History Lessons: Fun and Fundraising

For more than a century, Michigras, an annual April festival welcoming spring, also served as a “fun raiser” for campus causes.
By Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10


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Michigras Parade in 1950
A float passes by a crowd in front of Angell Hall during the Michigras Parade in April 1950. Photo courtesy of the Ann Arbor District Library

Among the festivities of Michigras, an annual two-day carnival-and-fundraiser organized by U-M students to celebrate spring’s arrival, was a parade through town. Many of the floats were elaborate and others, not so much. This modest bathtub float from the 1950 parade may not be spectacular, but its beneficiary stands today in the form of the Margaret Bell Pool in the Central Campus Recreation Building. The 1950 Michigras also benefited the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project and the Fresh Air Camp.

Michigras dates to 1902, when a group of U-M students organized a County Fair to raise money for the Women’s Athletic Club Association and the M Club — the alumni varsity group whose “Go Blue” banner remains a mainstay of Big House home team introductions. The successful event became recurring and regularly expanded over the years. In 1924, the County Fair turned into the Union Fair and earned enough proceeds to help build the swimming pool in the Michigan Union. In 1937, campus groups came together to coordinate the immense carnival, dubbing it “Michigras” for the first time.

Though this long-standing tradition made an impact on campus, enthusiasm for Michigras waned into the late 2000s. The latest incarnation came in 2008, with the carnival serving as part of early March “Sibling Weekend” events organized by the U-M Residence Halls Association. Nevertheless, Michigras provided immense enjoyment and material good over its lifespan.

Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10, is senior assistant editor of Michigan Alumnus.

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