16 as part of this year’s Skimmer, which will offer free hot air balloon rides.

The Class Boards of 2013 and 2014 have jointly organized Skimmer — an event to honor Penn’s football team and other athletic groups.

The event will be held on Hill Field and College Green a day before Penn’s first football game against Lafayette. It will feature giveaways, free food and refreshments from Don Memos, Qdoba, Rita’s Water Ice and Monster Energy Drinks in addition to the hot air balloon rides. The Quaker Girls and Dave Matthews Cover Band will also be performing.

Skimmer has a long history at Penn. It was first celebrated as Callow Day in April 1949 to raise interest in Penn’s rowing team. In 1951, after rowing coach Rusty Callow left, it was renamed Skimmer Day after the straw ‘skimmer’ hats students wore on Callow Day, according to University Archives.

Following repeated conduct and alcohol policy violations, the University suspended Skimmer Day in 1963. Attempts to host low-key events like Skimmer came up but waned by 1973 as Spring Fling and other organized events took the stage. In 1999, Skimmer was revived , but did not take place in 2001 due to bad weather or in 2011 due to complications.

“We did not want to put on an event just for putting on an event. It was either to do something that wasn’t working 100 percent effectively or take a risk to do something more,” Wharton and College junior Class of 2013 President Jonathon Youshaei said when asked about last year’s Skimmer cancellation. “We want to see if this might become a school-wide event in a couple of years, as it was in the 1960s,” he added.

Modern-day Skimmer has become a near-annual event in Houston Hall with giveaways and free food. This year, however, the Class Boards of 2013 and 2014 aim to recreate the tradition as an athletic celebration.

“School spirit and athletes are really closely tied,” Wharton sophomore and 2014 Class Board President Spencer Penn said. “It’s really for the classes of 2013 and 2014, but I really want everyone to just embrace the Penn community and tradition.”

Although rowing was the focus of the original Skimmer, the renewed vision will focuses on football, “hoping that the momentum [for athletic support] will continue on through the rest of the year,” Youshaei said.

The Class Boards began planning Skimmer last May and tied up loose ends over the summer.

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