Hoop Rolling Race at Smith College
According to tradition, the winner of the annual Hoop Rolling race at Smith College would be the first in her class to wed. The earliest mention of hoop rolling may be found in a 1905 letter located in the College Archives by Mabel Tilton, ’08. Mabel writes to her parents about the festivities of the final days of the academic year including,
“…hoop rolling, one of the prettiest sights I’ve seen here, when all the Seniors came running down from College Hall to Student’s Building rolling hoops…”
Once Neilson Library was built, the starting line for hoop rolling began there. The Wednesday before Commencement, seniors would gather on the lawn behind the Library. Cheered on by spectators, who were hanging out of the windows or lined up on the lawn, the seniors would race down the slope toward the Student’s Building. Upon reaching the finish line the seniors would throw their hoops onto the porch of the “Studs” for the Juniors to carry away. At other times, the Seniors would bequeath their hoops to Juniors. The winner of the race was awarded a bridal bouquet and the seniors then sang the last Step Sing of their undergraduate careers.
Changes to the hoop rolling race came with World War II. A race for married students was introduced in 1944 as many of the women in college were getting married before graduation. The winner of that race would be the first of her class to have a baby, and her prize was a baby rattle.
In 1964 the Student’s Building was torn down to make way for the Clark Science Center. The following year hoop rolling was moved to the Quad. By 1971 hoop rolling had become a part of Smith’s history and was no longer part of the Commencement festivities. Like many Smith traditions from earlier days, a hoop and a stick survive in the College Archives as a trace of past activities and times.