Marie Robbins, a junior majoring in agricultural business and agricultural education, communications and leadership from Elkton, was recently selected to lead Hobo Day, the biggest one-day event in the Dakotas, as the 2021 Grand Pooba.
Joining the Tradition
Inspired by the 2019 Grand Pooba, Jeanette (Klein) Linke, Robbins joined the Hobo Day Committee in the spring semester of her freshman year. The committee is led by the Grand Pooba and three assistant poobas who manage events, parade and marketing teams made up of three smaller groups of committee members.
During her first year on the committee, Robbins served as the transportation coordinator for the parade team where she connected with members in the community who own classic cars and recruited them to drive their vehicles in the Hobo Day Parade. The following year, she served as the parade assistant pooba where she worked with six other members of the committee to organize and facilitate the Hobo Day Parade.
“I learned a lot about leadership and really grew my passion for Hobo Day and SDSU while serving as the assistant pooba,” said Robbins. “After trying to plan Hobo Day during a pandemic, I decided to apply for the Grand Pooba position because I want to continue to be involved in the Hobo Day tradition and I want to ignite a passion for SDSU in others.”
As Grand Pooba, her duties will include leading weekly committee meetings, communicating with groups and leaders on campus and in the Brookings community and organizing the 2021 summer parade tour where the Hobo Day Committee visits towns across South Dakota and participates in local parades.
“For me, the role of Grand Pooba is an opportunity to carry on the tradition of Hobo Day that has been enjoyed by thousands of Jackrabbit alumni,” said Robbins. “Being surrounded by 17 other individuals on the committee who are just as passionate about Hobo Day as I am has been one of the greatest experiences I have had during college and is something I look forward to in the coming year.”
Robbins enjoys the parade and the iconic Bummobile. The Bummobile is a 1912 Ford Model T that has led the Hobo Day Parade every year since 1939, except 1942 when South Dakota State College canceled homecoming during World War II and in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Bummobile is one of my favorite aspects of Hobo Day because it is over 100 years old and is still running,” said Robbins. “There are not many things that have been around over 100 years that are still in operating condition and I am very excited to learn how to drive it.”
According to Robbins, Hobo Day stands out because of the space it provides for students, alumni and supporters to gather and celebrate their college career.
“College is often the place where people make big life choices,” said Robbins. “Hobo Day gives people a place to celebrate those decisions, no matter their age.”
Learning and Looking Ahead
Since 1912, Hobo Day has been SDSU’s beloved homecoming celebration, bringing thousands of alumni, students, supporters, community members and families from across the nation to campus each year. Throughout the week leading up to Hobo Day, students on the Hobo Day Committee host several events for SDSU students and the community to take part in such as One Month Club, Bum-A-Meal, Rally at the Rails, Hobolympics, BumFire and more.
However, the unforeseen challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic forced members of the Hobo Day Committee to think differently and create unique ways for students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters to safely celebrate the 2020 Hobo Day tradition from both near and far.
“Everyone on the committee was consistently positive, focusing more on what we could do rather than what we could not do,” said Robbins. “We had to adapt quickly and I believe that Hobo Day 2020 was a success because the committee worked hard to provide safe, exciting experiences for the campus and community.”
Due to health concerns surrounding the pandemic, popular events such as the Hobo Day Parade and Bum-A-Meal were canceled to ensure the health and safety of students and community members. Instead, the Hobo Day Committee hosted an alternative Give-A-Meal event which allowed students, faculty and staff to make monetary donations and give portions of their meal plan funds, nonperishable food items and other items to Jack’s Cupboard on campus. Jack’s Cupboard is open to all students and combats food insecurity by ensuring students who struggle financially to purchase food are provided a free resource supported by their peers, faculty and staff at SDSU.
Instead of the Hobo Day Parade, the committee worked with University Marketing and Communications to produce a Hobo Day video featuring notable figures at SDSU that generated more than 18,500 views on Facebook alone. Additionally, the group was still able to host the Paint the Town event where SDSU students, clubs and organizations decorate and paint the windows of businesses across Brookings to celebrate Hobo Day and showcase Jackrabbit pride.
Although the 2020 Hobo Day celebration and traditions looked different than they have in years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Robbins is hopeful that the SDSU tradition will be something to look forward to Oct. 23.
“We will be able to use what we learned from the past year and be more prepared for the coming year,” said Robbins. “Hobo Day has stood the test of time for over 100 years, and I really could not be more excited for the next 100 years of Hobo Day.”