D-Week: Then and now

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D-Week has its origins in fist fights.

According to a history written by Matthew Bentley, former Dixie State University President, before Dixie was a college or the university it is today, it opened its doors as the St. George Stake Academy in 1911. The class of 1913 painted  “1913” on Dixie Rock, then more commonly known as The Sugarloaf above St. George. The class of 1914 painted “1914” over their elder class’ numerals just days later, thus igniting a competition that would see the numerals being painted and re-painted, almost on a daily basis.

This competition eventually took a more serious turn.

“Quite often there were some rather serious encounters with bare fists before it was determined which class would be represented …” Bentley wrote in his history of D-Week. The history is included in the book “A Century of Dixie State College” by Douglas D. Alder.

Shortly after this and further confrontations, school administrators and the student body came up with a plan to unite the competing classes. The Sugarloaf would be painted with the word “Dixie,” and a large “D” would be constructed on Black Hill to the west of town. Dixie High School would take charge of painting the “Dixie.” and The St. George Stake Academy would oversee the “D.”

Heber Jones, longtime volunteer historian and Dixie College graduate of 1953, said the conflict made it vital to create the “D.”

“They decided they would separate the college from the high school and let the high school have this Dixie up here because they were fighting over it all the time,” Jones said.

In 1915, the “D” was built and whitewashed, and the tradition of D-Day and D-Week was born.

While some of the oldest traditions, such as a tug-of-war over a mud pit and the parade downtown have faded into history, some, like the painting of the D and the D-Queen Pageant, have remained.

Former DSC president and guest lecturer Douglas Alder said he remembers his first, unique experience with the whitewashing of the “D.”

“in the springtime, I was informed I was to be there (at the D),” Alder said. “So I went up and went through the whole process and had no idea they intended to paint me, but they did.”

Ellen Bonadurer, circulation supervisor for the DSU library, said while the whitewashing of the “D” was one of the original traditions, other traditions were added and removed over the decades.

The Great Race began in 1969, Bonadurer said. At various times during that event, there were portions that even involved horse and motorcycle racing. The course for the Great Race also used to stretch across town, while the newer incarnation of the competition is completely on the campus of DSU.

“The Great Race used to go way out and away from the campus, but at that time, the campus was the edge of town and there was nothing over there,” Bonadurer said. “When they would do the horse race and things like that, they would take that all the way over to the black ridge [Black Hill] over here and race it and come back. The events that were part of that great race have evolved.”

The 2017 version of the Great Race is a ten-part competition that involves running, base running, a scooter race, shooting baskets, biking, question-answering, swimming, a mud pit, slide pull, and finishing with an obstacle course and run.

The events at this year’s D-Week include:
– Monday: Food Fest, where local food trucks will be parked and serving food north of the Encampment Mall.
– Tuesday: The D-Queen Pageant 7:30 p.m. at the Cox Auditorium.
– Wednesday: Dixie Idol finale 7:30 p.m. at the Gardner Center Ballroom.
– Thursday: Twister World Record Event 6 p.m. at East Elementary School field.
– Friday: The Great Race (5 p.m.) and Carnival (6:30 p.m.) at the Encampment Mall.
– Saturday: D-Day, the whitewashing of the “D” 7:00 a.m. at Black Hill.

 For more information on D-Week, visit https://alumni.dixie.edu/traditions-events/d-week/