Keweenaw Day (K-Day): A Fine Tradition

By Allison Neely | University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections

While the start of fall semester at Michigan Tech heralds the beginning of a new adventure for new and returning students, it also brings back many fond memories for our alumni. For some, it’s memories of moving into the dorms or buying textbooks; for others, it’s their first class on campus and meeting their advisors for the first. However, most would agree that it was the student activities outside the classroom that they remember the most. Whether it was their first Tech football game or homecoming activities, if you’ve been a student at Tech since the early 1950s, you remember the fun and excitement of K-Day.

K-Day, short for Keweenaw Day, has been a favorite annual tradition of Michigan Tech students since 1951. The first Keweenaw Day was established as a way to bring the campus community together. In response to a growing student body at the then Michigan College of Mining and Technology (MCMT), faculty member, Dr. Charles San Clemente, suggested to the Faculty Association in the spring of 1951 that the college consider a campus community-wide picnic to bring students, faculty, and staff together before the rush of mid semester.

The November 1951 edition of the MCMT Alumni News reported on the success of the first Keweenaw Day celebration held on October 9 held at the picturesque Fort Wilkins State Park. Over 1,000 members of the campus community and their guests attended the event, marking “the beginning of a fine tradition.” The sounding of the campus siren (sometimes referred to as the Engineer’s Whistle) at 11 a.m. marked the end of classes for the day and the beginning of Keweenaw Day festivities. Buses and vans shuttled people up the coast to take in the scenic vistas of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Upon arriving at Fort Wilkins, K-Day-goers were treated to a picnic lunch and a variety of activities, including games, sightseeing trips to the lakeshore and up Brockway Mountain, small game hunting, and fishing. A highlight of the day was the faculty-student baseball game, pictured here. While the game was all in fun, there are rumors that the students won. After the games and tours were ending, K-day culminated in a sing-along around the campfire.

In its 67 years a Tech tradition, K-Day has seen some changes, but at its core, the main themes of festivities, food, and friendship have remained the same. The event was moved to McLain’s State Park in 1976 to shorten the driving time from campus and reduce the road congestion that plagued the event in its early years. Picnicking and fun activities have always been central to K-Day, but additions over the years has kept K-Day a favorite among students. Inflatable games, live music, contests and informational booths; as well as demonstrations featuring medieval fighting, Bonzai bikes, and exploding gummy bears. The student organization fair has also been a great way for new students to learn about campus activities and organizations.

Generous financial and moral support from the College administration and the Student Organization helped to support the event in the early years before the Memorial Union Board took over responsibility in 1967 and Inter-Fraternity Council in 1976. Today, K-Day is sponsored by Fraternity & Sorority Life and Student Activities and still a much-beloved campus event.

As Michigan Tech welcomes a new class of Huskies to campus and another day of K-Day, take a trip down memory lane and share your own K-Day stories!


8 comments on “Keweenaw Day (K-Day): A Fine Tradition”

  • Notian Stannard
    September 11, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    Keweenaw Day???? REALLY??? That’s funny.
    revisionist history at work

  • Jim Lehmann
    September 11, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    I remember travelling to the ’62 NCAA Hockey Championship in Syracuse NY and watching coach MacInnis’ varsity team whip U of M, Clarkson, and Boston College for the championship… We also trounced the Finnish Nationals that year several games,probably not too politically correct with the population around Tech!!!!!!

  • Martin Oldford
    September 11, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    I remember celebrating K-day at Fort Wilkins way back in the early sixties very well. It was where I met my lovely wife. I was a junior and she was a new freshwomen (spellcheck does not recognize that word but I do) and a “local maki as we use to say. Just a few years later we married on my graduation day. Funny but I don’t recall any traffic problems but I do recall it was a most beautiful day for me. Go Huskies!

  • James (Jim) Hird BsMe68
    September 11, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    1966 it was the first year I had a car and one of the few in my house to be able to take a bunch to the cliff mine to climb the rock pile to the bluff for the view. Still have the pictures from that trip. Now days the climbing is done mostly with ropes and other climbing gear, but the view has not changed that much. I will say the rock piles at the bottom of the cliff are not as big as they used to be and getting smaller all the time.

  • Jerry Myers
    September 11, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    K Day 1963 was a beautiful day, blue sky and warm weather. Held at Fort Wilkins.

  • John (Sarge) Helge
    September 12, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Never got to experience K-day while at Tech. The whistle blowing just meant that football practice would start earlier and go longer that day! Oh well, that extra practice time is what helped us win more games. The MTU FB teams from 1972-1975 were something special! Interesting to note that those teams have produced at least nine MD’s and several more very successful industrial leaders. Proud to have been a part!

  • John M. Gonser
    September 12, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    My first K-Day in 1954 was an event that I remember fondly. It marked a tradition, albeit a relatively new one, that distinguished Tech from all other institutions of higher learning. We piled into whatever cars were available with students we’d not met yet and drove through the autumn tree-lined splendor up to Fort Wilkins, stopping at the top of Brockway and at various other scenic spots to snap photos and enjoy the views. The picnic at the fort was served by faculty and upperclassmen, my plate of goodies was given me by my favorite physics prof. The games afterward were casual and fun, and the drive back to DHH left me in an exhilarated state of mind. Didn’t do much studying that evening, but did get ready for the “wars” by the following morning.

  • Jack Dick
    September 12, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    I remember K day ’63 or’64 playing football at the top of Brockway Mountain and loosing the ball over the cliff. It was a major ordeal to climb down to retrieve the ball and try to climb back up. Found out rock climbing was not my forte.

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