Bascom Hill Snowball Fights

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Snowball fight on Bascom Hill

Photo: Jeff Miller

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has seen its share of civil wars. During the American Civil War, more than 70,000 soldiers trained in what is now one of the greatest college football stadiums in America — Camp Randall. And then, nearly 150 years later, hoards of students descended upon Bascom Hill for what came to be called the Battle for Bascom: an epic snowball fight between the Southeast and the Lakeshore residence halls.

On December 9, 2009, troops from the Southeast launched snowballs at the brave Lakeshore residents on the front lines. The Lakeshore brigade was unyielding, pushing forward until it claimed Bascom. As the battle fizzled, the carnage was clear: beards were crystallized with icicles, eyeglasses were fogged and askew. A man in a banana suit reached for a fallen comrade, who must have been quite chilled, as he was clad only in a Speedo.

The event had been organized on Facebook several weeks earlier as an attempt to break the unofficial record for the world’s largest snowball fight. A perfectly timed snow day was a happy accident … or was it? As snow blanketed Madison the evening of December 8, 2009, students took to Twitter to ask then-chancellor Biddy Martin for the day off. Then, at 7:45 p.m., Martin famously tweeted that campus would close. Just minutes later, residents of Sellery and Ogg commenced a smaller skirmish across the impassable Dayton Street. (This was the first full campus closure in nearly twenty years, and one of only eight in history.)

The 2009 snowball fight saw nearly four thousand combatants, just short of what was needed to break the record. But that didn’t dampen the flame: the Battle for Bascom continued to become a tradition. Subsequent fights took place on February 2, 2011; December 20, 2012; and February 8, 2015. So far, Lakeshore is undefeated.

Though millenials may argue otherwise, the very first Battle for Bascom actually took place many years ago, on a snowy day in 1923. Rather than residence hall communities drawing a line in the sand (er, snow), UW law and engineering students duked it out. There was no documented winner (but our money’s on the engineers).

Published in the Winter 2015 issue

Tags: Campus history, Student life, Winter

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