By Claire Ballor
I think it has been unanimously decided that this year’s Groundhog Party in the Park was not a shining moment for the University of Dallas, or at least not for UD efficiency. I get it. No one can control the weather. But event planning is not about controlling the elements. It’s about adaptability and preparation. It’s also about leadership. I can’t speak from a coordinator’s perspective, but from an attendee’s perspective, leadership and adaptability were hard to find on Saturday night.
Hundreds of students, alumni and guests waited in line for upwards of two hours to get on buses to go to the park, and when many asked if they could walk or find alternate transportation to the park, there was a resounding “no” with no exceptions.
The lines for the buses and wristbands could not even be called lines. It was all more like a massive mob fueled by frustration and alcohol that no one even pretended to control. Those patiently waiting in line for over two hours watched people walk up and go right to the front of the bus “line” while the volunteers who were manning the event watched silently. I suppose perhaps the situation was a matter of survival of the fittest. In that case, I suppose I failed since I waited in line (not so patiently) for two and a half hours.
Or maybe I didn’t fail since I was eventually smart enough to call an Uber and pay $4 to get to the park myself regardless of the threats by staff that I would not be let into the park. I was let in, but I didn’t get a beer wristband. Two and a half hours earlier that would have seemed like a bigger deal, but the painful wait forced me to prioritize and decide that just making it to Groundhog Park was more important than cheap beer.
Once I got to the park, there was one true showing of adaptability, and that was on behalf of the students. Rain boots or no rain boots, hundreds made the trek through the woods, some completely on foot. I was astounded at the commitment everyone had to the tradition and their determination to carry on the party despite the conditions. That, in the end, is what Groundhog is all about. After all, the tradition survived for years without metal barricades, shuttle buses or lines that you wait in to get into other lines.
Many things could have been done differently that would have made Saturday’s event run much more smoothly. For one, alumni who paid to fly in from around the country should not have waited in line for two hours and missed half of the event. Instead, someone should have taken the initiative and decided that it was far more effective to let those willing to walk make the 30-minute trek in groups to the park. Everyone knew it was going to be rainy and muddy — the attire of the general crowd showed that pretty clearly — so it is a wonder why the school did not seem more prepared. Every backup plan should have a backup plan.
I’m sure many people ruined perfectly good pairs of shoes to make it to Groundhog this year, but I guarantee that very few would say that it was all for naught. All in all, this year proved that efficiency and planning do not make Groundhog. It is the unshakable dedication to the tradition that always has and always will make Groundhog what it is.
As CSO captain Charlie Steadman said to me as we stood ankle deep in mud listening to the band play over the rain, “It’s a party. And it will always be a party.”