First Friday is a football season tradition held on the first Friday before a home game. A parade and pep rally are the primary elements of the day.
The parade tradition began in September 1974 in response to a perceived lack of spirit and morale about the Clemson University football team's prospects. 1967 was the last time the Tigers had had a winning season and the first two games for 1974 were played away with Texas A&M crushing Clemson, 24-0, and N.C. State beating the Tigers, 31-10.
The brothers of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity began rabble-rousing with Central Spirit to throw a parade to buck up Tiger spirits before the first home game with Georgia Tech, so on Friday, September 27, 1974 was born the "Wreck Tech" Parade. It wound from the old Winn-Dixie parking lot (now the Blue Heron location), up the hill on College Avenue through downtown Clemson and ended at the Amphitheatre where an enthusiastic pep rally was held. It had the desired effect. The following day the Tigers beat the Yellow Jackets, 21-17, and the team went onto an undefeated homefield record of 7-4. Coach Red Parker was named ACC Coach of the Year.
In 1975, Clemson opened at home against the Tulane Green Waves and the First Friday Parade was named the "Dam the Wave" Parade. Eventually the habit of naming individual parades was dropped and the event became known universally as the First Friday Parade.
The route of the parade has been altered three times. It originally began in 1974 at the bottom of the hill on College Avenue at the old Winn-Dixie parking lot and went to the Amphitheatre. After the parade was "removed" from downtown, post-1982, following a particularly debauched example of Clemson "Spirit", it began up the Old Greenville Highway near the east entrance to the campus and proceeded to the Amphitheatre. In more recent years, the route was the same, but the pep rally was moved to historic Riggs Field where the parade concluded for a women's soccer game. In 2018, the parade route changed again due to construction on Highway 93. The parade route begins at Centennial Boulevard adjacent to the northeast corner of Littlejohn Coliseum. The route turns left onto the Avenue of Champions then right onto Williamson Road and runs alongside the east side of Memorial Stadium before finishing on Williamson Road where it meets Palmetto Boulevard.
In 1975, a welcome back day was held in downtown Clemson, with College Avenue closed off and a stage for live music erected in front of what is now Tiger Town Tavern. This was not repeated until a modified version was reintroduced as part of Welcome Week the early 2000's.
In consideration of Clemson's opening home game versus Florida State on Labor Day Monday night, September 3, 2007, televised on ESPN, First Friday will become First Sunday, September 2. Alumni Band members are sought to march for the first time, CUTBA support of the Tiger Band Commitment Campaign.