Many traditions of Green Key weekend endure today, but in a weaker form than those of yesteryear

by Matt Lewis | 5/17/02 5:00am

More than any other Dartmouth holiday, Green Key weekend has seen its traditions ebb and flow by way of intermittent administrative intervention and escalating student involvement in planning alternative social options.

Centered around music and alcohol, student-organized activities for this year's weekend reveal the development in campus culture since the birth of the annual spring rite in 1924.

In the footsteps of former Green Key musical guests like the Grateful Dead in 1978, Phish in 1989, and Blues Traveler in 1988, the Programming Board selected contemporary rock band Guster to headline this weekend's events.

"I think I could safely say that [Green Key weekend] has toned down to some degree," said College Proctor Robert McEwen, citing an overall decrease in outside guests and fewer traditional activities and competitions.

McEwen, a Dartmouth employee since 1967, added that more bands performed in the past, as modern acts are more expensive to book and tour less frequently than their predecessors.

In the 1960s, all 24 fraternities on campus featured bands for the weekend.

Music will still dominate the Greek scene. Highlights include the funk-inflected Brown at Alpha Delta's highly anticipated lawn party, college rock band Granian on the front lawn of Sigma Nu, an '80s rock cover band at Psi Upilson and the reunion of Dartmouth's own Green Room at Bones Gate.

The upcoming Green Key weekend will be the first subjected to the new College policy forbidding students to carry alcoholic beverages in public, a policy that will sting the weekend's outdoor party tradition in particular. Some fraternities, like Alpha Delta and Theta Delta, have been granted exemptions that will allow students to drink outside at specific events.

According to Trevor Byrne '03, a social chair of Chi Heorot fraternity, Greek houses are also forbidden from hosting alcohol-themed parties and can serve only a College-sanctioned amount of alcohol.

Consequently, this weekend will be "not nearly the same as it used to be," Byrne said.

In addition to the Guster concert, the Programming Board has sponsored a "Noche de Primavera salsa party in Collis Commonground and a step-show on Saturday in Leede Arena. The Green Key Society will host the second-annual Class Combat on the Green this Saturday.

"Guster has its niche just as Class Combat has its niche but I think that they'll reach out to a broad spectrum, and all the events should have a good turnout," Programming Board member Matt Oppenheimer '05 said.

Student Activities coordinator Linda Kennedy said that the weather has the greatest influence on attendance at outdoor events.

As exemplified by the public alcohol ban, administrative intrusions into Green Key festivities are verging on becoming a tradition in themselves.

Beginning in 1899, a spring prom and many simultaneous parties were hosted on campus during Houseparties weekend.

Administrators canceled the weekend after a female guest was spotted peddling a bicycle in the nude the Sunday morning following the prom.

The weekend resurfaced in 1929, featuring the Green Key Ball as its main event.

In tune with her inspiration's display of female liberation, another bicyclist paraded the Green in 1931 in similarly informal attire. The College then suspended the ball for three years.

The Green Key Ball was permanently discontinued in 1967 after students rioted in response to a campus appearance by ex-governor of Alabama George Wallace.

Mirroring this former tradition, the '05 Class Council has planned an '05 formal dance for Saturday.

Students started annual human chariot races in 1966, in which teams of four students would drag chariots made of materials such as baskets or kegs. The races were abolished after 1984 due to the onlookers' tradition of hitting the participants with eggs, flour and fruit.

A throwback to the golden days of chariot racing, Saturday's Class Combat pits members of each Dartmouth class in various competitions ranging from jello-wrestling to water-balloon tossing.

Chang said Class Combat lends more significance and tradition to the weekend aside from the usual Greek and off-campus parties.

"We try to make the event pretty huge," Chang said.

The Hanover Golf Course was the site of another Green Key tradition. Complete with sleeping bags, blankets and pillows, many students slept on the course with their guests during the 1950s and '60s.

The College shooed the squatters away with sprinklers and bullhorns after a Hanover resident wrote a letter to the editor of The Dartmouth in 1965 saying that the "outdoor sleep" was corrupting his two teenage boys.

As with many Green Key traditions, the golf course sleep soon faded away.