Rally Comm Traditions

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Make UC Berkeley Feel Like Home

Coming to Berkeley last year was a daunting experience at first. Most of my hometown friends were going to college in different places, so I came in knowing only a handful of people. But perhaps the best decision I made at UC Berkeley was joining the Rally Committee during my first semester.

The Rally Committee is one of the oldest spirit groups on campus with the goal to preserve the Spirit of California and UC Berkeley traditions here on campus. All of my current best friends on campus I met through the Rally Committee—they make this big campus feel like home. Here are some of my favorite traditions the Rally Committee keeps alive, some that are shared across campus and others that are kept especially for those in the Committee. Come join the fun!

Big Game Week

Some of the designs we projected onto the Campanile for Big Game Week. Photograph by The Rally Committee.

Big Game Week is the most exciting time to be in the Committee and is the culmination of all the work we do on campus. It is a week of activities surrounding the annual football rivalry game between Stanford University and UC Berkeley (at the time of writing, Cal Football has won the last 3 Big Games, Go Bears!!). While the events throughout the week vary year by year, there are several that remain consistent. All of these events are put together by Rally Comm’s Director of Special Events.

  • Tree Chopping Rally: The Tree Chopping Rally is a fun way to kick off the week by getting into our rivalry with the Tree Farm (Stanford). There are two logs, one to represent Stanford and one to represent UC Berkeley, and members of UCB Logging race to see who can chop through their log the fastest. The winner of this rally is meant to predict who will win the Big Game.
  • Cable Car Rally: This is an extremely special tradition and one of my favorite memories in the Committee. A bunch of Cal Spirit groups, including Oski, Cal Band, Cal Dance, Cal Cheer, Cal Mic Men, and of course the Rally Committee, pile together into a Cable Car and ride the streets of San Francisco, spreading Cal Spirit across the Bay. Since the cable car is small, only a select few can participate. I had the honor of being chosen my freshman year, which only made the opportunity that much more special.
  • Bonfire Rally: Bonfires in the Committee date back to our origins, when students used to set fires around campus and host mini-rallies. The Rally Committee was actually created to bring order and safety to that tradition while maintaining the spirit. Now, the bonfire is an enclosed structure, complete with pyrotechnics and many trained professionals. The Bonfire Rally has remained our biggest event of the year, and now features performances from many campus cultural groups, spirit groups, and of course, a giant bonfire show! This event is free for the public and opens up our campus to the broader community. I love seeing alumni bringing their families back to celebrate with us!
  • Campus Lighting: If you’ve been on campus at nighttime during Big Game Week, you’ve probably seen the lighting decorations around campus. As the Director of Card Stunts (or “Lord of Lights” during Big Game Week) this was my responsibility this year. We lit up Doe Library and Wheeler Hall with blue and gold lights, and projected images that we designed onto the Campanile each night. Our treasurer also decorates Sather Gate with string lights each year. This tradition is one of my favorites because it makes walking around campus at night feel magical, and truly brings the Big Game Week spirit to the entire campus community.
  • Big Game: And of course, the Big Game itself. Without fail, the Rally Committee is there cheering and doing our typical game day duties. This game is absolutely electric and you can really feel the energy and spirit from the student section. This tradition is made even better when we win the game and keep the Axe! (knock on wood).

Fall Rallies

My friend Aly and I at Homecoming Night Rally this year. Photograph by The Rally Committee.

As our name suggests, the majority of what we do is host rallies to celebrate different campus events. These rallies bring together Cal Spirit groups and the campus community to support our football team and get everyone excited for game day! For me, these have always been one of my favorite experiences in the Committee—they’re filled with dancing, singing, and just pure joy. They have been a great bonding experience and helped me make so many close friends.

  • Noon Rallies: Noon Rallies take place every Friday before a home football game at noon on the Mario Savio Steps.
  • Sproul Rallies: These are very similar to noon rallies, except they happen on game days! After the rally, the Committee leads the crowd up to the stadium all the while participating in a lot of silly traditions.
  • Night Rallies: These rallies happen on Thursday nights a handful of times throughout the year. We bring the rallies to different Residence Halls and buildings around campus including Bowles Hall, AXO, the International House, Unit 1, 2, & 3, and Martinez Commons.
  • Homecoming Rally: The Homecoming Rally is another one of our large events. It features cultural performances and tons of Cal Spirit. This one is extra special because it brings alumni and families back together to celebrate!

Preserving the Spirit of California

My first time doing spell out. Photograph by The Rally Committee.

The most important duty of the Committee is to preserve the Spirit of California. These fun game traditions have been kept alive year after year and have become an integral part of the Cal community’s game day experience!

