By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
Ag Day is an almost 40-year-old tradition at CSU. It celebrates the University’s roots and its role as a leader in agricultural research, education, and outreach. The long-standing partnership between the University and Colorado agricultural commodity groups also is showcased. Like other traditions on campus, Nutrien Ag Day has been affected by COVID-19. However, we stalwart Rams refuse to let a pandemic keep us from celebrating our past or “paying it forward.”
The roots of Ag Day are attributed to two extraordinary Rams, Thurman “Fum” McGraw (B.S., ’50) and Dr. John Matsushima (B.S., ’43; M.S., ’45). McGraw is the only CSU athlete to be named All-American in three different sports ̶ football (1948, 1949), track (discus 1949), and wrestling (1948). He served as director of athletics at CSU from 1976 to 1986. Matsushima is an emeritus professor of animal science who, in addition to many academic honors, was named “Citizen of the West” at the 2013 National Western Stock Show and recently awarded the 2020 Feeding Quality Forum Industry Achievement Award.
In the 1970s, McGraw hosted a gathering of supporters at the Hughes Stadium parking lot before games. Matsushima suggested he ask the Colorado Cattle Feeders Association to donate a steer for roasting at the Meats Lab, so he could host a barbecue encouraging involvement with football. It became “Beef Day.” When Jean Lamm (Ph.D., ’91) was hired as the first director of development for the College of Agricultural Sciences, these three envisioned a larger event that would involve many state agricultural commodity groups, promoting them to the public while also raising funds for student scholarships.
In fall of 1981, Ag Day debuted under that iconic A before a game. It promised “food, football, and fun.” Combined football/food tickets were $10 for adults, $5 for kids. Around 300 alumni and football fans ate beef and other regional foods while seated on straw bales. The event raised funds for one scholarship.
The “food, football, and fun” motto remains part of Nutrien Ag Day, while other aspects have developed over the years. Lamm and her team involved more state commodity groups; recent Ag Day menus feature Colorado beef, pork, lamb, wheat, potatoes, corn, beans, eggs, dairy, melons, and beer, and the horticulture industry provides flowers. Around 3500 attendees now have the option to sit at tables and chairs beneath tents. Live music became part of the event along with educational and interactive activities by student groups, academic departments, and sponsors, ranging from roping to Colorado 4-H project highlights to CSU’s Bug Zoo to meet-and-greets with CSU athletic teams. Nutrien Ag Day also now has numerous sponsors who make the event and scholarship program possible.
Other changes occurred when the Athletic Department started honoring our Aggie heritage with “Orange Out” games (the college’s former colors were pumpkin orange and alfalfa green). Nutrien Ag Day now is held on football’s Orange Out game. When football moved into Canvas Stadium in 2017, Ag Day moved to the West Lawn of Lory Student Center.
This year, our Aggies are showing their virtual spirit by adapting to current COVID-19 limitations. While Rams won’t play football at the stadium this year, we still can unite in true Aggie form and show our Ram pride by sharing food with loved ones and celebrating our heritage. Over the years, proceeds from Ag Day have supported over 300 students totaling more than $525,000 in scholarships. The specific plan for 2020 Nutrien Ag Day is found elsewhere in this issue. We hope you participate at home, and when you do, please raise a glass to those stalwart Rams who played an important role in creating this wonderful tradition ̶̶ thank you John, Jean, and Fum!