University President Steven Knapp kicked off George Washington’s 277th birthday celebration Sunday night with three loud chants of “Whoo-zah! Whoo-zah! Whoo-zah!”
The celebration, which was moved inside for a third consecutive year due to weather conditions, featured a pie-eating contest, a live band and a mock bonfire. Wind gusts of 35 miles per hour forced event organizers to move the event from University Yard to the Marvin Center. Administrators said the winds posed a safety hazard for the event, which was supposed to feature a bonfire complete with marshmallow roasting.
“Embers can blow and wind gusts could cause safety issues,” said Executive Associate of University Events Ocieola Newby.
In his address, Knapp reminded students and administrators of the first president’s importance to the University.
“George Washington was essential to uniting this country after eight years of civil war. We are an ongoing part of that legacy,” Knapp said.
He stressed that it is important to keep the birthday celebration tradition alive because it brings the University together and maintains the significance of the former president.
A group of six colonially dressed musicians – including a fife player and drummer – provided an authentic colonial feel to the event and helped accompany the crowd’s singing of “Happy Birthday.”
The ensuing pie-eating contest shored up the most excitement of the evening when eight representatives of student organizations smeared their faces with cherry pie. Most of the attendees were there to support their fellow students and cheered them on as they competed to win $500 for their organization.
“It felt great to win but it was definitely too much pie,” said the contest’s winner Alex Lezama, a senior in the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
“I didn’t factor in the crust,” said junior Brian Engel when contemplating his loss, “But the best man wins.”
The eight students represented several fraternities, The Cherry Tree yearbook, College Republicans, Women’s Rugby and the Alternative Spring Break program. University Events worked in collaboration with Colonial Challenge for the first time this year and spent several months planning the event.
Steve Roche, head of the Colonial Challenge program, said that he was in charge of student outreach and recruiting students to participate in the pie-eating contest.
“With all the emphasis school about [George Washington’s] birthday, it just sounds natural to have something like this,” said sophomore Geoffrey Louden. “I think they put on a really cool event this year.”