GW students turned out to participate in a cherry-pie eating contest and celebrate the University namesake’s birthday Thursday on the Quad despite frigid temperatures, sleet and snow.
“What better way to cheer up a snowy afternoon than to have a birthday party for our founder,” GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said at the event.
The ceremony began in Kogan Plaza with a fife and drum corps. University Marshal Jill Kasle and a regal Abraham Lincoln led the ceremony.
“George Washington would feel like he was right back at Valley Forge with the weather like this today,” Kasle said. The procession followed the fife and drum corps from Kogan Plaza to the Quad, where the Lincoln impersonator lit the fire because Washington was not able attend the event, Kasle said.
“His carriage got stuck in traffic,” she said.
All partygoers received tri-cornered hats and an assortment of colonial-style food including s’mores, hot chocolate, jacket potatoes and mush peas.
GW’s first annual cherry pie eating contest was the main attraction for the birthday celebration. The contest was created to encourage student groups to be part of the celebration, said Jessica Carlson who works in the Office of University Special Events.
“With the weather it was a great turn out,” said Jim Hess, director of University Special Events. “The pie eating contest was a big hit. It will become an annual event.”
Three categories of student groups were represented for the contest: fraternities, sororities and other student organizations. Overall winner Seth Weinert, Program Board chair, received a trophy at halftime of the women’s basketball game following the celebration while winners in the categories received a dining services grant for their organization.
“As chairman of my board I felt it was my obligation to use my pie-eating skills for good and not evil,” Weinert said.
Participants said the celebration gave them a chance to take on Greek-letter rivals.
“No one wanted to do it, so I did it,” Phi Sigma Sigma sorority member Ryan Weinstrup said. “But I beat the frat boys.”
Weinstrup came in third place and received a $250 dining grant to cater events for her sorority.
Following last year’s celebration, the Hippodrome hosted a men’s basketball game on television, but this year students were encouraged to attend the women’s game at the Smith Center after the gala.
Even students who did not plan to attend said they enjoyed the birthday party.
“I was on my way out of class and decided to stop,” junior Mike Murphy said. “It was really nice of the University to do this.”
Other students said they appreciated the effort to hold the event in the cold temperatures and accumulating snow.
“I think GW is indestructible, they try to beat the weather with a bonfire,” freshman Erin Rodgers said. “I would have thought more people would come out but the pie-eating contest was fun to watch anyway.”
The bonfire and festivities gave some students an excuse to leave class early.
“Our professor let us out early so we could enjoy the fire,” senior Will
Crane said. “My favorite things are the fire and the hats.”
GW started holding a University-wide celebration for George Washington’s birthday in 1999, Carlson said.
“Students got President’s Day off, but on his real birthday there was nothing happening,” Carlson said.
The idea came from a student who felt the University didn’t celebrate its namesake enough, Trachtenberg said.
The Office of Special Events coordinated with the President’s Office and GW’s secret society, the Order of the Hippo, to create this year’s ceremony. It is the only University-wide event the five-year-old organization created by Trachtenberg holds.
“The President’s office asked (the Order of the Hippo) to get involved to try and make it annual,” Order member Joe Bondi said.