Williams Day delivers service, snakes, and springtime merriment

For the second ever Williams Day, there was one thing – and one thing alone – that I bragged to all my friends from home about: a dunk tank.

(Tyler Holden/Managing Editor) On Paresky Lawn, students enjoyed the dulcet tones of the College’s a cappella groups during the Williams Day festivities.

Unfortunately, the cold weather denied me this guilty pleasure, but I guess petting a baby kangaroo suffices.

There are few ways to define the College’s social life without invoking images of a teenage summer camp. We have Storytime and entry snacks on Sundays, Mountain Day in October, Winter Carnival with fireworks in February and outdoor picnics so regularly that it feels like they are routine for a typical collegiate experience. Williams Day – the day exclusively designed to celebrate the fact that we’re nestled in the lovely Purple Valley for four years – is the newest addition to the list.

“In the fall, we have all these events that people look forward to, but in the spring there isn’t that much to look forward to until the summer, which is a shame,” said Francesca Barrett ’12, Williams Day Committee founder and chair. “That’s where Williams Day comes in.”

So to celebrate Williams (and by association, the fact that I go to Williams), I put down my books for the day and instead camped out on Paresky Lawn to enjoy the nice weather with my fellow Ephs.

Though I did not have the willpower to wake up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, approximately 50 brave Ephs ventured out into the community to participate in the Great Day of Service during the morning, according to Tara Deonauth ’13.

“By having all these trips, students broaden their understanding of what Williams is and what the community is,” Deonauth said.

The early rising, I am told, was quite worth it. While cleaning the Green River, students found a fully-inflated tire and a shopping cart embedded within the river. Yes, within the river. They needed a car to bring back all the trash they found.

The first stop in my day was Frosh Quad, where Barrett immediately shuffled to my side and handed me a glow-in-the-dark “Williams Day 2012” commemorative cup to accompany my lunch. I ventured from Frosh Quad straight to Paresky Lawn, where I staked out a spot in the front to watch as my peers reminded me once again of how incredibly talented our campus is with their a cappella performances.

Following a campus-wide survey, it became clear to the Williams Day Committee that the College community has a few concrete and overwhelmingly consistent desires. Chief amongst those wants are free food from the newly-established burrito truck and the chance to pet exotic animals. Anyone who claims Williams students are normal is clearly misguided.

Barrett, the self-described “most awkward MC in Williams history,” moderated between student events, whether it was Sankofa, the Aristocows or Combo Za. Barrett and Mindy Lee ’12 always ushered performers on and off the stage in style.

“Mindy and I should have practiced witty banter,” Barrett admitted. “That’s the most important thing about being good MCs. It’s all about chemistry, and she’s a chemistry major, so it definitely wasn’t her fault.”

This year’s Williams Day was designed to showcase the student talent that often goes unnoticed in daily life at the College – like caricature drawings by Dominique Rodriguez ’12 and a photo booth by the Williams Photo Club – coupled with a few big events brought from the outside. In particular, I’m talking about exotic animals.

Students spread across Paresky Lawn to get a glimpse at these precious, albeit bizarre, creatures. From a skunk to an African bush baby, the College community was fixated on petting animals they had never seen (or in the case of a skunk, never wanted to).

Many of these animals are not ones that I’d generally put in the cute category in the wild, like the California king snake, the alligator or the snapping turtle. After these slightly-terrifying exotic animals, Tarzan the lemur was up next.

“When they turn about a year or so, primates turn evil,” animal master Ed – whose last name was never apparent to anyone in the audience – told the hundreds of students at the exotic petting zoo. Biology 101 reminder: Humans are primates.

Ed also informed the group that he fed his youngest daughter dog food on her birthday, at which point the audience immediately fell apart.

As the jokes came to a close – thanks, Ed, for your entertainment – the main attraction came to the fore. Students lined up from the north entrance to Paresky and wrapped around the building for the opportunity to pet a baby kangaroo. I was amongst the crowd as students, revealing their inner five-year-old selves, raved about how awesome kangaroos are. My few minutes with the joey exceeded any experience I’ve ever had with a human named Joey – no offense Joey Wetherell ’14, but do you have a pouch to carry your young ones? I think not.

As the day came to a close, all I could think about is how great Williams Day will be next year. Though it’s only in its second year, the stakes are high to continually produce an even better all-campus experience.

“I’m excited to see what happens,” Barrett said. “But at this pace, I don’t know how we’ll be able to find a fire-breathing dragon to upstage this year’s events.”