Soon after the Civil War, alumni coming to Commencement Day spontaneously took part in a procession that led to a dinner meeting wherein guests listened to a variety of alumni speeches. By the turn of the 20th century, Reunions had become a robust convention that began as long as a week before Commencement. Admission was restricted to alumni, but families were invited to watch the Princeton-Yale baseball game, a rivalry that began in 1868. The Saturday afternoon game became the focal point of reunions and, as alumni attendance grew, occasional classes would hire a band to lead their group the playing field, and often children of the alumni were included in the march. It was from this impromptu procession that the P-rade was born.
The route has varied over the decades, but currently the P-rade begins at FitzRandolph Gate and proceeds around Nassau Hall, past Cannon Green and East Pyne to Chapel Drive and Elm Drive, culminating on Poe and Pardee fields. Originally, the alumni marched to University Field, the site of the Princeton-Yale baseball game. When the University built the Engineering Quadrangle on the site in 1960, the route was changed to end at Clarke Field. The Alumni Council has tried a variety of routes since, now ending with a brief Alumni Association meeting instead of the baseball game. Later that evening are a lawn concert and a grand fireworks display at Finney and Campbell Fields.
The exhibition "Princeton Reunions and the P-rade: A Historical Retrospective"
can be viewed at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library's Wiess Lounge from February
16 through July 15, 2004. It contains photographs not included in the following
timeline, as well as artifacts from past reunions, and a tribute to the Classes
of 1954 (50th Reunion) and 1979 (25th Reunion). The Mudd Library is open Monday-Friday
8:45-4:45, and Wednesday evenings until 8:00. To accommodate those visiting
campus on Alumni Day, the Library will be open from 9-1:00 on Saturday, February
21. Those visiting on Reunion Weekend may also view the exhibit from 9-1:00
on Saturday, May 29.