“On, Wisconsin” – The tune was composed in 1909 by William T. Purdy, with the intention of entering it into a
competition for a new fight song at the University of Minnesota. Carl Beck, a former University
of Wisconsin-Madison student, convinced him to withdraw it from the contest at the last minute
and allow his alma mater to use it instead. Beck then wrote the original, football-oriented lyrics,
changing the words “Minnesota, Minnesota” to “On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!”
Sung for the first time at the 1909 homecoming game vs. Minnesota.
The lyrics were rewritten for the state song in 1913 by Judge Charles D. Rosa and J. S. Hubbard.
The song was widely recognized as the state song at that time, but was never officially designated.
Finally in 1959, “On, Wisconsin!” was officially designated as the State Song.
The music was adapted by Band Director Michael Leckrone in 1969. The original version had been
played virtually unchanged since its inception. 'I got a lot of flak for that,' Leckrone said.
'The old version was one you had to wait on. I wanted to generate immediate crowd reaction, so I
stepped it up a bit.'
UW-Madison libraries “On, Wisconsin!”
On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin
Plunge right through that line,
Run the ball clear down the field,
boys Touchdown sure this time
On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin
Fight on for her fame,
Fight, Fellows, Fight,
Fight, Fight We'll win this game!
St. Patrick – Beginning in 1912, engineering students held an annual beard-growing contest to determine which of them would play St. Patrick during the traditional Spring Celebration. The contestants stopped shaving around the first of the year, and they were judged on a variety of criteria. The contest, which lasted into the 1960s, eventually became a facet of the bitter debate between engineering and law students as to whether St. Pat had been a lawyer or an engineer (shyster or plumber). Often the two groups engaged in somewhat violent clashes following the engineers’ annual St. Pat’s parade. These confrontations were later institutionalized as basketball games.
Varsity – The traditional arm waving that comes at the end of the song “Varsity” was the 1934 brainchild of then-UW band leader Ray Dvorak. He originally got the idea from University of Pennsylvania students who waved their caps after a losing game. Dvorak later instructed UW students to wave as a salute to UW President Glenn Frank. Frank died, and students don't wear hats as much, but the waving continues. If it confuses visiting fans, well, that's one of the reasons for doing it.
Venetian Night – Popular during the 1920s and early 1930s, Venetian Night was a colorful annual event celebrated in late May with lighted floats, illuminated piers and fireworks on Lake Mendota. Unpredictable weather often disrupted the occasion, however, and eventually lead to its demise.