the History of Tigerama
“I got the idea for Tigerama while I was at the University of Florida,” said Joe Sherman, retired director of the Clemson News and Director of Alumni Relations. “Florida had this big student talent show the night before Homecoming called ‘Gator Growl,’ and when I came back to Clemson in 1956, I persuaded the alumni council to fund a show like it for the next year. I got Blue Key to sponsor and coordinate the show and things started rolling from there.”
The inaugural performance of Tigerama took place on November 8, 1957, but not before months and months of preparation took place. It was vitally important for the first production to be a successful venture so that Tigerama would be able to continue in the future. In order to ensure this success then, Blue Key President-elect Joe Blandford launched the campaign, “What is Tigerama?” This tactic was used to get everybody on campus interested in this new idea. At the time, Tigerama became the hottest thing Clemson had seen since the original administration building burned in 1894.
The 10,000 or so fans that braved the cold that first night were treated to an exciting performance. Featured on the first program were Mac McCahan, a fire eater; juggling specialist Dale Tinsly; and majorettes Phyllis O’Dell, Diane Austin, and Carolyn Willis. Later during the evening Miss Austin was chosen as the very first Miss Tigerama. Stan Kenton and his Modern Jazz Orchestra provided musical entertainment for the gala event. There were also skits performed at the first Tigerama. The Canterbury Club walked away with the first prize purse of $75 for their skit entitled “A Dining Hall Panorama.”
But the show didn’t end there. No sir. As the grand finale, the Pyro Display Company of Florida put on a large fireworks display. During that first year the fireworks cost $850 and have steadily increased in price over the years. “Those fireworks were the things that carried the show during the first three years,” said Sherman. “They were very expensive, but that was the real crowd pleaser.”
Tigerama is more than just a production each year on the eve of the Homecoming football game, it’s more a feeling that each and every student on the Clemson campus experiences. It is something that every student takes pride in, because it’s produced entirely by the students. It is their opportunity to steal the spotlight for a brief moment. It truly is a significant facet of the Clemson tradition.
From “The History of Tigerama”
By Jill Mixon–The Tiger (October 1983)