College Royal turns 100

College Royal turns 100
Feb 13, 2024

The centennial event happens on March 16 and 17

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

What do Kleenex, the Winter Olympics, Band-Aids, Caesar salad and College Royal at the University of Guelph all have in common?

They all turn 100 in 2024.

For those unaware, College Royal is the largest student-run university open house in North America.

And it started in 1925.

“It was started by a group of people who wanted to show livestock,” Lexi Johnston, a Bachelor of Science in agriculture student and current president of College Royal, told “So, the roots of College Royal really run deep in ag.”

Johnston, 10 other officers and about 90 people in total make up the team responsible for organizing the experience.

“It’s 12 days of events,” Johnston said. “The first 10 days are dedicated to more student activities like kickoff pub and the University of Guelph Aggies vs. Ridgetown Aggies hockey game. Super Thursday has lots of food and messiness involved. Then you’ve got the College Royal Ball where all five floors of the University Centre have food, drinks, dancing, and live music. And for the 100th year there’s going to be an alumni lounge.”

The weekend of March 16 and 17 is the open house weekend.

In past years, the open house has attracted more than 20,000 weekend visitors.

Lexi Johnston
Lexi Johnston

This free event allows the public to come see what the university has to offer.

“There’s so much going on related to ag,” Johnston said. “There’s livestock shows and a farm where people can get up close with animals. But a big part of the weekend too is showing off the clubs that are run at the school. We’ve got marine biology, figure skating, engineering, and food science. We’ve got more than 40 clubs signed up, and each one will put together a display for people to check out.”

A special feature for the 100th College Royal will be a history exhibit.

The Bullring is being turned into a museum.

“People can come and kind of walk through the decades of College Royal and see how the event has changed over time,” she said. “On the Saturday we’ll also be doing a kickoff to highlight what College Royal has done for the university and the community as well as reveal our 100th year legacy gift."

And a history book celebrating 100 years of College Royal is in the works.

Even through the older photos, the same campus community vibes come through, Johnston said.

Johnston has been involved with College Royal since she started at the University of Guelph in 2020.

And prior to that, she attended the event while in high school.

Seeing the event as a visitor and organizer gave her an appreciation for the work needed to execute College Royal and taught her valuable lessons.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” she said. “You’ve got to learn to work with other people and learn about time management because school has to come first. It’s the most challenging thing I’ve done but the most rewarding when you see campus full of people and all the energy around the school.”

College Royal past presidents from near and far will be travelling back to attend the centenary celebration.

“I haven’t been back to Guelph since 1986. Every year I say I’m going to go back but something comes up. This year, I am going,” Michelle Gietz, the executive director of the Brooks Community Adult Learning Council in Brooks, Alta., told

And despite her physical separation from the university and College Royal, Gietz still feels a connection.

Michelle and Dave
Michelle Gietz and her College Royal Ball date, David Robertson.

“I want to feel the vibe of College Royal again,” she said. “The feeling of being a part of something bigger than the individual. The University of Guelph is more than where I did my education. The friends I met there are still some of my best friends now.”

Gietz attended the University of Guelph from 1979 to 1983 and lived in Maids Hall. She graduated from the Ontario Agricultural College with a bachelor of agricultural economics and business.

Gietz made the three-day train trip from Alberta to Ontario to attend the university on the advice of a new high school teacher.

“He was from Ontario was teaching us social studies,” she told “When I told him I wanted to study agriculture, he said I had to go to Guelph. So, I applied, packed up my things and away I went.”

When Gietz started at the university in 1979, College Royal was in its 54th year.

But as a newcomer to the community, Gietz had no idea what it was. A friend encouraged her to get involved.

“My friend Sharon Grose (of the Husky Farm Equipment family) introduced me to College Royal because she was on the ball decorating committee,” Gietz said. “She said they needed people to paint. I was blown away because I’d never seen anything like that before.”

Gietz continued her involvement with College Royal throughout her time at Guelph. And in 1983 she became the event’s president.

Michelle and Susan
Right to left: Susan Truman, VP of College Royal in 1983, and Michelle Gietz, president of College Royal in 1983.

And the skills she learned during her time at College Royal still serve her well today.

“I have a staff of 29 and we offer English classes to newcomers in Canada,” she said. “We teach about 500 students daily. All the skills about organizing, making adjustments, working with people and learning to trust people are incredibly important and those are rooted in my time at College Royal. College Royal is one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

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