College Night at University of Montevallo
The UM College Night Tradition: Artistic Camaraderie
Since 1919 College Night has redefined Homecoming for one small liberal arts school in central Alabama. Like all school homecoming celebrations, the University of Montevallo’s tradition combines competition with a swell of pride carried by current students and distant alumni. However, the tradition stands unique among the myriad of homecoming games that exist I that it is entirely intramural.
The student body divides into the Purple Side and the Gold Side – UM’s school colors. Indeed, an intense rivalry has evolved over the years. There’s no rhyme or reason to selecting a side, except destiny and friendships. An elaborate rule system and governing council of professors guide participants through an early winter competition between the sides. Points are accumulated by winning various intramural sporting events and original musical productions.
The crowning star of the UM College Night tradition is the musical productions. Each side produces an original one-act musical. Everything must be created by current students–scripts, music, lyrics, costumes, choreography, sets, and direction. The planning process usually begins upon election of the next year’s leaders in the late spring. Student-written scripts and music are submitted and selected in the fall. However, no actual production work can begin until the first day of the Spring semester in mid-January; each side tries to keep its preparations secret until homecoming week. Astoundingly, the daunting task of producing a quality music theater work is accomplished with a limited budget per side. Juggling rehearsals and classes, each side rehearses until homecoming, which is the second week of February. Independent judges review the Saturday night shows, and finally show points are added to pre-production points, revealing either a Gold Victory or a Purple Victory.
Though at passing glance it can appear to be a short-lived event, the experience lasts a lifetime. College night has been described as the “crest on the wave of school spirit.” Yet, it is so much more. The camaraderie necessary to produce a magnificent piece of art under such limited time and resources builds strong friendships that endure beyond graduation on Flowerhill. Students develop production skills that challenge their artistic enthusiasm in a way that the classroom cannot. Without a doubt, the University of Montevallo has a jewel to be envied by other schools, and it shines both Purple and Gold.
COLLEGE NIGHT TRADITIONS:
Choosing a Side: until 1921, the competition was between classes rather than the two color-coded teams, Purple and Gold; until 1953 sides were assigned and students’ designated sides changed every other year to ensure loyalty to college night rather than a particular side. Now, a student chooses his/her side based on personal preference and connection with other members on each side.
College Night Committee: a group of designated faculty, staff and students that ensure Homecoming runs smoothly and that each side plays within the rules. Professors are urged to remain neutral and give assistance to either side, especially those serving on the Committee. Sides leaders are also members of the College Night Committee.
Leaders: each side elects a pair of leaders, one male and one female. However, it should be noted that the University of Montevallo was a women’s college (Alabama College) until 1962, and leaders were always female. Elections for the following year are held in late spring. To be eligible to serve as Leader, a student must be a senior, have good academic standing, and serve as a member of cabinet for at least one year. Leaders can be thought of as producers, but also serve many other important roles throughout the College Night process.
Cabinet Members: Leaders assign cabinet members for their respective sides to help carry out the numerous tasks involved in managing intramural athletics, accounting and other business, and the productions. Examples: director, business manager, technical director, spirit, cheerleading athletics, and musical director.
Side Song: each side has an anthem that it sings at the end of any formal athletic practice, rehearsal, or event. Both the Purple and Gold Side sings its side song in a circle while linking hands. However, the Gold Side leaves an empty hole in their circle to indicate, “There’s always room for one more Gold!” while the Purple Side has a completed circle indicating, “A united circle is a united side. Let the circle be unbroken!”
“WHAT’S IT GONNA BE?”: this is a catch phrase that ends each side song and is used to invoke enthusiasm among side members. The appropriate response for the Purple Side would be “A PV!” (Purple Victory) and for the Gold Side “A GV!” (Gold Victory). Sometimes, for successive victories, a side will add a number (e.g. “A GV2” for a season in which they are pursuing a second consecutive victory.)
Cow: the mascot of the Purple Side. It represents loyalty, honor and dignity. It is stately, esteemed and revered. To summarize, the cow “has it goin’ on.” Cow representations are sometimes used to refer to these qualities within College Night productions.
PV: it is similar to the peace sign and is a means of expressing the spirit, loyalty and dedication of a Purple to his/her side. This gesture can also be used in College Night shows in order to exhibit these qualities of enthusiasm for the Purple Side.
“Leo” the Lion: the mascot of the Gold Side. The side’s rich history and uniqueness are what sets them apart. Their colors are Black and Gold and are proudly worn in support of the Gold Side.
GV: thumbs are held up while the Gold Side is performing signifying Gold Victory. This gesture can also be used in College Night shows in order to exhibit these qualities of enthusiasm for the Gold Side.
Palmer Hall: the University of Montevallo performance hall where the College Night productions are performed and judged. The Gold Side occupies house right of Palmer Hall during production night while the Purples occupy house left (and this is sometimes strictly observed during rehearsals).
Palmer Staff: the team of unbiased paid student employees of Palmer Hall who maintain the hall throughout the year with sound, lighting and backstage management and led by the Palmer Hall director. They also work to ensure the backstage safety of all CN participants.
Student Retreat Center: a designated rehearsal facility: the sides use Palmer and the Student Retreat on alternating nights. For side members, both buildings are a home away from home.
College Night Mixer: an event held during the Fall semester to introduce new students to the College Night tradition. This event is pivotal in the recruiting process. Cabinet members are also announced at the CN Mixer.
The Sign: each side raises a small billboard in front of the Student Union Building that sometimes gives a hint of what their show will be about.
Cowtails or Flunkies: Purple Side (Cowtails) or Gold Side (Flunkies) members who are not cast members or orchestra members who assist the side by running errands, such as picking up food orders and helping spread side spirit.
Cheerleaders: each side has its own cheerleaders that perform at all athletic events and before the curtain opens on each show and lead the traditional “College Night Cheer.” The cheerleaders are judged in competition during half time of the final sporting event, the men’s basketball game.
Sporting Events: soccer, flag football, volleyball, women’s and men’s basketball. Members of University sports teams cannot play their varsity sport for a Side but are allowed to play any other sport. The winner of each sporting event claims a number of points towards a victory for their respective side.
Dedication: the Leaders choose an individual who has played an important role for College Night and/or the University of Montevallo to dedicate College Night.
Mr. and Ms. Montevallo: an honor bestowed upon a female and a male from the student body based on character and academic achievement and a student body election.
Trummie: nickname for deceased UM Theatre Professor Dr. W.H. Trumbauer, who was a strong supporter of College Night. Legend holds that on College Night, his ghost swings a rope in the rafters of the side who will win. His ghost also points a balcony chandelier towards the side that will win.