The "Pre-rade" is one of Princeton's newest traditions, dating to September 5, 2004. On that day incoming members of the Class of 2008 were greeted by sophomores, juniors and seniors sporting T-shirts from their various residential colleges, and by alumni dressed in Reunions garb.
Inspired by Princeton's famous P-rade, which takes place at Reunions and marks the graduation of the senior class, the Pre-rade is for first-year students only. They march in the Pre-rade with the president and members of the faculty (in full regalia). Other classes welcome the first-year students and introduce them to Princeton's "Locomotive."
The Pre-rade starts after the Opening Exercises in the chapel. The route proceeds via East Pyne, past Chancellor Green and the Henry House to Nassau Street. There, marching through the FitzRandolph Gate, the members of the incoming class officially enter campus as undergraduates. The route continues past Nassau Hall, between Morrison Hall and Alexander Hall to Blair Arch, where the freshmen participate in a "Step Sing" and are taught the words to Princeton's alma mater, "Old Nassau," by gathered students and alumni.
It is a long-standing tradition that alumni teach "Old Nassau" to first-year students — most famously performed by Frederic (Fred) Fox '39, who until his death in 1981 was Princeton's official "Keeper of Princetoniana" and recording secretary. He taught the song to every incoming class as part of a presentation of the Honor Code in Alexander Hall. The Pre-rade continues this tradition and pays homage to the P-rade, welcoming future students with a taste of their lives to come.