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The first-ever Spring Fling was held in 1973 in the Quadrangle and included an arts and crafts fair as well as square dancing.

Credit: Courtesy of University Archives and Record Center

“It was crazy. It was wild. It was fun,” said 1976 College graduate Beverly Vosko of the first few years of Spring Fling.

Alumni from the mid-1970s fondly remember enjoying music and warm weather with their friends during the early years of Fling. All events — music performances and plays by student groups, and a two-day arts-and-crafts fair, all held in the Quad — were completely free.

The Social Planning and Events Committee decided this year’s theme to be “40 Years of Fling,” in honor of the four-decade long Penn tradition.

Terri Small, who graduated in 1975, remembers the early Spring Flings fondly. “We all thought it was so amazing that there was all this music going on outside,” she said.

She met her future husband at 1974’s Fling. “That was my first date!” she said. “When [my son] tells me, ‘It’s Fling,’ I just smile.”

The first Spring Fling, held in 1973, included a square dance, which according to Small, was not very popular among students.

“Even for 40 years ago, it sounds so hokey. I don’t think that it would have been something that would have interested me,” she said.

Though the legal drinking age in Pennsylvania was 21 at the time, there were no long lines at the Quad gates or covert dorm room parties.

“Underage drinking at college wasn’t really an issue,” Small said. “You didn’t have all this sneaking of alcohol into the Quad and into the dorms.”

Still, Spring Fling in the early 1970s wasn’t Woodstock. “We didn’t sit around and do drugs or anything. We were very straight-laced,” said Sharon Wolinsky-Price, 1976 Wharton graduate and current vice president of her class.

She remembers inviting her friends from New York and eating watermelon in the Quad, a far cry from the ecstasy-fueled concerts that her sons, who attended Penn in the 2000s, described to her. “I can’t recall anything like what my boys experienced,” she said.

In fact, in 1973, Fling was the Quad carnival. There was no large concert until 1976, when blues musician Taj Mahal performed.

After the first year of Fling, the festival steadily expanded. In 1974, the Quad Carnival was three days instead of two, beginning on Thursday afternoon. It featured an increased number of artists and included performances by Penn Jazz Ensemble, the Cobblestones Barbershop Quartet, a modern dance troupe and Mask & Wig. Theater groups put up plays every night in the Quad as well.

One act — perhaps inspired by William Blake’s poem — called itself “Tyger.”

“Fling was amazing, I get so nostalgic [for it],” Small said.

A previous version of the article stated that the drinking age in the 1970’s was 18 in Pennsylvania. The drinking age was 21 back then.

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