After visiting Williams College, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It would be no small advantage if every college were thus located at the base of a mountain.” Today, Williams students celebrate their advantageous location through the tradition of Mountain Day.
The origins of Mountain Day are believed to date back to a spring event called “Chip Day” when students would take time to clear debris that had accumulated during the winter. In 1796, students commissioned other workers to take care of cleaning the grounds, and the day was set aside as a holiday. During the first half of the 19th century, the College created a second event intended to allow students to take to the mountains. The event soon established itself as Mountain Day, and it achieved great popularity.
During the early part of the 20th century, the event was announced spontaneously the evening prior to the celebration when the chapel bells would ring out “The Mountains.” Sadly, in 1934, the student body had lost interest in Mountain Day, and it was cancelled for the first time. During the 1960s, students expressed interest in resurrecting the Mountain Day celebration. In 1969, one student wrote in an editorial to the Williams Record that such a holiday would “focus attention on our surroundings, which seem to go unnoticed by so many students.” Despite their efforts, it would take until 1993 for Mountain Day to be reintroduced. The Williams Outing Club has taken charge of organizing the event, and its popularity with the Williams community has been strong, drawing hundreds of participants each year.
This year’s Mountain Day celebration will take place on Sunday October 3, at 2:30 p.m. on Stony Ledge. This year’s celebration is particularly special as it marks the bicentennial anniversary of a historical joint ascent up Mount Greylock by President Dwight of Yale University and President Fitch of Williams. Numerous hiking and biking trips will leave campus throughout the day on Sunday, and some bus transportation will also be provided. For the adventurous spirit, an overnight trip will also leave on Saturday afternoon. All trips will arrive at Stony Ledge in time for the festivities. Donuts, apples and cider will be served and performances by campus groups Rude Cider and Grassroots, as well as various a cappella groups, will take place.