In anticipation of the annual Powder Keg tournament against Tilton School, New Hampton students are celebrating Spirit Week. Campus visitors this week will see students dressed in pajamas, dressed as twins, and sporting their best Husky gear. In general, visitors will be met with smiles, a little extra enthusiasm, and a vibrant campus decorated with posters and Husky green. Behind the clothing, face paint, and signage lives a rich tradition of school spirit, competition, and camaraderie, unforgettable to alumni and former faculty.
Powder Keg History and Tradition
The Powder Keg tradition unofficially dates back to 1895 when it took almost a half-day of travel to get from New Hampton to Tilton School in central New Hampshire. We asked former faculty and alumni to share some of their Powder Keg memories to better understand the spirit of the tradition.
Powder Keg Memories
Lou Gnerre, Headmaster from 1972-1988, recalls the Powder Keg tradition starting in the 1950s. Pop Bottomly, the night fire watcher, was a popular faculty member. Lou Gnerre recalls that the tradition began when Bottomly passed away in the 1950s.
Harrison Golden, former faculty and football coach, remembers his first Powder Keg during his first year of teaching in 1969. After a 7-0 lead, Tilton soon took over the game and their fans started to continuously count the points. Tilton ended up winning 59-7 and the Tilton fans chanted “We want more! We want more!” Although it was a tough game for New Hampton, the fans were nothing but motivation. There had already been a rivalry between the two teams, but this game in particular, according to Golden, left the football team hungry. His team was inspired to win back the keg and keep it for the next several years. Golden remembers the spirit and engagement from both schools, even when Tilton defeated the New Hampton Huskies.
Mark Tilton, former faculty and football coach, also remembers a strong rivalry between Tilton School and New Hampton School. A winning season, according to Mr. Tilton, did not depend on the overall record but came down to the game with Tilton School. If New Hampton School won, then the season was considered a success.
Powder Keg Today
For a brief period in the 1970s, the rivalry became so strong that both administrations decided to take a breathing period and the game was put on hold. It wasn’t until 2007 when senior Victor Gennaro reinvigorated the tradition and made it even more special than in years past.
Victor was waiting to be picked up outside the gym, admiring trophies from prior years. He was impressed by the sense of pride radiating from the trophies and photographs. Victor did a little research. He found out that the rivalry between New Hampton School and Tilton School was the third longest rivalry in New England Prep School, to be exact!
With the help of Director of Athletics Jamie Arsenault and Former Assistant Headmaster Alan Crocker, Victor reorganized the Powder Keg. Rather than an emphasis solely on football, Victor wanted to recognize all teams with a focus on school spirit and healthy competition. With the help of Tilton’s student body president, Victor, and his classmates brought the Powder Keg back, this time including all fall sports. He is thrilled to see the tradition still alive today and reflects that he loves the healthy and friendly competition, but his real goal is that it forms a lasting brotherhood between the two schools.
This year’s Powder Keg tournament will be hosted by Tilton School on Saturday, November 11. The opening ceremony will begin at 11:45 with games throughout the afternoon.