“Traditions” is perhaps too strong a word at a place like Marlboro, where extracurricular groups and activities evolve yearly with each incoming class.
Through an ongoing collective creation of community, several events crop up fairly reliably each year. Call it student interest, call it civic investment, call it agreeable weather, call it traditions if you like. Whatever it is, the Marlboro community comes out in their little legions for the following events.
While many schools have a “study break” midnight breakfast sometime before finals, Marlboro takes a particularly festive approach. Midnight Breakfast has been celebrated each semester, on the night before writing portfolios were due, since 2001. This fun-filled night in the dining hall, punctuated by French toast, dancing, and general silliness, is just one more example of how academics are combined with community at Marlboro.
“In addition to being helpful to everyone submitting portfolios, visible and cheerful faculty and staff participation in social events in general is a major part of what makes Marlboro a community in the way it is,” said senior Daniel Kalla. Faculty and staff participate in serving breakfast from 11:30 pm to 1:00 am, scrambling eggs, grilling home-fries, flipping flapjacks, pouring 100 percent local maple syrup, and perhaps demonstrating dated dance styles, like “the bump.”
“Apple trees are a part of Marlboro,” said freshman Shannon Haaland. “The trees are left over from when Marlboro was a collective of two farms. Apple Days is a day to celebrate the campus residents, student and fruit alike, and the reminiscences of fall.”
Apple Days is an annual tradition that happens sometime in October and, despite its accepted name, mysteriously lasts only one day. Students collect apples and gather around an apple press, taking turns pulling the crank in order to make the best apple cider this side of Route 9. It takes roughly 36 apples and at least a half-dozen students to make each gallon.
Depending on fair weather, Apple Days also means music, dancing, cider donuts hanging on strings, dunking for apples, jumping in piles of leaves, eating caramel-covered apples, and an apple-pie baking contest. It also usually includes that pinnacle of gourmand entertainment, a messy, no-hands, apple-pie eating contest.
Perhaps the closest thing Marlboro has to a bona fide tradition is when students, faculty, staff, and local community members gather each February for the Wendell-Judd Cup. This cross-country ski race, covering more than five miles of hilly terrain out to South Pond and back, has been going since Marlboro’s formative years. Longtime American studies professor Dick Judd founded the race in 1965 to encourage the developing Outdoor Program, and named it for math teacher Ted Wendell.
“I was about to go off to graduate school, so he called it the Ted Wendell Memorial Cup,” said Ted, now a longtime trustee of Marlboro College. “And then I had the bad taste to come back, so he dropped the ‘memorial’ and it became the Wendell Cup since then.” When Dick Judd died in 2007, his name was added to the title.
The Wendell-Judd Cup draws a colorful variety of people from campus and the nearby community, sometimes close to 100 skiers and snowshoers, for an afternoon of high-spirited but low-pressure competition. Everyone participates, from lycra-clad ultra-athletes to local families in wool sweaters pulling toddlers in sleds, and has a good time. The race is followed by awards and bowls of delicious hot soup in the campus center.
For a school rated 19th in the nation by the Princeton Review for “Nobody Plays Intramural Sports,” and fifth for “There’s a Game?,” students at Marlboro College are more than serious about one sporting tradition on campus. Every winter, usually the first weekend in February, students and other community members gather in noisy droves at the frozen fire pond for the annual broomball tournament.
The broomball tradition began at Marlboro in 1988, when a group of students used duct tape–wrapped brooms to push a square ball around on the school’s ice pond. The college has updated the equipment over the years, and now uses regulation broomball sticks and balls. But the one thing that hasn’t change is that the game is the great athletic equalizer: nobody is actually good at running on the ice, so everyone can play.
“It started out simple, with the focus on costumes, but gradually became more competitive,” said Randy Knaggs ’94, former director of the Outdoor Program. “Everything that succeeds at Marlboro has a little spin. Marlboro likes a spectacle verses an event, and broomball is definitely a spectacle.”
A humble tradition with roots in the efforts of Marlboro’s first students, who literally hammered and painted themselves into a campus, Work Day is the one day each semester when students, faculty, and staff roll up their sleeves, get dirty (more or less), and work together toward common goals. In keeping with a college that is driven by the interests of the community, Work Day projects are based on the ideas of students to maintain or improve on college infrastructure.
“Work Day is here to listen to the student body, and see what they want to get done,” said student Kendall O’Connell, who has served as Work Day Coordinator. “It’s important because it really exemplifies the character of Marlboro: passionate kids investing time into something that they love. They learn how to do things that they might not learn anywhere else.”
Work Day projects range from splitting firewood to gardening to building the community greenhouse. “I love the camaraderie of everyone joining together in a common purpose,” said philosophy professor William Edelglass, who often joins the trash pick-up team. “There is something about trash, and picking it up on a sunny day, that leads to really good conversation.”
Try your hand at crafting a wand, play a rousing round of quidditch, or fill up on chocolate frogs. All good ways to prepare for the annual Hogwarts Dinner, when President Kevin dresses up as Professor Dumbledore, and students get decked out in their most creative Hogwarts garb—with an emphasis on creative. This festive dinner, with tables for Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin, takes place each year around Halloween, and includes an open invitation to Harry Potter fans and trick-or-treaters of all ages from the local community.
Community Trails Day
Marlboro maintains more than 17 miles of quiet, woodland trails that are used year-round by students, staff, and faculty, as well neighboring community members. Each November a couple dozen of those users band together on a Saturday and take to the trails together, breaking into small groups armed with loppers, chainsaws, axes, and shovels to get the trails in shape for winter. Following a full morning of trail work, hungry trail hands gather back at the Campus Center for a banquet of hearty chili and cornbread. This tradition shows the community’s appreciation for the honorable history of Marlboro’s Outdoor Program.