Ag Day, a Colorado State University trademark event that celebrates the state's agricultural industry and the bounty of food it provides, began as a small beef barbecue launched by CSU athletics legend Thurman “Fum”¯ McGraw.
The event, marking its 30th anniversary on Sept. 10, has grown dramatically through the years and now annually draws some 3,500 people for a football-day feast of Colorado-grown food. Ag Day showcases many commodities that have blossomed in Colorado with knowledge gained from CSU research.
Even more, Ag Day proceeds provide critical funding for scholarships granted to deserving students in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Each year, the event typically funds between 12 and 15 student scholarships amounting to $2,000 each, said Dennis Lamm, event coordinator.
In just one sign of Ag Day's stature, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper proclaimed Sept. 10 “CSU Ag Day”¯ in the state of Colorado. The official proclamation reads, in part, “CSU and its partners continue to help ensure a positive future for Colorado's agricultural industry - an industry that plays a vital role in our state's economy.”¯
On its 30th anniversary, Ag Day is scheduled 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 10, and precedes the home-opener football game pitting the CSU Rams and the University of Northern Colorado Bears. The event will offer a bountiful meal and a variety of entertainment and activities, including a brief program that includes Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar and recognizes people who have contributed to Ag Day's success through the years.
First among those contributors is “Fum”¯ McGraw, a CSU football legend who also served as athletics director from 1976 to 1986. He started a football festivity called “Beef Day”¯ in the 1970s.
At the suggestion of Animal Sciences professor John Matsushima, a pioneering beef nutritionist who is now retired, McGraw asked the Colorado Cattle Feeders Association to donate a steer for a pre-game barbecue. Soon, McGraw and his crew were roasting beef in an underground pit for Ram boosters and ag supporters.
“He would think it's wonderful to see how it's grown. He'd be tickled pink - no, he'd be tickled green and gold,”¯ Beryl "Brownie" McGraw recently said of her late husband. McGraw was a longtime Ag Day volunteer herself and recalled serving beef alongside the Larimer County Cowbelles, now the Larimer County Cattlewomen.
Cow-milking contests were among the activities during the event's early years, and Fum McGraw typically won. “The ag people didn't realize that the athletics director was also a rancher,”¯ Brownie McGraw said with a laugh.
Ag Day developed its modern format with the work of a team within the College of Agricultural Sciences.
Jean Lamm, former director of development for the college, and the late Bill Thomas, then associate dean, saw potential. Why not rope in more state commodity groups, promote Colorado