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UIUC Mom’s Weekend: A Lasting Legacy Packed with Tradition

By Vanessa Turner

Figure 1: 2022 Annual Moms Brunch.

Taken from UIUC New Student & Family Experiences.

Mom’s Weekend is an event name recognizable to any University of Illinois student. For one spring weekend, the campus is crowded with moms who come to visit their kids in their natural habitat. The event has deep roots that date back over a century, and many traditions have come and gone.

Expanding Celebrations of Illini Moms 

Mom’s Weekend’s origins date back to Mother’s Day 1921, when the University “commemorate(d) Mother’s Day as an all-University occasion” for the first time, as recorded in The Daily Illini. This new celebration was inspired by the first Dad’s Day in the Fall of 1920. (1) The tradition grew in subsequent years, and the creation of the Mother’s Association in 1923 was vital to this, as they would go on to, and still do, plan a majority of the weekend’s events. (2) Notably, both the University’s Mom’s and Dad’s Associations are the oldest parent organizations in America. (3)

By 1937, the event was growing rapidly, as temporary motor vehicle permits for Mother’s Day weekend were requested over 20 times more than a normal weekend. (4) A pause on the in-person festivities occurred in 1945 when students were told that they “can best celebrate Mother's Day by buying war stamps and bonds.” (5) Despite this obstacle, the war did not deter the perseverance of the celebratory spirit and a special radio show was held for mothers to tune into at home accompanied by booklets that were sent to 6,000 student mothers. (6) 

Organization was paramount in the early decades of the event–in the 1950s students were prompted to submit their mother’s names so that a geographical list could be created and submitted to the county chairmen from their home counties. These chairmen would then notify the visiting mothers of the weekend plans. (7)

In 1970, a Black Mom’s Day Weekend effort was sponsored by the African American Cultural Center. This coincided with the campuswide celebration but was made up of their own unique events as they felt the typical activities were “geared toward the white students.” (8) The lasting legacy of this shift towards inclusion is still prevalent on campus with events such as the Black Chorus Mom’s Day Concert, which continues to perform and is doing so this upcoming 2024 Mom’s Weekend. (9) Later, in 2006, La Casa Cultural Latina, the Hispanic cultural center on campus, followed suit and created an event focused on welcoming Hispanic mothers to campus. (10)

Figure 2: 1948 Photograph from the Daily Illini.

Taken from the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections

Figure 3: 1983 Photograph from Gamma Phi Beta Mom’s Day Celebration.

Courtesy of Kelly Ma.

Figure 4: 1991 Photograph from the Daily Illini.

Taken from the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.

Changing Traditions

As for some of the more dated traditions, Mom’s Weekend is full of ones that have gone in and out of style as the decades have passed.

The creation of the Mother’s Association back in 1923 occurred at the first instance of another famous tradition, the Mother’s Day Luncheon. (11) While its name has changed to the much more casual and modern Mom’s Weekend Brunch, this tradition holds strong as mothers and children have congregated for this Sunday meal for over a century. 

Also beginning in 1923, Mother’s Day and the May Fete, an old tradition based on dancing around Maypoles and the crowning of a May Queen on campus, coincided with each other. (12) These two events became connected throughout the next few decades, with a lot of attention given to the selection of the Queen, who began to be called both the May Queen and Mother’s Day Queen in the 1940s. (13) The connected tradition ended in 1969 when the Illini Union Board eliminated the May Queen contest. (14) However, its basic principles evolved into the selection of a “Queen Mom” in the early 1970s, altering the tradition to honor a mother as opposed to a university student. (15) While the title of “Queen Mom” does not exist anymore, the Mom’s Association still honors mothers with the opportunity of being named “Mom of the Year.” (16)

Figure 5: 1933 Photograph in the Daily Illini of the May Queen Festivities.

Taken from the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.