  • Card Stunts: As the Director of Card Stunts this past year, this was my main responsibility. The Card Stunt is a 50 by 50 design where one card coordinates with one person in the student section, and it all comes together to make a design that changes based on what color card the students hold up. Hours and hours of preparation go into organizing this and setting it up on gameday morning, but it’s worth it to see the beautiful designs we create that can be seen from everywhere in the stadium.
  • The California Victory Cannon: Led by our Cannoneers, the California Victory Cannon is the only student-led cannon in the nation. It fires during pregame run out, halftime run out, and every time our football team scores a point. During my freshman year, I had the incredible opportunity to fire the cannon during the University of Washington game. It was exhilarating, not to mention, the view of the stadium from the cannon platform in the Berkeley hills is breathtaking.
  • Spell Out: Led by our Director of Member Events, we paint letters on our chests at football games, basketball games, and night rallies to spell out words. I’ve been the O of “GOLDEN”, the Y of “CAL DAY”, and the C of “CAL”- to name a few. This tradition is one of my favorites because it is school spirit to the max. We also get shown on the jumbotron quite often.
  • Singing Cal Songs: The Cal Fight songs are another thing that has been handed down through generations. By learning all the words and hand gestures that go along with each song, we are ensuring this tradition stays alive, even if we are some of the only students on campus who know them. Each song has its own personal touch—my favorite one is Lights Out which plays at the end of every game because it features funny ad-libs and a segment where we all do push-ups.
  • Banner Guard: Led by our Director of Security, the California Banner hangs above the student section at every home football game, above the stands at basketball games, and above Sproul Hall for rallies. It is the Committee’s job to handle and protect the banner, and it is an iconic symbol of our university.
  • Flags: The California flags have become an iconic symbol of the university. These make an appearance at football games, basketball games, rallies, and other campus events and are waved by Committee members, led by our Directors of Athletics. I’ve had many opportunities to wave the flags at various campus events, but my favorite has to be running with the flags and the football team during pregame runout at a football game last year. Getting to be on the field with the team and waving the flags is an unmatched feeling that fills you with campus pride.
  • Walking Banner: After gameday Sproul rallies, the Committee leads the crowd all the way up to the stadium while carrying the California Banner. This tradition is a ton of fun because there are a lot of traditions within it. My favorite is when we pass by Doe Library, we yell as loud as we can things like “Quiet you’re in a library!” “People are trying to study!!”, as an ironic joke stemming from trying to get students out of the library to come watch the football game instead of studying.

With each of these events, there is an opportunity for Committee members to earn pins. For example, to earn your spell-out pin you have to participate in spell-out 4 times. So if you’re ever curious who the most dedicated members of the Committee are, just look at their rugby collar, where we display them proudly!

Spring Activities

Cal Day last year. Photograph by The Rally Committee.

Though football season is when we do most of our events, there are still many special traditions that happen in the spring!

  • Inner committee activities: Every spring we participate in a lot of fun events within the Committee to continue to spend time with one another. These include Cal Spirit picnics, our very own game shows, and our annual banquet. These are so special to me because the Rally Committee truly has become my family on campus, and even though we don’t have football games all year round, we still are able to spend time with one another and keep our spirit alive.
  • Basketball: Early in Spring Semester is basketball season, and with that comes California Spirit! Our involvement at basketball games is very similar to football season, just on a smaller scale. We still do flag waving, spell-out, stunts, and banner guard. Unique to basketball season, however, is the free throw distraction crew, which I led this semester as part of my executive committee role. We sit right behind the basket in the student section and use silly hats and other miscellaneous accessories to distract the other team from making free throws. My favorite memory from this is cheering so loud during the UCLA vs. Cal women’s basketball game, that I lost my voice.
  • Gymnastics: We love to support our Women’s Gymnastics team by bringing spell out, stunts, and Cal songs to competitions!
  • Charter Week: Charter Day is the celebration of the University’s founding in 1868. In 2024, the university is turning 156. Rally Comm celebrates an entire week with activities like bracelet making, rallies, cookies, chalk drawing, and more! It’s like a week-long birthday party!
  • Cal Day: Cal Day is one of our big activities in Spring. We typically set up a couple of stations around campus so that prospective students can see the cannon, take pictures with the flags, meet Oski, and play games. We also host another Sproul Rally for this event! This is special because it is new students’ first time experiencing the Spirit of California and it truly becomes a core memory for them.


Though we share a lot of our spirit with the general campus community, there are a few things we keep to ourselves. These traditions include inside jokes, special events, and campus secrets. Curious? Join the Committee! We welcome new members at the beginning of each semester and accept any student who wants to join. Find the Rally Committee and other student clubs on CalLink.

Celebrating Generations of Spirit

My mom (left) & I (center) holding the Stanford Axe at the Big Game; my mom & I at the Big Game my freshman year (right).

The Committee holds an extra special place in my heart because it brings me closer to my mom. My mom is a Berkeley Alumni who was also on the Executive Committee of the Rally Committee! I joined the Committee because of her and stayed because of the incredible friendships and experiences I made here. Though the Committee and UC Berkeley itself have definitely evolved over the years, a lot of the core traditions are the same as when she was a student here. They still hosted rallies (although the Bonfire was made of wooden crates at the time), sang all of the Cal songs, and collected pins. This is something we have been able to bond over and something that we share, especially when she comes back to attend games.

To me, this exemplifies why it is so important that these traditions are preserved throughout the year—because it brings generations of Berkeley students together and unites us in our collective love for our university. Go Bears!


Rachel Holmes is a second year at UC Berkeley majoring in media studies with a minor in theater & performance studies. Feature photo shows Co-Director Joel Ramos & Rachel posing in front of a Homecoming Stunt; photograph by The Rally Committee. 

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