Nykerk and the Pull: A Peek into Hope College Tradition

Bella Spry

As the Fall Semester plunges into full swing and students settle into their daily rhythms, we see the emergence of two staple Hope College Traditions: Nykerk and the Pull. Unique and challenging in their own ways, both are intense competition between the Even and Odd Years on campus, with Freshmen and Sophomore as the participants, Juniors and Seniors as their coaches. Both events are held mid-fall and draw flocks of students to their respective events. As this year’s Nykerk and Pull Season revs up, it presents us with the opportunity to dive more into what exactly these traditions are and what you need to know about them. 

Originally started in 1935, Nykerk began as a competition established by the founder of the Hope College Music Department, Dr. John Nykerk. It was instated as an event to elevate and empower the women of Hope College, who, at the time, did not have a competition of their own. 

The competition has three components: play, song, and oration and the process goes as follows; After much planning from the Nykerk Executive Board and committee, the Nykerk Rally is held where the opportunity to audition for Play or Oration is offered, no audition is required for Song. There is also the opportunity to be a Moraler, a position that acts as a hype man to the participants. For the next three weeks, the Nykerk participants have an intense schedule in which they meet every night to practice, as well as gather for a few special traditional occasions . At the end of the three weeks, Odd and Even Year compete in front of 9 judges for the silver Nykerk Cup. 

Shannon Ricker (‘24), Senior Publicity, says “Nykerk is important because it gives women a place to perform and speak on important topics.” College is the time to find your place and speak out, and Nykerk is the perfect opportunity for women looking to stand tall and use their voices. Chloe Meengs (‘24) said “I love being a part of this very old tradition that honors femininity in many of its forms.” If you are thinking about joining Nykerk, Kathryn Kalthoff (‘24), Chair of the Executive Board, remarks “Joining Nykerk is not only fun but an honor. This event represents empowerment, fun, and women-led joy. – It is a place to build community, laugh a lot, and work something fun into our sometimes too-serious schedules. It’s worth it!” 

Our next tradition takes place deep in the trenches of 11th Street. Began in 1898, the Pull is a 126-year tradition that is a test of body and mind. Three weeks of intense practices lead up to a three-hour-long tug-of-war competition. Arguably the most intense tug-of-war of any US college or university. Even and Odd year teams have a max of 20 Pullers on the rope. Every Puller has a Moraler who gives direction and hypes their Puller up. At the end of the three hours, whoever has the most rope on their side is crowned the winner. A direct quote from an Anchor Article circa 1898, “Come out and see the tug-of-war between the Sophomores [and the A’s] and Freshmen.” 

After talking to anyone involved in the Pull it is abundantly clear how passionate they are. Most join the Pull looking to find friends and to simply be a part of something. Kevin Billiter, a Puller for Even Year, has a lot to say about his involvement in the Pull: “My favorite part of the Pull is being able to do something where every member of your team is valued, and everyone around is like a family. I really love the sense of community that the Pull fosters, and that the biggest thing to fight for on Pull Day is people in front of and behind you.” The Pull holds a lasting passion and community so strong that Alumni from past years come back to support their current Odd and Even years. To anyone looking to join the Pull community, Kevin offers this advice: “Do it. It won’t be easy, it won’t be comfortable and you may think you want to quit somewhere along the way, but in the end, you will be eternally grateful to have done the Pull. — Join the Pull!! It is one of the most meaningful, amazing, and insane experiences you could ever have.” 

If you are interested in getting involved in either of these quintessential Hope traditions, reach out! You can get information about Nykerk by emailing nykerk@hope.edu and information about the Pull by emailing either evenyearpull@hope.edu or oddyearpull@hope.edu. You can also find more information on their respective Instagrams. The Pull will be held on Sept. 30 on East 11th Street across from Devos Fieldhouse. Nykerk will be held on Oct. 14 at Devos Fieldhouse. We encourage you to attend! If you are a freshman, come and experience a taste of Hope’s culture. If you are an upperclassman, just come out and show support. Your peers have put hours of practice and intense effort into these competitions. Go ahead and give them the encouragement they deserve! These integral traditions link together generations of students forming a tapestry of competition and camaraderie that form the cornerstone of Hope College culture.

Photo credit: Hope College

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