COLUMBIA — If you don’t know what pomping is, just ask MU student Ryan Fuller. The junior member of the FarmHouse fraternity has pomped for almost 150 hours since September.
“I’ll be up all night,” Fuller said as he sipped an energy drink at 1 a.m. Friday morning. As homecoming liaison for his chapter, Fuller spent months preparing for this day.
HOMECOMING BY THE NUMBERS
Campus decorations account for 14 percent of the total points for the MU Homecoming competition. Here's a breakdown of the point system used to identify winners in each category as well as the overall winner:
Service — 160 points (16 percent)
Blood Drive — 160 points (16 percent)
Talent — 140 points (14 percent)
Campus Decorations —140 points (14 percent)
Parade— 120 points (12 percent)
Merchandise— 100 points (10 percent)
Royalty — 70 points (7 percent)
Spirit — 70 points (7 percent)
Special Events — 30 points (3 percent)
On time/liaison meetings — 10 points (1 percent)
Total — 1,000 points
“It’s exhausting, but in the end its all worth it,” he said.
Fuller is one of many Greek students adding the finishing touches to MU Homecoming campus decorations.
From 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, the streets of Greektown will open to families, alumni and students to tour the campus decorations, enjoy food and show their support at a 7:30 p.m. spirit rally at Burnam and Richmond avenues. The forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of light rain or drizzle.
In the early hours of Friday morning, fraternity and sorority members huddled outside their houses in sweatshirts and comfortable shoes. As braver members hoisted themselves onto scaffolding to set up foundations for the displays, others armed themselves with small dowel rods and tissue paper, prepared to make more pomps to fill in any holes. They have until 4 p.m. Friday to finish, and most were ready to stay up all night watching their creations come to life.
“It’s like a puzzle two months in the making,” said Linsey Krafve, a senior in the Phi Mu sorority. “When you’re pomping, you don’t know what you’re doing until you see it all come together in the end.”
Pomping involves wrapping small pieces of colored tissue paper around a circular object, like a dowel rod or pencil, dipping it in a flour-based glue and attaching it to a wooden board.
“You wrap it, you lick it, you dip it and you stick it,” said Sean Stoller, a sophomore in Alpha Epsilon Pi. “That’s our motto.”
Many members spend hours pomping over a two-month period. Although some describe the task as tedious, others value the quality time spent with their friends.
“You get to learn a lot of odd things about people after you spend hours with them pomping,” Krafve said. “You hear lots of life stories.”
In addition to colorful displays, Greek pairings will perform six-minute skits for young MU fans. Many houses also prepared special activities for children to enjoy. Phi Kappa Theta, for example, will have live sheep in their front yard to go along with their theme “Little Bo Peep.”
Two teams of four volunteer judges will score the campus decorations. Some houses go above and beyond to gain points in creativity, visual appeal and design, among other categories.
“We really want to wow the crowd,” said Mike Dean, a sophomore in Phi Kappa Theta. To set themselves apart, the fraternity created a giant papier-mache tree in the middle of their scene.
Campus decorations, an MU tradition since the 1930s, draw huge crowds each year. While kids enjoy the colorful displays and entertaining shows now, the event wasn’t always so family friendly.
“There were times when it wasn’t a smart move to bring kids to campus decs,” said Todd McCubbin, executive director of the MU Alumni Association. “There was beer on campus, and it was pretty much a huge party.”
When MU became a dry campus in the late 1980s, McCubbin said, the idea of campus decorations changed.
“We’re happy it turned out that way, and I know the Greek community is happy too,” McCubbin said. “It’s a much more positive representation of our campus.”
Returning alumni might notice a few other changes as well. In the 1970s, campus decorations were much larger and featured a constant theme — dominating the opposing team.
“The house decs used to be huge,” Debbie Snellen, who graduated from MU in 1979, said. “The tigers were two stories tall with moving parts. They even used red light bulbs to make their eyes red.”
Now, campus decorations fit theme and size requirements decided by the Homecoming Steering Committee, a panel of students selected to organize homecoming. This year, they decided on a nursery rhyme theme for the skits, house decorations and parade floats. In years past, there was a different theme for each of these events.
“This helped keep the costs down,” said Andrew German, one of the tri-directors of homecoming in charge of campus decorations. “With a consistent theme, houses can reuse parts from talent, parade and skit.”
The steering committee has taken other steps to reduce the amount of time and money spent. In the past, houses ordered their own tissue paper. Now, the Alumni Association organizes a giant order for all the houses, saving them about 20 percent of what they would pay to order individually. The houses then reimburse the association.
This year, the association ordered 422 cases of pomp tissue paper for all of the organizations. With each case costing roughly $45, the overall cost of tissue paper alone was almost $19,000. That’s not including the wood, scaffolding, chicken wire and other materials necessary to create the outdoor scenes.
To further reduce the cost, time and carbon footprint that goes into creating campus decorations, the steering committee imposed rules on the size of the campus decorations. In early 2000, organizations were still allowed to pomp 100 percent of 32 4-by-8 foot boards.
Now, the campus decorations may not exceed 16 feet high or 32 feet wide and can only be offset a maximum depth of 5 feet, according to the rules book. Houses may only use 16 4-by-8 foot boards and can only pomp a maximum of 75 percent of the total boards. Houses are not required to pomp at all, but most continue to out of tradition.
“Pomping is what makes Mizzou Homecoming Mizzou,” German said.
“You want to make it affordable, but at the same time you want to keep the tradition,” he added.
Despite the costs and the looming competition, houses continue to participate in campus decorations for the service it provides to the community.
“Thousands of people show up every year, and whether they say thank you or not, I know they appreciate it,” McCubbin said. “I realize the competition factor drives it, but at the end of the day we’re all Tigers.”