Grace Jordan, arts & living editor
Mountain Day has been a long-standing Berry tradition for more than a century. The weekend-long celebration usually occurs the first or second weekend of Oct. and contains numerous events for all Berry students, staff, faculty and even alumni.
In 1914, Berry celebrated their first Mountain Day, when Martha Berry decided she wanted to have a birthday celebration. Cecily Crow, director of student activities, talks of the first time Mountain Day occurred.
“In 1914, Martha Berry shared with students that she had not celebrated her birthday since she was 16,” Crow said. “That would have been in the 1880’s. She invited students to celebrate with her and canceled classes and work.”
Students and teachers celebrated this day together. The attendees played games, shared stories and in the evening, at least 200 people shared a 32-pound cake at the request of Martha Berry.
“The students on that day marched 5 miles from here to the top of Lavender Mountain,” Crow said. “They had a birthday celebration for Martha, they had relay games and picnic lunch. They brought out a 32-pound birthday cake with Martha Berry’s initials on it. It became an annual thing.”
Associate Provost David Slade gave a presentation on the history of Mountain Day almost a year ago. In order to find this information, he scoured the archives and compiled a timeline of the event over the past 100 years. In doing so, he discovered some traditions that came as a surprise, one of which being a football game, according to Slade.
“An earlier moment in Berry’s history is when there were two literary societies, the Georgians and the Syrrebs,” Slade said. “Male and female students belonged to both of them and they competed against each other in a lot of different areas. In speech and debate and in athletics. There was often a Mountain Day football game played between these two societies.”
There have been numerous traditions that have come and gone over the past century in regards to Mountain Day, one of which being Marthapalooza, which only started in 2005. Crow has been a part of the Berry community for 30 years now and even spent her undergraduate years here. When she attended Berry, Marthapalooza did not exist. Instead, Berry students held an off-campus celebration that took place the Saturday night of Mountain Day weekend.
“Marthapalooza wasn’t around, we had a dance,” Crow said. “For many years, for decades, there was a thing called ‘the field party.’ It was a big party off campus, not sponsored by the college, but organized by Berry students and young alums. It was a party that took place somewhere in Rome and it had grown and there was a lot of drinking and camping overnight. Once you got there, you were locked in behind the gates.”
According to Crow, Marthapalooza was a solution to a problem the field party had created. Many students attended the off-campus party and due to the nature of the party, there were numerous accidents that arose. In response, in 2005 the president and dean of students gathered a group of students and began formulating an event that would replace the infamous field party.
“There were a lot of things that resulted from the field party and we felt like we needed to offer something that was an alternative to the field party,” Crow said. “So the dean of students at the time and the president put forth the charge in 2005 and brought together some students to figure out this problem. They dreamt up Marthapalooza. It started out as just some inflatables with a band and a bonfire and some food in Clara Bowl. You could camp out overnight. We had 700 students show up the first year, next year we had 1200, next year 1500. It kept going. By year five we had over 2000 students.”
Another tradition students might be surprised by, is the Grand March and Pennies for Martha. For years students have been lining up in rows and marching through Mountain campus, dropping pennies in a basket. However, according to Slade, Mountain Day did not begin with these practices. Pennies for Martha was not implemented until 1923 and was originally a way for students and faculty to give back to Martha Berry. The march as we know it did not appear until 1927, more than 10 years after the first Mountain Day.
Mountain Day weekend has been celebrated for more than 100 years and remains to this day the biggest event Berry hosts. The most notable events on Saturday are the picnic on Mountain Campus that takes place 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., which includes the Grand March and Pennies for Martha at 1 p.m. There will be a football game at 6 p.m. against Trinity University and Marthapalooza is held in Clara Bowl from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.