K-State prides itself on its “family” atmosphere; the word alone has become affixed to our university brand, seeking to draw in new generations of Wildcats. And, as families tend to do, the ever-growing K-State family has developed its own meaningful traditions.
One of those traditions is the “Wabash Cannonball.” When the song is played, students stand up, clap, and bend forward and backward in time to the music.
This tradition began in 1968 after a fire destroyed Nichols Hall (then Nichols Gym), the home of the music department. Due to the fire, the band only had one sheet of music to perform at the university’s next athletic event – “The Wabash Cannonball.”
Now, the “Wabash Cannonball” is played at nearly every major K-State sporting event and never fails to get the student section on their feet.
“The Wabash is definitely one of my favorite things at Kansas State, especially during home football games,” Jessica Pennybacker, sophomore in education, said.
The cheer, she said, catches many visiting teams by surprise.
“If you watch the coaches from the opposing team, especially a team that we haven’t played much before, it’s actually really funny to see their reactions,” Pennybacker said. “They all just kind of stop and stare at the sea of people rocking back and forth and basically pause what they’re doing. I sometimes even see the players just kind of mesmerized by the student section.”
Willie the Wildcat
Another tradition is the K-State mascot, Willie the Wildcat. Willie is well known for doing a pushup for every point K-State scores at a football game. He follows his pushups with his K-S-U pose and chant.
The Willie the Wildcat tradition began in 1947, though he has undergone several appearance changes since then.
“I think I’d be pretty upset if Willie wasn’t at a football game,” Ciara Chambers, sophomore in political science, said. “I really don’t know what I would do. It would mess up our chants, and our spirit would be ruined. It wouldn’t be loud and definitely wouldn’t feel like Bill Snyder Family Stadium.”
One tradition surrounding Willie the Wildcat that has remained the same is the secrecy surrounding the identity of the student or students who “portray” Willie.
‘Forking’ the fork
A more recent tradition is a staple on April Fools’ day. Students stick plastic forks in front of the Rook Statue, located on the lawn of King Hall, along with a sign that reads “all hail the mother ship.” This statue is commonly mistaken for a fork, so students typically stab forks into the ground around it as a joke.
Call Hall ice cream
Another classic tradition at K-State is Call Hall ice cream. Call Hall Dairy Bar, located in Call Hall, serves milk, meats, cheeses and over 35 flavors of ice cream. All products are made from the K-State farm units. The ice cream is served in the the dairy bar, the K-State Student Union, dining halls and at campus events.
“Purple Pride” ice cream is one of their most talked about flavors, mainly because it is a vibrant, K-State purple.
“I give campus tours here at Kansas State and always make it a point to talk about Call Hall,” Katherine Sensenich, junior in microbiology, said. “If they don’t make it there in time for lunch, then we occasionally take them by Call Hall and always encourage them to at least sample the Purple Pride ice cream.”
There are also many K-State traditions that haven’t made it to today. From 1946-1972, K-State women would vote on their favorite man on campus. Candidates would campaign for weeks to earn the prestigious title, “Favorite Man on Campus.”
Another tradition that has faded was that freshmen had to wear beanie caps. This beanie tradition lasted nearly 30 years. In past years, varsity athletes also frequently paddled freshmen.
Long standing traditions
The two longest standing traditions K-State still continues are the university’s anthem, “Alma Mater,” and its official color: royal purple.
“Alma Mater” was selected as a result of a campus contest in 1888. The original version was four stanzas and a chorus.
In 1896, two representatives from each class chose the school color, but the faculty didn’t approve it until 1921. The complementary colors of white, silver and black have been used over the years.
These are just some of the long-standing traditions at K-State. K-State turns 151 years old this month, and bring with it a great deal of history. Today, students, faculty and staff continue to preserve past traditions and create new ones that could be around for the next 151 years.