Hundreds of new Carleton College students circled the lawn on the campus' center, known as "the Bald Spot."

They awaited instructions.

"We're going to start the year off with what is, by now, a long-standing and cherished Carleton tradition," President Steven Poskanzer said, perched on a platform. "Are you ready?"

During this first day of a weeklong orientation in Northfield, the 529 students had already sung "Carleton, Our Alma Mater."

Now it was time for a tradition not listed on any itinerary.

At the University of St. Thomas, purple-clad freshmen pass beneath the St. Paul campus' iconic arches, cheered by upperclassmen, faculty and Tommie the mascot. At the University of Minnesota, first-year students gather on TCF Bank Stadium's field, forming a giant "M."

Carleton's a little different.

"This is very consciously a wacky, silly place," Poskanzer said during a speech earlier Tuesday. "We like to laugh. We like to do practical jokes.

"It's a place where informality reigns."

After speeches and some dancing to Outkast's "Hey Ya!" students and parents strolled through the campus, passing geese and ponds and historic halls, before arriving at the Bald Spot. One small group tossed around a Frisbee as upperclassmen taught them throws. The flick, the hammer. Or, if you're feeling goofy, the scoober.

Carleton students excel at the art of Ultimate Frisbee. The small liberal-arts college claims more than two Frisbees on campus for every student. The newbies got their first Tuesday, inscribed with the year 2016.

Which brings us to that tradition. Onstage, Poskanzer gripped the same white disc.

"Mostly, we do this because it's fun," he said. He readied his backhand. "We wish for you all that your dreams and your opportunities at Carleton may soar as high as these Frisbees."

Then: "One, two, three!"

Students launched their Frisbees in unison. For a moment, hundreds of white discs hung in the September air.

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168