Flight of the Great Pumpkin
Company C-2 demonstrates holiday spirit with historic tradition
Published: Friday, October 26, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 26, 2012 01:10
What was once a cadet’s simple way of showing how much he loved Halloween has become a tradition spanning four decades, making it one of the oldest traditions in the Corps of Cadets.
Friday night will be no exception, as Company C-2 — Old Army Cock Company — will celebrate its favorite holiday with the Flight of the Great Pumpkin. Flight, which consists of pumpkins, flames and chants, will begin at about 10 p.m. on the Quadrangle. Juniors and seniors from the outfit will participate in the tradition, which has changed over the years since it began in the mid 1960s.
Originally, Flight consisted of the sophomore class — with one of their own designated as the Great Pumpkin — that would try to run through the band dorm with a broom lit on fire, said Ken Fenoglio, Class of 1970 and C-2 alumnus.
“It was good bull,” Fenoglio said. “We ran through the dorm on the first [floor]. That was all we could get to get out with our lives.”
Today, Flight consists of the juniors and seniors — complete with the Great Pumpkin — marching down the Quad carrying torches. But Gerald Smith, Class of 1982 and director of the Veteran Resource and Support Center, said some of the Old Ags who come to see Flight wish to see its original form.
“We very much like to see it like the old tradition with flaming brooms and marching up with 15 or 18 of us against all the freshmen in the Fighting Texas Aggie Band,” Smith said.
When Smith participated as a member of Cock Company, Flight was much more dangerous than it is now, which is what constituted changes.
He said the changes have been for the better.
“It was a very unsafe practice, and we were allowed to do pretty much what we wanted,” Smith said. “The outcomes of the Flight [now] and what it does to unite C-2 with our alumni is a very positive
The tradition has shifted from competing with the band to gathering alumni with current cadets for support and camaraderie.
“C-2 is one of the top few outfits that has really mobilized their alumni support,” Smith said. “It’s brought the C-2 alumni together to join them and they have a very effective reunion.”
Fenoglio said C-2 is considered one of the oldest outfits on the Quad because it has never been disbanded since it was formed in 1959 during the Corps’ restructuring.
He said for the oldest outfit to carry on one of the oldest traditions is representative of Aggie values.
“We always fall back on our past and our storied history that is steep in tradition,” Fenoglio said. “A&M really respects and admires those that have gone before us. We use the lessons learned from that to make the world a better place, to make A&M a better place, to lead the military, to lead companies of this great country of ours.”
Fenoglio said it’s an important tradition because as others fade out of existence, Flight continues to carry on with pride and honor.
“It’s one of the great traditions that has withstood the time,” Fenoglio said. “Becoming the Great Pumpkin is a great honor, you have a mission to accomplish, and you honor the tradition. It made it something fun but also something that was a life lesson.”
Caleb Gottlich, senior nutritional sciences major and Company C-2 commander, will be participating in his second Flight, something he said is a humbling experience.
“It’s a humbling experience participating in something that’s been around longer than you’ve been born,” Gottlich said. “It’s a cool experience that brings you closer to the school and the guys you’re doing it with and makes you appreciate all the other people who have gone before you.”
In order to participate in Flight, juniors have to work for it. Flight marks their transition to being official upperclassmen.
“It’s a culminating event that describes how hard you’ve been working,” Gottlich said. “It’s a time of reflection of what you’ve done while here and the guys you’ve gotten close too.”
The tradition marks a continued connection between Old Army and New Army, benefitting both current and former students.
“As long as it’s continued and it’s healthy and constructive, it provides camaraderie and linkages with the old members of the outfit,” Smith said. “The cadets in the outfit know that they’ve got the tradition of excellence that they need to try to continue.”
Gottlich said he recognizes and appreciates the presence of the alumni as they continue to support the outfit’s growth and success, despite how the tradition has changed.
“Even though the tradition has changed over time it’s still prevalent in the minds of the people that are going through it,” Gottlich said. “Showing the support from the Old Cocks makes the tradition that much better.”
Smith said that it has been continued C-2 alumni support that has contributed to the outfit’s recent success.
“What C-2 does with their alumni has turned that outfit around 100 percent,” Smith said. “C-2 has done very well, especially the last two years. The Old Ags coming in to help them have been a big part.”
Gottlich said for those not in the outfit coming to watch, they shouldn’t expect to fully understand it, but it’s something they can still appreciate.
“They should go and appreciate it for what it’s worth,” Gottlich said. “But don’t go fully expecting to understand what it’s about, just like any tradition at A&M when you look at it at face value.”
Fenoglio said he encourages other cadets and non-regs to watch the event because of it’s historic ties to the University.
“It’s very unique,” Fenoglio said. “It’s something that’s been around for decades and is indicative of some of our past roots and culture of our school. It’s going to be a beautiful, nice cool evening.”