When faced with high water conditions at the traditional Groundhog Park, the Office of Student Life (OSL) and administration realized they needed to find a new location for one of the University of Dallas’ most popular and enduring traditions.
The massive rainfall last October caused flooding conditions in the park. As a result, the administration made the decision to search for an alternate location in early November of 2015. The continued rainfall throughout the fall months kept the park filled with water. By December, it became clear the park would not be available for use.
This is not the first time in the celebration’s history that a change in location has been necessary. For instance, the West Hall courtyard was once home to the traditional Party in the Park. Even so, finding a new location this year came with a variety of challenges. The OSL knew they wanted an on-campus site. Additionally, the location needed to be safely accessible for all attendees.
“We considered the rugby pitch, but we didn’t like the idea of people having to cross over John Carpenter [Freeway], especially when people are drinking,” Dore Madere, Director of Student Life, said.
An area closer to the athletic fields was also considered. Prior experience, however, had shown that the west side of campus is not insulated enough to prevent calls to the police from neighbors. With these things in mind, the eastern side of campus became the most viable alternative.
The “Madonna courts” area is slightly larger than that of the traditional park, meaning there will be plenty of room for all the same activities, including s’mores and a bonfire.
The OSL also wanted to imitate the traditional park in a way that would hold true to the spirit of the celebration.
“Our goal is to mimic some of the qualities of the park . . . [using] this as an opportunity for increased creativity in the set-up of the event location,” Traditions Coordinator for Student Programming at UD (SPUD), senior Andrew Narduzzi, said.
The new park will be gated in to help with this effect.
“Once you’re inside the park, you’re actually going to feel like you’re somewhere else,” Madere said. “You won’t feel like you’re still on campus, in Madonna courts.”
Students will still receive sweatshirts upon registration, which they must wear to be admitted into the park. This year’s sweater, designed by senior Stephanie Ogbo, will have a quarter-zip, a style that has not been seen since the celebration’s 50th anniversary in 2013.
Additionally, the “no ins and outs” entrance policy will remain in effect, despite the on-campus location. The biggest change students might notice is the addition of a sit-down meal. This is a departure from the “fast food fare” generally served.
“As far as food [. . .] all I can say is, it’ll be awesome,” Narduzzi said.
Not to be forgotten is the addition of locally brewed beer to the mix of beers and ciders normally enjoyed at Groundhog.
Live music will still be a feature. Attendees will even be able to enjoy the performances via big screens. The student band winner of Battle of the Bands will open the Party in the Park. High Definition, a local cover band, will follow them. Closing the night will be the band Scythian, which headlined Groundhog’s 50th anniversary celebration.
“Because of their widely accepted performance, we’ve asked them to come perform again,” Narduzzi said, adding that the band’s “folk style” aligns with the “spirit of the event.”
These exciting features, old and new, are due in great part to the efforts of the SPUD student coordinators, seniors Stephen Thie and Andrew Narduzzi, who, Madere said, have done a fantastic job.
“Our goal each year is to have Groundhog be better than any before, and that hasn’t changed [. . .] despite the location setback,” Narduzzi said, emphasizing his dedication to the celebration.
The future state of the original park is still in question. Madere is hopeful that the park will be available for future use.
“Every year that we are able to go back to the park, we will go back to the park, because that really is the spirit of Groundhog,” Madere said.
While the change in location is a temporary arrangement, Narduzzi believes the spirit of Groundhog is not entirely reliant upon its location.
“The location of the event isn’t as essential to the event as the uniquely fervent spirit of the student body that Groundhog arouses,” Narduzzi said. “It is my belief and hope that the resilience of this spirit will endure this temporary change.”
It appears Narduzzi’s hopes are well-founded; SPUD recently announced that more students purchased pre-sold tickets than ever before.
“What’s nice about the change is that students who might not feel comfortable going otherwise are going to go because it’s now right on campus,” junior Lyda Tesauro said. “It’s hard because [. . .] it’s not the whole tradition I’m used to,” senior Ciara Stewart said. “But it’s all my friends who are working on it, so I’m excited to see what they come up with.”
Groundhog’s Party in the Park will take place on January 30. Doors open at 8 pm.