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UNIVERSITY HISTORY

Student Traditions
Skimmer: Introduction

 

The annual student tradition of Skimmer began in 1949 and continued with only one interruption until it was replaced with Spring Fling in 1973. A simple Saturday gathering on the banks of the Schuylkill River to encourage the Penn crew soon expanded to become a weekend of social, musical and athletic events both along the River and on-campus. Soon thousands of students from up and down the East Coast flocked to Skimmer, enjoying not just the races, but also the jazz bands, the motorcades, the "co-ed" poster contest, the concerts, the dances, the fraternity parties, and the beer.

The event turned out to be too popular for its own good. After a few years, tickets were required for activities along the river in an attempt to control crowds and limit attendance to the Penn community and their guests. Both the alcohol and crowds, however, remained difficult to control, and youthful high spirits sometimes led not only to excessive litter and drunkenness, but also to injuries, property damage, and arrests - especially in 1955 and 1963.

Skimmer was originated and staged by a student committee coordinating input from the athletic department and various student groups. Soon, however, the repercussions of the event's increasing scope and resulting problems led to the imposition of more and more restrictions by the Fairmount Park Commission, the University administration, and even the student leadership. As time went on, different strategies were used to rein in the less desirable aspects of this spring weekend.

Attempts were made to solve problems by limiting attendance to the Penn community, controlling the dispensing of alcohol, and offering headline entertainers to keep students too busy to get in trouble. Fairmount Park wanted to be relieved of the burden of policing and cleaning up after the Saturday revels along the river. The University administration wanted to gain some sort of control over crowds and behavior by staging activities on-campus rather than having students concentrate along the river or in the fraternity houses.

Despite the original intent to support the Penn crew and student desire to have their own event off-campus, students eventually accepted the substitution of Spring Fling for Skimmer as the setting for a spring weekend of student-organized activities.

 

Photograph of Rusty Callow, famed coach of Penn crew
Origins
Cover of 1963 Skimmer Program
Program of Events
Color photograph of student dancing with the jazz music along the river
Timeline

 

This exhibit was created in April 2005 by May 2005 by Irina Kalashnikova, B.A. and M.A. 2006, and Mary D. McConaghy

 

SKIMMER CONTENTS:

Introduction

Origins

Timeline

Program of events

 

 

 

RELATED LINKS:

More Penn student traditions