Purdue Traditions

The Purdue University band with the world's largest drum on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track in front of the pagoda.
The World's Largest Drum being played by the Purdue University band on the football field.

Big Bass Drum

Known as the “world’s largest drum,” it stands 10 feet tall on its field carriage and is handled by a crew of six band members, including two beaters. The drum draws attention wherever it goes from fans who want their picture taken with the instrument. It still has its original 1921 frame, which is 8 feet in diameter and nearly 4 feet between its two heads.

Slaughter of Innocents, Wabash snowed completely under by the Burly Boilermakers from Purdue.


The moniker for the University’s athletics teams has become a popular reference for all things Purdue. A reporter first used the name in 1891 to describe the year’s winning football team as “Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue.” The nickname quickly gained approval from students.

The Boilermaker Special.

Boilermaker Special

The locomotive design of Purdue’s official mascot celebrates the university’s renowned engineering programs. The Boilermaker Special was presented in September 1940 and has been used to announce campus events ever since. Rides on the Special can be arranged through the Purdue Reamer Club.

A cart turning a corner at the Grandprix .

Grand Prix

This 50-mile, 160-lap go-kart race is “The Greatest Spectacle in College Racing” and wraps up Gala Week each year. All 33 participating karts are made from scratch by student teams. The event has been raising money for student scholarships since it began in 1958.

Hail Purdue on a window with the Bell Tower in the background.

“Hail Purdue!”

While university events are the most likely place for Boilermakers to join in a chorus of Purdue’s official fight song, it’s not uncommon to hear it somewhere on campus every day. The song was composed in 1912 by Edward Wotawa (music) and James Morrison (lyrics).

The Hello walk.

Hello Walk

Originally one winding walkway from the main entrance to University Hall, the Hello Walk now includes all the sidewalks that cross the Memorial Mall. As indicated by the name, people are encouraged to smile and say hello to everyone they meet along the way.

Ariel view of Purdue University football players walking across crosswalk.

Old Gold and Black

Purdue’s colors were adopted in 1887, the first year of Purdue football. A self-appointed committee of students and faculty chose the colors so that the team could be distinctive for their first game.

Purdue football players holding up the Oaken Bucket.

Old Oaken Bucket

Found on a farm in southern Indiana, the oaken bucket is one of the oldest football trophies in the nation. The winner of the annual Purdue-Indiana football game gets to add a bronze “P” or “I” chain link and keep the trophy until the next faceoff. Ironically, the first competition in 1925 led to a 0-0 tie, resulting in the first link on the chain being an “IP.”

The front page on February 11, 1913 of The Purdue Exponent.

Purdue Exponent

Ask any group of West Lafayette students whether they’ve read today’s Exponent, and chances are you will get a resounding yes. The popular newspaper was founded in 1889 and is Indiana’s largest collegiate daily newspaper, with approximately 150 student staff members.

PMO singing Purdue Hymn.

“Purdue Hymn”

The University Choir first performed the hymn on March 6, 1943, during a convocation in the Purdue (now Elliott) Hall of Music. Fifty years later, it was adopted by Purdue’s trustees as the university’s official anthem in response to petitions by hundreds of students and alumni.
Words and music were written by Alfred B. Kirchhoff in 1941. Kirchhoff did graduate study at Purdue while serving as a teacher, principal, choirmaster, organist and youth leader at St. James Lutheran Church and School in Lafayette.

Purdue Pete cheering at a Purdue football game.

Purdue Pete

What started as an advertising logo for the University Bookstore in 1940 has become one of Purdue’s most recognized symbols.

Child looking at butterflies at the Purdue Spring Fest.

Spring Fest

This annual, two-day event draws tens of thousands of participants each year with attractions hosted by a variety of Purdue schools and departments. Fun and interactive activities like the popular Bug Bowl showcase the lighter side of education for people of all ages.