On Thursday, November 16th, staff and students at William McKinley Elementary school participated in their annual College Rivalry Day. The day centers around another big event that takes place every November: USC vs. UCLA.
During the class recess, students were encouraged to go out the playground where they were able to take part in a variety of activities. The majority of the students each had on shirts or jerseys representing their favorite team. To help kids get into the spirt of Los Angeles’ Crosstown Rivalry, two large speakers were set up on the far side of the field. The speakers played one of College Football’s most iconic songs, Tribute to Troy, which is USC’s fight song. As the fight song played, kids ran relay races, threw footballs, visited booths to representing each college, and waited in line to pet USC’s official mascot, Traveler, who was also there in attendance.
The storied history behind Traveler began in 1961, when he and his rider appeared in USC’s first home game of that season against Georgia Tech. As the story goes, USC’s director of special events saw Richard Saukko riding his white horse, Traveler I, during the 1961 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. By the fall of that year, Saukko and his horse were doing laps inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. From 1961 to 1988, Saukko himself would train and ride each iteration of Traveler. After his death, the Saukko family continued the tradition until 2003. Starting in 2003, Joanne Asman took over seeing the tradition through. Since the original Traveler in 1961, there have been several iterations of USC’s mascot, with the current horse, named Traveler IX, completing its first football season this year.
This year, Raymond Juarez, a parent who has children attending William McKinley Elementary, organized the event. Juarez, who also organized the event last year, said his favorite thing about putting the event together is “getting the college exposure to the kids and just making sure they’re exposed to the two powerhouse colleges that we have here – UCLA and USC – and just to build that college experience that hopefully they’ll have later on.”
The program, which is over six years old, is always planned for the Thursday before the big game, but is not limited to just USC or UCLA school spirt. Much of the staff also sported different college tees, increasing the exposure of a variety of universities among the young students. According to Juarez, past organizers and his team always try to help from outside resources to make the event special for the kids. “Our big help is the Burbank Print Center,” said Juarez, “Joanne and her team really helps us out, and we do reach out to UCLA and USC, to try to get any items from them.”
At the end of the day, the program was a success. “The McKinley school community had a great time meeting Traveler, the team, and adding to great USC and UCLA memories”, said Juarez.
USC is set to host UCLA at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 PM, PST, and will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN. USC leads the overall record between the two teams at 48-31-7.