UO Canoe Fete history


Do Duck fans and older UO alumni remember the Canoe Fete on the Millrace? It's a fascinating piece of University of Oregon student life history - I wrote about it years ago. This video was created by the Lane County Historical Society about it five years ago. Now students probably don't care about the Millrace, or even know it as anything other than the smelly trash pond near campus, but it used to be a centerpiece of student life in Eugene. BACKGROUND: The Millrace was built in the 19th century as a man-made waterway branching off from the Willamette River to provide power for factory waterwheels along its shores heading into downtown Eugene. It was much larger before being covered up by Franklin Blvd, and with its proximity to campus was immediately a popular draw for students. In winter if it froze students would ice skate, and by the early 20th century canoeing on the Millrace became a popular pastime for students. In 1913 students began an annual parade on water called the Canoe Carnival, with entries created by fraternities and sororities. It grew into a massive spring formal and social event drawing thousands of residents to bleachers along the shores (also long gone now). Known as the Canoe Fete, the event was one of the most important campus life traditions and routinely drawing big stars to perform or oversee the festivities such as Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. By the late 60s its popularity began to wane. Its end came in the early 70s after Stan Love ( a star basketball player - brother of Beach Boys singer Mike Love and father of current NBA player Kevin Love) and some of his buddies dressed up as pirates and ransacked the Canoe Fete, knocking over canoes and going crazy. Unfortunately in the melee one student was left paralyzed after falling off one of the floats. Basically it was the climactic scenes of National Lampoon's Animal House, but on water...actually, had the Canoe Fete not been halted, when Animal House filmed on campus might they have shot that final scene on the Millrace during the Canoe Fete rather than on Cottage Grove's main street? Anyway, cool little piece of University of Oregon history, check out this video if you want to learn more.