Another noted tradition that first began in 1925 was a singing competition that paired sororities and fraternities together and saw them compete in front of watchful mothers. (17) First founded by Shi-Ai, an inter-sorority organization created in 1920, they later combined with Alpha Cron and Sachem, two other Greek honorary organizations, to keep the singing event going until it finally ended in 2018 after Atius-Sachem, the collective organization, ended. (18) Singing performances remain extremely common for the weekend, as the Glee Club has been performing on Mom’s Weekend since 1928 and has a performance scheduled for April 13, 2024, at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts. (19)

Performing arts have often dominated the day, with the association between the spring musical and Mom’s Weekend becoming strong in the 1950s. (20) This tradition has continued, with the Illini Student Musicals presenting a musical, “Big Fish” this April 13, 2024, for Mom’s Weekend. (21)

Figure 6: 1961 Photographs in the Daily Illini of scenes from the Mom’s Weekend musical “Kismet.”

Taken from the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.

As the decades have passed, Mom’s Weekend has become much more crowded and casual. In the 1990s, hotels in the Champaign-Urbana area were fully booked for the weekend. (22) The weekend has also become much more commercialized in recent years, evidenced by the fact that many students have opted to ditch the more formal events and take their mothers to the Campustown bars. (23) For this year’s 2024 festivities, popular establishments like Joe’s Brewery are planning a mom-centric brunch event and Kam’s is selling Mom’s Weekend clothing on their website. (24)

The legacy of Mom’s Weekend is a long one, dating back over a century now. The event grew from its small beginnings largely thanks to the Mom’s Association along with plenty of fun and engaging traditions that have appealed to both students and mothers alike. Though the weekend has shed some of its traditions as students opt for more casual fun with their moms, it remains highly popular and the future of Mom’s Weekend is bright.


  1. “Invite Mother Today.” Daily Illini (Champaign). May 1, 1921.

  2. “Mothers Organize, Form Association, To Aid University.” Daily Illini (Champaign). May 13, 1923.

  3. Engleman, Paul. “Family Matters.” Illinois Alumni Magazine (Champaign). Fall 2022.

  4. “Issue 300 Permits.” Daily Illini (Champaign). May 1, 1937.

  5. “First University Mothers Day Was In 1921.” Daily Illini (Champaign). April 26, 1945.

  6. “Mothers Day Weekend will Feature Radio Program, May Queen Dance.” Daily Illini (Champaign). May 2, 1945.

  7. “Mothers Weekend Attendance Urged For All Moms.” Daily Illini (Champaign). April 6, 1951.

  8. Edmonds, Linda. “Black mom’s day program celebrates fifth year.” Daily Illini (Champaign). April 18, 1975.

  9. College of Fine & Applied Arts School of Music. “Black Chorus- Mom’s Day Concert.” 2024.

  10. Radosevich II, Frank. “Cultural houses host unique programs designed to honor Latino, Black mom’s.” Daily Illini (Champaign). April 4, 2006.

  11. “Mothers Organize, Form Association, To Aid University.”

  12. “Mothers and May Fete.” Daily Illini (Champaign). May 12, 1923.

  13. “Mothers Day Queen to be Elected Tonight from Eleven Finalists.” Daily Illini (Champaign). April 27, 1944.

  14. “Union Board Debates Its Own Charge.” Daily Illini (Champaign). May 22, 1969.

  15. “Daily Illini Notices- Mom’s Day.” Daily Illini (Champaign). March 23, 1973.

  16. Illini Moms Association. “Mom of the Year Award.” 2024.

  17. “Mother 's Day Sing Will Be Planned At Shi-Ai Meeting.” Daily Illini (Champaign). April 15, 1925.

  18. Copp, Jay. “Memory Lane: Mother and Child Reunion.” University of Illinois Alumni Association. April 2, 2020.

  19. “University Glee Club to Sing Mother’s Day.” Daily Illini (Champaign). April 3, 1928. Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at Illinois. “University of Illinois Women’s Glee Club Moms Day Concert.” 2024.

  20. “Special Shows Planned for Mother Union Musical Terrapin to Open.” Daily Illini (Champaign). May 4, 1950.

  21. University of Illinois Parent & Family Programs. “Illini Student Musicals Presents BIG FISH.” 2024.

  22. Schollmeyer, Josh. “Cafes, hotels get maternal: They want to cater to moms.” Daily Illini (Champaign). April 10, 1997.

  23. Nara, Ella et al. “Mom’s Weekend: A guide to C-U’s bars.” Daily Illini (Champaign). April 14, 2023.

  24. Joe’s Brewery. “Brunch With Mom Saturday 4/13/24.” 2024. KAMS Champaign. “Moms Weekend Apparel.” 2024.

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