When it comes to Colorado State University traditions, everyone has their favorite, but some would argue that no tradition can really compare to the Painting of the A.
It is one of the oldest traditions, predated only by the firing of a cannon before football games, and truly connects Rams back to both our Aggie and agricultural roots. The first Painting of the A occurred when the University was still Colorado Agricultural College, and to this day the event is centered around a group of people working the land to cultivate a commodity. In this case that commodity is Ram Pride. Though it may seem abstract, that pride becomes incredibly tangible and takes on a life of its own every year during Homecoming and Family Weekend. The Painting of the A is what kicks it all off.
For two people now closely connected to this most CSU of traditions, Marc (B.A., ’05) and Bevin Parker (B.A., ’02) were self-described non-traditional students when they arrived on Campus in the early 2000s. Both had transferred to CSU later in their college years, lived off campus, and had never been involved in the classic CSU traditions. Bevin would become very involved in the student fashion show, which is a newer but no less beloved CSU tradition, and Marc embraced Fort Collins’ biking culture, but it wasn’t until 2020 when their Ram pride would blossom.
Marc was sitting at his desk when he got an email from the CSU Alumni Association asking if his and Bevin’s company, Maximum Painting, would be able to provide a bid to paint the A. Up until this point the painting had always been a collaborative effort between the Alumni Association, the College of Agricultural Sciences, athletes, fraternities, and students. But COVID-19, ever the disruptor, forced the painting to be outsourced to a private company. Marc wasn’t that familiar with the A, so he got on his hiking boots and walked up the hogback to get a better look.
“The first time I made that trek all the way up there I got to the A, looked at it, and thought, ‘how the heck do I bid this?’ It wasn’t like looking at a set of blueprints,” Marc said. “As I was driving back to town, I thought about calling some buddies to see if they would want to help.”
The response was overwhelming. Everyone Marc and Bevin contacted enthusiastically said yes. After all, it’s not every day you get asked to participate in such a time-honored tradition, and Marc really began to understand just how much the painted A meant to the entire Fort Collins community.
“I called the University back and said forget the bid, I’ll just volunteer the supplies and equipment, and we’ll paint it,” Marc said.
That Friday, armed with 300 gallons of white paint, generators, and professional paint sprayers, Marc, Bevin, and their friends that included both alumni and non-alums, hiked everything up the hogback and got it all ready for Maximum Painting’s painters to do the work the following day.
It was a great experience (even if the 300 gallons of paint was a bit overkill), and even though the University would take the painting back over in 2021, Marc and Bevin said they’re incredibly proud to have their company and their family associated with the A.
“The way the town reacted when we helped out in 2020 was overwhelming,” Marc said. “I had random voicemails and emails from people thanking us for keeping the tradition alive. In 50 years, Maximum Painting will be remembered for being associated with the A. That just feels so good.”
Bevin agreed, adding it’s something the whole Parker family looks forward to each year.
“Our boys get so excited about it,” she said. “It’s just so much a part of the Fort Collins and CSU community that I can’t help but smile whenever I see it. Now we’re a part of that tradition and helping to keep it alive.”
And now is your turn to take part in this most cherished tradition. Visit https://advancing.colostate.edu/PAINTTHEA-MEMBERS2022 to sign up for a shift to Paint the A! Each shift is about two and a half hours long, and the Alumni Association will provide transportation from the Iris and Michael Smith Alumni Center. Just keep in mind the A is not accessible and volunteers will complete a short hike in order to reach the A.
Remember to wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water. Due to the semi-strenuous nature of this activity, participants must be 18 years or older. In addition to being a part of the beloved tradition, you’ll also be gifted an “I Painted the A” t-shirt, which just might get you a few extra high-fives or stalwart fist bumps come Homecoming and Family Weekend.