With the end of October comes Halloween, and with Halloween comes Texas A&M’s ‘Flight of the Great Pumkin’ tradition. It is definitely not cult-like at all.
However, it appears as though the university is either embarrassed by the tradition or unwilling to deal with the backlash. Video of this year’s event was tweeted out by Texas A&M’s Commandant on late Friday night.
It was deleted by early Saturday morning.
If Texas A&M’s ‘Flight of the Great Pumpkin’ is a storied and honored tradition at the university, then why was the Commandant so quick to delete its tweet over the weekend?
What is Texas A&M’s ‘Flight of the Great Pumpkin’ tradition?
Texas A&M was established as a military institution in 1876 and as only a military institution. Because of its roots, the Corps of Cadets has played an important part in the university’s history, even as it expands well past the days of its founding.
While membership in the Corps used to be mandatory, participation became voluntary in 1965. It remains a large part of the student population and, even today, the cadets form the largest uniformed body of students outside of the U.S. military academies with over 2,500 participants.
Known as Company C-2, the Corps has many storied traditions. One of them took place on Friday.
Every October, prior to Halloween, Company C-2 takes part in the ‘Flight of the Great Pumpkin.’ This year’s event took place on Friday and the Commandant’s since-deleted video gives a great look at what it is all about.
The story of ‘Flight’ started in 1963. It stems from upperclassmen cadets looking for something to at expense of the “fish.”
“Fish” are the freshman cadets.
Each fall, Company C-2 held an apple-bobbing contest amongst the fish. The fish who were not able to get an apple were punished. They were wrapped in a white sheet, had pumpkins placed on their heads and were forced to run through a gauntlet of upperclassmen who held flaming brooms.
The ‘Flight of the Great Pumpkin’ was born.
Since its inception in the early ’60s, the Halloween tradition has seen a lot of change. At one point, the Flight became a competition between Company C-2 and the Fightin’ Texas A&M Aggie Band.
Freshmen would run around inside the band dorm with pumpkins on their heads. Upperclassmen would try to smash the pumpkins off of the freshmen’s heads with axe handles.
As could perhaps have been foreseen, the Flight eventually escalated to a full-blown brawl between Company C-2 and the Aggie Band. That resulted in a period of hiatus before the Flight returned in its current form.
Today, the Flight is just for show.
C-2 marches with pumpkins and torches, leading one ‘Great Pumpkin’ through the quad. The Great Pumpkin, referencing the original tradition, is wrapped in a white cloth. At the end of the processional, all of the pumpkins are smashed on the ground.
After going awhile without the Aggie Band, it was reintroduced in 2015 and plays haunting music while the C-2 does its thing. It is a university-condoned event.
Here is what it looked like in 1989:
And here is a great look at the Flight in 2019:
It is definitely not cult-like at all.