Ming DeMers/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

This year's Dragon Day followed the theme of “rebirth."

April 2, 2023

Dragon Day Scales Up Sustainability Emphasis in Annual Parade

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On Friday, first-year students in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning displayed the product of hours of labor in an iconic Cornell tradition dating back over a hundred years — Dragon Day.

This year’s dragon was made of donated materials, supporting both aesthetic and sustainability goals with the theme of “rebirth.” The dragon’s exterior formed a tapestry that was unveiled at the end of the parade and will be established as a temporary art installation on the Arts Quad.

Dragon Day co-captain Matt Miller ’27 discussed the roots of Dragon Day and the importance of the tradition to students in AAP.

“The tradition of Dragon Day is a very long and important one in Cornell’s history. Initially started by Willard Straight, they paraded around campus with a model dragon,” Miller said. “Over the past 120 years, the extent of the dragon has drastically changed, and many festivities and fun shenanigans have been added to the tradition.”

Last year, Dragon Day returned after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. First- and second-year AAP students created a two-headed dragon, composed of recycled materials. 

Sustainability was a common theme throughout this year’s work. According to Austin Johnson ’27, another co-captain of Dragon Day, the dragon was made of local recycled materials. The dragon’s skin was formed from recycled fabrics including old blankets, robes and t-shirts sourced from Ithaca ReUse MegaCenter. The body of the dragon was assembled from deconstructed surplus wooden pallets, with extra lumber donated to AAP’s wood shop for student use.

This year’s dragon utilized secondhand materials to promote sustainability. (Ming DeMers/Sun Assistant Photography Editor)

“We gave each material its second life, like how our theme for this year is this idea of second-life rebirth,” Johnson said.

Starting in early February, the planning for Dragon Day included meetings about design, construction and event logistics, according to Miller. For funding, AAP students have been selling Dragon Day t-shirts since early February, while also building excitement for the event.

Dragon Day preparations included fundraising through t-shirt sales. (Ming DeMers/Sun Assistant Photography Editor)

An iconic element of Dragon Day is the tradition of pranks between architecture and engineering students — who are longstanding rivals.

Julian Chorney ’27, head of the Dragon Day Pranks Committee —  the group that plans all the pranks and jokes surrounding Dragon Day — explained that after pranks became too rowdy in prior years, both colleges switched to annual planned pranks.

“The pranks eventually got too out of hand, so these days there are two planned pranks that happen every year — the Nerd Walk and the Green Streak,” Chorney said.

The Nerd Walk is an event where the architects dress up as the engineers and parade around the engineering quad. This year, the Dragon Day team got permission to go into engineering classes and do a few chants. The Green Streak is an event where the architects paint themselves green and run around campus doing Dragon Day chants. In advance of the Dragon Day parade, the Nerd Walk took place on Monday and the Green Streak took place on Wednesday.

Architecture students painted themselves green for the annual Green Streak event. (Ming DeMers/Sun Assistant Photography Editor)

Engineering students annually construct a phoenix and place it on the Engineering Quad to march toward the dragon — again reflecting the two colleges’ rivalry. Some architecture students found it humorous to poke fun at the size difference between the dragon and the phoenix.

“[The dragon] inserted its dominance over the phoenix. I think the eyes really did it a favor, gave it some nice little attitude and it was obvious that the dragon won against the phoenix,” Johnson said. “[I will] be polite about this – I think that the phoenix was a good try.”

Engineering students annually produce a phoenix to confront the dragon. (Hannah Rosenberg/Sun Senior Photographer)

Many Cornellians outside of AAP expressed that they understand Dragon Day to be an important tradition, prompting them to attend the event. Drew Farrell ’26 learned about Dragon Day before he was accepted to the University, and he joined the parade right after his last class ended on Friday.

“It was definitely one of the traditions I was looking forward to coming here. I knew about it ever since [I was] researching Cornell,” Farrell said.

Students like Hamza Ayad ’26 also said they enjoyed how the parade brought Cornellians together and built school spirit. 

“It was very nice to see a good tradition at Cornell and have the band play,” Ayad said. “Everyone dressed up and [got] excited to be part of it.”

Johnson similarly emphasized that Dragon Day is a bonding experience for the architecture community. Ultimately, he expressed pride in the dragon and the efforts his team put into the day. 

“As first-year architecture students, we’ve been looking forward to building the dragon since day one, with the acceptance letter for Cornell featuring the event,” Johnson said. “This also becomes an event for the entire major and college to bond with as the upperclassmen pass down the hype building up to the parade and then parade with us.”