Though rain and other campus events led to two postponements, the spirit of Duke Day persevered when it finally came to fruition on the sun-kissed afternoon on Saturday, Nov. 11. Following the paths winding into the WestCo courtyard, one glimpsed clusters of students sprawled on blankets, sharing beers, and playing board games as various musical groups performed near Weshop.
The annual event is sponsored by the community-based living dorm affectionately known as WestCo. It is named after the “Uncle Duke” character (based on eccentric Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson) from the politically charged Doonesbury comic strip. Due to last-minute rescheduling, the only decoration representing the festival’s namesake was a lone mechanical gray bat, an allusion to Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” flapping its wings from a piece of yarn strung between two trees. Before the cancellations an entire night was going to be devoted to decorating the courtyard, but the lack of glitz, excluding the tinsel tossed on a distant shrub, gave the event a sense of coziness and charm.
An enormous sheet of paper, covered in spray paint, tempera and other pieces of student art made over the course of Duke Day, was taped to a wall and displayed students’ impromptu creativity.
While most students snacked on homemade sandwiches and brownies, Kate Gavriel ’09 ran a vegan bake sale on a blanket in front of the mural to support Wesleyan’s new Ostranenie Magazine. Gavriel also stenciled the magazine’s slogan, “Promote Abstract Culture,” onto the shirts of intrigued attendees.
This was certainly an appropriate theme for the festival: students scaled walls to take in the unusually bright sun on the roof of Weshop as Dana Matthiessen’s ’09 noise band played drums with a banana and broadcast scratched guitar feedback. Although Duke Day was originally planned to have exclusively non-Wesleyan bands from places like Brooklyn, the rescheduling kept the event purely Wes: performances ranged from experimental projects; to a rock band fronted by Jill Jaffe ’09 and Destin Douglass ’09; to the crowd-pleasing bluegrass of the Hill People.
Though the relatively small showing was mostly freshman and sophomores from WestCo and Butterfield, students made the best of the situation.
“I think that if it hadn’t been rescheduled so much, there would’ve been a bigger turnout, which would have been nice,” said Westco resident Ari Tolman ’10. “But Duke Day definitely had this vibrant energy, and it was great to wake up to live music outside my window on Saturday morning. It was such a comfortable environment with really music good people, and it was really nice for me as a freshman to be able to be part of a tradition.”
Despite the bad weather, administrative obstacles, and poor logistics, this year’s Duke Day proved that the third time really is a charm.