March 15, 2002

Dragon Day

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“24 hours ago I didn’t think this would happen at all. At 11 o’clock last night the mischief started. [The freshmen architects] we’re out mooning the fishbowl; at midnight they toilet papered the quad and at two o’clock they were attacked by engineers with water balloons. Many students who were tired and went home. About 15 die-hard construction guys came together to create a miracle,” said Brian E. Beeners, supervisor of the Rand shop where the dragon was built.

Yesterday afternoon the dragon came to life, stretching its wings and rearing its head into the air as more than 65 freshmen architecture students powered the steel and cardboard-scaled contraption around the corner of University and East Avenues where police had stopped traffic. Led by a parade of senior architecture students dressed in motley costumes, the dragon wove its way through central campus as hundreds of students and spectators bombarded the procession with foam balls.

“We’re trying to make sure that the students aren’t throwing ice-cubes, frozen apples or something that could put an eye out. It’s a great exchange; if they’re throwing something [hard] we give them one of these,” said Ricardo Morales, one of 40 volunteers in the ‘Dragon Day Krew’ who was distributing colorful foam balls.

“Why wouldn’t we throw things at the dragon? It’s tradition,” said Rich Bernstein ’02 as he hurled a ball soaked in water at the cardboard-scaled back of the dragon.

The Cornell Police public safety personnel and the Dragon Marshalls, both wearing protective riot-gear, also supervised the scene, keeping spectators at a distance from the dragon.

“We’re trying to have less injuries this year, less people getting hit in the face with [projectiles] than last year,” said Lt. Michael E. Moran. Last year, many people inside the dragon as well as pedestrians were pelted by snowballs and chunks of ice, according to Moran.

“This year was one of the few times we’ve been able to pull off the timing really well. When the timing is off, people become impatient and begin to throw things. ” said Beeners.

“Eggs can hurt,” warned Ben Anderson ’03, a Dragon Marshall.

As the dragon approached the intersection of Tower Road and East Ave., it lowered its head and began to rattle and shake as the students inside chanted, “Oh-Six! Oh-Six! Oh-Six!” Rising from behind Carpenter Hall, a phoenix resembling a massive orange and red pterodactyl was lifted into the air by the crane on the Duffield Hall construction site to meet the dragon at the corner of East Ave. and Campus Road.

“I thought [the phoenix] was very creative and awesome. It gave us the feeling that it was flying out to attack the dragon,” said Michelle Zagmeister ’02.

“Generally people have responded very positively to the phoenix this year. Some people said it was even better than the dragon,” said Will Stokes ’02, head of construction for the Phoenix Society.

“The crane was a once in a lifetime chance. I loved what the engineers did with it,” said Beeners.

Following a barrage of water balloons from engineering students, the dragon made its final turn as hundreds of students followed it up the walkway leading to Ho Plaza, past the McGraw Tower and onto the Arts Quad.

Surrounded by a circle of fire fighters, Dragon Marshalls, and hundreds of other students, the dragon came to a rest on the grass in front of Sibley Hall. The students emerged from within the sculpture and began running wildly around their creation as spectators chanted, “Burn it! Burn it! Burn it!”

“The fire was good this year. They had more junk, hay for instance, to get it started. All the costumes that were thrown into the fire helped get it started too,” said Eric Gerlach ’04.

“The architecture school has a lot of unity to be able to come together and build this dragon. It burned really quickly this year,” said Susan Cohen ’02. Flames engulfed the cardboard scales and tarpaulin wings almost immediately. Heat emanated from the burning carcass as architects ran frantically around the cordon of fire fighters and outer perimeter of crowded students. As the fire died down and the fire fighters doused the last burning embers, the majority of the students dissipated, though a few spectators and architecture students stayed to watch until the very end.

“[Dragon Day] is very cohesive. It’s not just about the architects. Everybody is out to have a great time,” said Andrei Pogany ’02. “It’s all about tits and ass,” he added.

“It’s exhilarating ! It’s the culmination of five years of hard work. Except for the shop supervisor Brian, [the dragon] is produced by students. People really work hard on this thing. It’s one moment in time when we can produce and destroy something just for ourselves,” aid Jessica Alan, ’02.

“It’s very ritualistic. In the past year this event has gotten a lot of flack. As people can see today, it’s beautiful just having a good time. It was a fantastic event,” said Joseph Benveniste ’02.

Archived article by Dan Webb