George Hiotis, ’21, Jordan Wolman, ’21, Thomas Murphy, ’21, John Cummings, ’21, and Tommy Horgan, ’21, compete in the Association of Student Alumni's Bed Races event on November 15, 2017, on Memorial Drive. Bed Races was originally a Greek-Week tradition held on the Hill. (Sara Boyd/B&W Staff)

Alumni, students discuss Le-Laf traditions then and now


Belonging to the Lehigh family means being a part of the longest-standing football rivalry in the nation — a rivalry that began on Oct. 25, 1884, and will meet again for its 153rd matchup this Saturday, Nov. 18.

Katie Emery, ’19, and Dave Emery, ’86, are not only bound by blood but also through the Lehigh traditions that have developed and expanded over one of the most important weeks of the Lehigh experience: Le-Laf week.

Richard Haas, the assistant athletic director for sales and marketing, said the Turkey Trot race, pep rally, bonfire, bed races and “storming the field” are long-standing traditions that have been revamped throughout the years with student leadership changes.

Katie Emery said her father, an alumnus of Chi Phi, would participate in morning cocktails on game day and walk down to Taylor Stadium — which stood where Rauch Business School is now located — with his fraternity brothers.

The goal posts were made of wood, and the tradition was for Lehigh students to storm the field, tearing down the goal post after a victory. Emery said her father and his fraternity brothers would fight for pieces of the goalpost.

“It became a prized possession to have a piece of the goal post from the game,” Haas said. “That led to a lot of violence on the field.”

Haas said the goalposts were even displayed in fraternity and sorority houses as badges of honor.

After Goodman Stadium replaced Taylor Stadium in 1989, the goal posts were no longer made of wood and the tradition of storming the field was much safer.

“In the past, students from both schools would end up on the field after the game,” Haas said. “Sometimes it turned violent, but fortunately, in the last 20 years or so, it has become a much safer environment to watch the game while cheering on your team.”

During Dave Emery’s senior year, Lehigh celebrated its 121st Rivalry Week with a pep rally, bonfire, fireworks display and Lehigh-Lafayette Laugh-Off — similar to the events offered this year.

While the Laugh-Off tradition has faded, the bonfire tradition still exists.

The bonfire, which has been a tradition since 1888, is now a Lehigh After Dark event that includes a pep rally on Goodman campus.

According to “Legends of Lehigh and Lafayette… College Football’s Most-Played Rivalry” by Todd Davidson and Bob Donchez, the mayor of Bethlehem, the bonfire tradition started on Lehigh’s campus when the grandstand lit on fire after a Rivalry victory. The bonfire tradition continued and students would collect wood from the Lookout Point to celebrate another victory.

Today, the wood is donated from Nazareth Pallet, a company that transports the wood to Goodman Stadium on four flatbed trucks.

Sarah Thompson, the assistant director of Residence Life and a member of the operations committee for Lehigh After Dark, said there will be food trucks at this year’s bonfire. Each student will receive a voucher to get a meal from one of three food trucks — the Lehigh Füd truck, BOB-B-Q Sliders & Slides truck and Uncle Paul’s Stuffed Pretzel’s truck.

Thompson said the event will feature performances from the dance team and Marching 97, appearances from Lehigh cheerleaders and football players and entertainment from DJ Mike.

Buses will transport students from Packard and Williams on a continuous loop.

“It’s a really cool tradition for people to look forward to happening each year,” Thompson said. “It’s a really fun way to get students excited for Le-Laf and it’s a great way to bring the campus together to cheer on the football team, especially at this time of year where it’s really cold outside.”

Stephen Goelz, ’19, and Gary Goelz, ’79, are also members of the Lehigh family.

Stephen Goelz said his father talks about bed races taking place on the Hill — starting at Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and ending at Taylor House dorm.

Stephen Goelz said based on his father’s experiences, bed races were much more dangerous when he was a student.

In the past, Dave Emery said bed races were a Greek Week tradition that occurred on the Hill. Gary Goelz said it was a student-run tradition in which students would use their own dorm beds to race down the hill. Today, the Association of Student Alumni runs the event and provides students with specially made beds and helmets to compete on the Memorial Walkway.

“Bed races are important because it’s these traditions that connect us to the classes that have come before us,” said Bea Maloney, the president of the Association of Student Alumni.

One of the longest standing traditions is the Marching 97’s Eco-Flame, which involves parading into classes and playing fight songs on the Friday before Le-Laf.

Katie Emery said this is one of her favorite traditions, especially during freshman year, when the Marching 97 played in her classes to boost morale.

Joanna Rompallo, the publicity manager for the Marching 97, said that the band is ready to play at 8 a.m. and visits the classrooms across campus the Friday before Le-Laf.

“I like to think that we are the spirit of Lehigh in bringing our own enthusiasm across campus,” Rompallo said. “We spread (enthusiasm) to other people and get people as psyched as we are for Le-Laf.”

Haas said during Rivalry Week, students want to further support the athletic teams. He said the athletics department always sees a spike in game attendance.

This week, the basketball team has three home games and the wrestling team has two home matches.

Haas said another special tradition that has occurred over 25 years is the Beat Lafayette luncheon, which is held the Friday before the game for senior football members, their families, coaches, football alumni and alumni who have attended more than 50 Rivalry games.

This year, various members of the campus community have created new traditions.

On Saturday, Student Senate’s student outreach committee, University Productions, the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council are hosting a student tailgate with a DJ and food on game day to promote campus unity and pride.

The Global Union’s international flag parade will also be integrated into game day festivities at Goodman Stadium for the first time this year.

Win or lose, Lehigh’s Rivalry Week traditions are passed down from generation to generation.

“I know that some (traditions) have changed, but all dressing up in brown and white, going to the game together and rooting for the team shows our pride in Lehigh,” Katie Emery said.

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