It took 300 gallons of paint, around 100 people working different shifts from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and almost 80 years of tradition, but the Aggie “A” on the hill behind Hughes Stadium now glistens in the sun after receiving its annual coat of paint.
It’s a tradition that started back in 1924, before Hughes Stadium was built and when Colorado State was primarily an agricultural school. Volunteers from CSU and the Fort Collins community hauled thousands of rocks and formed the famous “A”. The rocks formed the 450-foot tall and 250-foot wide monument that now gets whitewashed every year.
Bill Woods, former CSU football player who now coordinates the tradition, first took part in the painting during his freshman year in 1954.
“During our first week of school, all of the freshman used to be able to fit into the old field house on College and we would listen to the president of the university speak and then head over to the hill and paint the A,” Woods said. “We would drive up there and then start walking with your bucket and brush and get to work.”
Now members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and redshirt freshmen football players who can fit it in their schedule are the main contributors in the whitening effort. Over time the brushes and buckets have been traded in for faster and more efficient sprayers.
“We had eight sprayers and when we started in the morning only three of them were working, so it was kind of difficult,” SAE president and fourth-year ‘A’ painter Joe Johnson said. “That ‘A’ is big and it took us all day, but it went (well).”
Around 85 members of SAE enjoyed taking part in the tradition as they have for over 70 years.
“It has always been something our house has done. It is easy and a good part of our history,” Johnson said. “It’s something that the community can see we do. It shows that Greek Life is good and is a good thing to do to get our name out there in a positive way.”
Woods has seen the evolution of the tradition from the first time he painted until today. After graduating from CSU he entered the military. He came back to CSU after retiring in 1980 and began taking the tradition a little more seriously.
“Different clubs and groups of people would do it whenever someone would complain that it was starting to fade,” Woods said. “In 1982 SAE made a commitment to do it every year and I decided to help coordinate it.”
Another improvement was made in 1993 when Sonny Lubick took over as head coach of the Ram football team. The tradition appealed to Lubick and together with Woods and CSU’s athletic director, the three set up a system to get the needed supplies donated and to get the event publicized. Lubick also decided redshirt freshmen would benefit from contributing their art skills to the ‘A.’
Painting the ‘A’ is open to anyone who is interested and takes place every September. According to ASCSU, it is one of the “101 things to do before you leave Colorado State University.”
After receiving its shiny-new coat last week, the ‘A’ serves as a landmark for Fort Collins and looks better than ever.
“It’s a great tradition,” Woods said. “It is one that needs to be kept and as long as SAE and the redshirted freshman keep doing it, there is no reason it won’t be.”