Painting the ‘A’ keeps a nearly century-old tradition alive

Maddie Wright

  • The “A” was first painted on December 4, 1923

With the sun beating down, volunteers hiked up one of the most recognizable Fort Collins landmarks to paint the Aggie “A.”

The Photo credit: Maddie Wright

Located west of Hughes Stadium and just east of Horsetooth Reservoir, painting the Aggie “A” is a famous Fort Collins tradition.


While this year’s annual painting of the “A” happened over the weekend, the tradition of the “A” dates back to nearly a century ago to 1923. The tradition was born from a trend emerging during World War I to show off the school’s emblem on a hill near campus. Being the Colorado Agricultural College at the time, the A was born.

It was painted in a timely manner, taking only six hours to complete. Granted, it was not its large 450 feet in length, and 210 feet across at the bottom that it is now. Even with their speedy paint job, the “A” was still missing an important piece: the school did not own the land.

“The college and the governing board members met with the landowner to negotiate a long-term lease for the price of one dollar,” said sophomore Jennifer Warner, a Ram Welcome leader leading a group on a hike to the “A.”

Initially, all first year students were required to repaint the “A” every year, but now it is available to anyone who would like to take part in the tradition and paint the “A” with environmentally friendly paint.

In 1957, when the University officially became Colorado State University, students began to feel that the “A” did not represent the school anymore by the `80s, according to Forgotten Fort Collins. However, any change to this “A,” which includes letting it fade, was suspended by the Federal Aviation Administration. The “A” serves a landmark for passing planes in order to navigate.

This year, military volunteers provided vehicles, transportation and supplies while other students provided food for the workers, said Warner.

As the first home football game rapidly approaches this weekend, the “A” had to be painted pronto.

“Each fall we work to upkeep the “A” before the first football game to make sure it is kept fresh,” Warner said.

This is a time-honored tradition at CSU, even having its own special place on the 70 things to do before you graduate list.


“(The”A” creators) all wanted to (replenish) it, keep the memory alive, keep going back and keep making it look good and everything,” Freshman biology major Mallory Warrix said.

Collegian reporter Maddie Wright can be reached at or on Twitter @maddierwright.