Sunday, May 5, 2013

Founder's Day

Vassar has an annual beer festival. After all, its founder, Matthew Vassar, was a brewer. It's well known that the unusual design of Main Building, with its wide hallways, was intended not only so that the first women at Vassar could exercise indoors, but also so that should the college fail, Matthew Vassar would be able to use the building as a brewery. The wide hallways would have enough space for transporting large kegs and beer-making equipment.

So every spring, Vassar College has Founder's Day, which has always featured free beer, but somewhere around the 1960's or 70's also began to feature a variety of other substances popular among the young and adventurous.

For many students, the day begins with private parties called "Breakfast of Champions." This breakfast consists, I am told, of Wheaties cereal topped with beer. At some point during the day, everyone stumbles over to the field outside the gym, where there is loud music, unlimited beer (if you purchase a cup to put it in and have secured a bracelet indicating that you are at least twenty-one years old) and carnival rides.

Because what's a drunken party without carnies?

The sun is hot, the lines are ridiculously long, but everyone is there. Blankets cover the hill, students lounging on every flat surface, discussing the various ways to sneak beverages past the unrelenting guards who have been known to empty out very expensive bottles of "water" even when they can't prove anything else was in there. Well, those who can talk are discussing that. Others are discussing how slowly the grass is growing, the many petals that can be seen on a dandelion, or how many arms Joel has suddenly developed. Still others are just staring, or sleeping, or rushing friends to the EMT tent.

Founder's Day is always the day when that couple we've all been waiting for finally hooks up, and that other couple breaks up. It's the day when friendships end, and when other friendships are sealed because the sober friend decides she really has to let that couple hook up (after all, we've been waiting FOREVER) and takes over caring for the drunk friend who may or may not have to go to the hospital. There's nothing like watching someone puke, or escorting her home in a security van because she can't walk, to seal a friendship forever.

After dinner, there's a movie shown on an outdoor screen, the beauty of Vassar surrounding you as the smell of pot wafts over the crowd. I don't know what happens after that--I was always in the dorm by then, holding someone's head, or trying to figure out why she couldn't walk.

I never drank much, and never did any illicit substances at all. I'm allergic to beer. The one year of college I might have had a drink or two, I had to drive the campus shuttle at 7PM and decided it was safer to stay hydrated before work. Still, I loved Founder's Day. I loved seeing all my friends in one place. I loved lounging on a blanket talking about nothing (although when the details of dandelion anatomy came up, I'd turn elsewhere for conversation. The good thing about people on hallucinogens is that they don't really notice when they're being snubbed.) I loved riding the rides and playing carnival games and winning stupid prizes.

Vassar is the most beautiful place I have ever lived, and just being out in the spring with my friends enjoying the campus was amazing.

And that friend who couldn't handle the drinking? I think I'll go call her right now.

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