Lighting of the A reveals decades-long traditions

Sam Sedoryk

Colorado State University’s Aggie A, positioned prominently on the western hills of Fort Collins, stands as a symbol of CSU pride. The Homecoming tradition of lighting the A has brought excitement for the coming football season for many years now, but many people don’t know the story behind it. In fact, this custom goes back nearly 100 years. 

In 1923, the students at the Colorado Agricultural College voted to assemble the large A for the Aggies, which was the CSU mascot at the time. The idea behind the A was to encourage school spirit for students. 


Now, nearly 100 years later, freshmen preserve the tradition by repainting the A annually. 

During the 1940s after the war, many returning veterans and new students wanted to bring back the old traditions of pre-war sentiments like the Homecoming football games. This introduced the lighting of the A and began a new Homecoming tradition for the next several decades.

Over the years, the A was traditionally lit by Greek pledges. The A was lit by using a large coffee can that contained a roll of toilet paper doused in gasoline. This method created a significant concern for forest fires, and in 1991, the traditional lighting of the A and the bonfire were banned from campus. 

The A (is) such a symbol of tradition here at CSU, and to infuse that into Homecoming is important.” -Keith Lopez, Associate Director for Orientation and Transition Programs. 

In 1995, the A was registered in the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties, but it wasn’t until 2000 that the historic tradition of illuminating the landmark was returned to the students. 

Wishing to rekindle the historic tradition with a more modern, sustainable twist, then Associated Students of CSU President Joe Urban assembled on-campus organizations and the Fort Collins Natural Area to ensure a safe way to return the Homecoming custom.

Now, the lighting of the A has been passed to second-year students. In 2013, the organization Year2@CSU worked with the Alumni Center to ensure the tradition would be kept as an integral part of Homecoming week.  

“Year 2@CSU helps second-year students keep their commitment at CSU by participating in University traditions and being involved in the Homecoming event,” said Courtney Conrad, coordinator of the Orientation and Transition Programs. 

The A, which was once used to symbolize and represent the Aggies, now has become a landmark for CSU and Fort Collins.

This year’s lighting of the A begins on Friday, Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m.

“I remember when it was lit, everyone was really happy and cheering about it,” said Nathan Gray, a second-year member of the marching band. “I think it’s really (a) resemblance of how (we) act toward sporting events and how we don that spirit and pride as it brings us all together to enjoy the lighting.”

With the help and support of students and faculty, the presence of the A revives back-to-school excitement and reminds us of our agricultural heritage here at CSU. 


“The A (is) such a symbol of tradition here at CSU, and to infuse that into Homecoming is important,” said Keith Lopez, associate director for Orientation and Transition Programs.

Sam Sedoryk can be reached at or on Twitter @samsedoryk