Looking back at CSU ‘College Days,’ wild springtime behaviors of past

Sarah Ehrlich

Historical information was provided by the CSU Special Archives and Collections office.

a girl drinks beer while holding three others
A female student balances four beers at a party during the 1982 CSU College Days. This weekend event before finals week started as a picnic in the foothills and 70 years later ended in drunken riots and countless arrests. (Courtesy of the CSU Historic Photograph Collection)

An event that started as a simple spring picnic to release steam during finals week turned into drunken riots at Campus West 77 years later.

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The event was College Days, the weekend of celebrating before finals week that put Colorado State University on the map as the best place to party in the Rocky Mountain region. In honor of the spring semester coming to a close, we are looking back at the pre-finals-week party of the 20th century. 

Alumni who lived through the wild parties recalled large amounts of 3.2 percent beer, great musical guests and plenty of reckless behavior.

“More like a college daze,” CSU alumnus Autumn Tysko said, who attended the event in the early ‘80s. “It was an insane drinking event. They literally sold beer in buckets and had people like Joe King Carasco sing his hit song ‘Party Weekend’ at the big concert.”

College Day’s humble beginning started in May of 1910, when classes were dismissed and students and faculty took the day for picnicking and fun in the Poudre Canyon. 

In 1922, College Days became a late spring celebration of western culture with a parade, barbecue, dance and collegiate rodeo where western attire was strongly encouraged. Being dunked in a tank of ice water was the fate of those who failed to meet the dress code.

Moving on 20 years, College Days remained a sophisticated all-college gathering, and 1940 was set to be a special year. In addition to the popular rodeo, parade and dance, this was also the year CSU President Charles Lory would retire after serving the school for 31 years. An oil painting of Dr. Lory was presented at a banquet and currently hangs in the Lory Student Center.

people sit on horses during a rodeo
The 1967 College Days Rodeo Queen is seated on a horse. Two attendants are seated on the fence behind her. (Photo courtesy of University Historic Photograph Collection)

The anticipated spring event would soon lose its classiness starting in 1964 when 12 CSU students were arrested for drinking beer downtown. The punishment was a choice of paying $25 or writing a 500-word theme on “the responsibilities of young adults.” Quotations from U.S. presidents and the Bible were required, and for the female offender, a quote from Emily Post’s “How a Lady Should Drink.”

It only took a couple more years for College Days to escalate into a weekend of excessive drinking everyone could join in on, and each year got a little worse. The same weekend in 1967 that the long-awaited Hughes stadium began construction, 165 arrests of drunken students and out of town visitors were made.

Student program boards attempted to better organize College Days during the late ‘70s to reduce the risk of deviant behavior. Beer sales at Hughes Stadium gave some control in hard liquor consumption, and a special event license to sell 3.2 percent to those 18 and older and more controlled security seemed to lower tensions.

Unfortunately, this did not last long.

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“What would normally take 10 minutes to get somewhere took an hour because of all the students partying in the streets. A girl walking across the street in front of our car just dropped an entire case of beer ’cause it was too heavy.” -Elena Jaramillo, CSU alumna

The 1980 College Days resulted in a 40-page file of complaints of sexual harassment at the Lagoon and hundreds of dollars in damages to Corbett Hall. One student fell 30 feet after attempting to scale a wall of Parmalee Hall.

“I was in elementary school when College Days was still happening,” said Elena Jaramillo, a CSU alumna“What would normally take 10 minutes to get somewhere took an hour because of all the students partying in the streets. A girl walking across the street in front of our car just dropped an entire case of beer ’cause it was too heavy.”

For the next seven years, the police would be on “arrest mode,” but would be no match for the memorable riot of 1986 at the Baystone and Sunstone apartments, where about 3,000 partiers made over $25,000 worth of damages and a 12-foot bonfire in the middle of Baystone Drive.

women covered in mud play football.
Students participate in the 1983 College Days Mud Bowl, where the intramural fields were transformed into a sea of water and mud for students to drink and play football in. (Photo courtesy of University Historic Photograph Collection )

The weekend of April 25, 1987 was the bitter end of the infamous College Days.

After a successful lineup of musical guests, including a newly formed funk-rock band called the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a riot happened at Campus West resulting in plenty of arrests, hospital trips and damages.

The following night, a second riot ensued. After several attempts to control the crowd, police deployed tear gas, causing the crowds to descend onto campus, destroying property and injuring others along the way, according to the CSU Police Department’s history page

The following morning the University made the announcement that College Days was officially canceled and was reinforced by Colorado’s new legal drinking age of 21.

After reminiscing of the Mud Bowl on the Intramural Fields and bed races that required an abundance of alcohol to participate, CSU alumnus Barry Kofman said the events were short lived.

“It’s hard to believe now that CSU would have ever allowed an event like College Days,” Kofman said.

Collegian reporter Sarah Ehrlich can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @sarahehrlich96.