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#throwbackthursday: a history of Bermuda Shorts Day

The Students’ Union’s annual student piss-up, Bermuda Shorts Day, is almost here. Before you dive into the festivities, let’s take a look back at the history of this campus tradition.

The party started in 1961. Maurice Yacowar, founder of the Gauntlet, wrote “wear shorts tomorrow” on the student centre’s blackboard in the hope of creating a rite of passage at the newly-formed campus.

But the first BSD wasn’t the debauched student party we know and love. In its first year, 250 students showed up in their shorts to play a game of marbles.

The year-end ritual gained popularity in the following years, with the SU adding beer gardens and bands in 1979. Needless to say, the event has evolved.

In 1987, BSD partiers caused two water balloon-related injuries. One student reported permanent eye damage after a water balloon exploded in his face, while the SU president was hospitalized for the same reason.

Several people were also injured by broken glass and an estimated $25,000–$30,000 worth of damage was done to MacHall.

As a result, BSD went dry the next year. The day featured a barbecue and musical performances, but no alcohol. A motion to cancel BSD failed due to fears over a loss of revenue.

Instead of cancelling the event, the SU brought back the booze. Students returned to indulge in drunken revelry the next year and BSD skated along unchanged until the new millennium.

The SU introduced the wristband system in 2002. The wristbands were available not only to students but to their friends who didn’t go to the University of Calgary as well. They also used to include a day’s transit fare to discourage drinking and driving.

Capacity also became an issue. The SU increased capacity for the 2006 party by 10 per cent, capping it at 4,400 students. The SU gave out around 9,000 wristbands in 2008. But due to crummy weather, the SU hosted an indoor event and admitted only 2,300 students.

With the construction of the Taylor Family Digital Library in 2009, BSD was displaced from the front of MacHall to the soccer fields near the Olympic Oval. The move cost the SU $23,000. They applied for a Quality Money grant to fund the next three years and received the funding, but the request was criticized by faculty.

The possibility of BSD going dry for a second time emerged after poor organization and late application for a liquor license in 2010. After scrambled attempts to attract students to a dry version of the notoriously alcohol fuelled event, their worries were pacified and BSD continued on as a parking lot booze cruise.

Last year’s event ended tragically when Calgarians woke up to the news that five students — three from the U of C — were murdered at a party in Brentwood the night of BSD. The accused, former U of C student Matthew de Grood, has been charged with first-degree murder in all five counts.

This year will be the 54th BSD. Remember to stay safe, drink responsibly and stay off of the roads.

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