One of the core experiences of students at the University of Dallas is Groundhog.
We all know it as a night of music, food, friends and, of course, beer. But there is a lot that goes on that we, as students, don’t see or even think about.
So how well do we actually know this UD tradition?
A step away from the student perspective and the tradition shows an intense logistical effort to put on UD’s biggest annual event.
And much of the monstrous task of working through those logistics — of making Groundhog what it is — goes all but unnoticed by most of us.
I’m writing here about the guys in the golf carts speeding across campus who spent the entirety of last week making sure everything was up and running for Saturday’s festivity.
This week, the Facilities Department deserves our thanks. Their hours leading up to the event are grueling and their primary motivation is that the students enjoy themselves, as I think we all did.
They may not be the center of attention during the event itself, but without their hard work behind the scenes, Groundhog would be reduced to a night of lonely beer pong at that random guy’s Old Mill apartment.
The Facilities staff is in charge of transforming a patch of grass into the greatest school-sponsored event of the year, complete with bonfire pits, food tents and a stage for an amazing night of music and fellowship.
The setup isn’t simple and to say that many of the tasks required aren’t in the Facilities’ job description is an understatement. But each year, the staff makes sure that everything, from stage lighting to porta-potties, is in order for the students and alumni in attendance.
In years past, when Groundhog Park was located down the road in the nearby forest, Facilities would work until the wee hours of the morning setting up lights in the trees and arranging transportation for students to and from the event.
But last year, when a bit of rain turned Groundhog into a mudhole, problems and complaints arose despite the best efforts of all involved. And while many are of the opinion that the wet turn of last year’s events only added to the atmosphere, the kinks put a damper on the Party in the Park, not to mention the added difficulty for the staff tasked with the job of adapting to the uncooperative weather.
To avoid a repeat of last year’s complications, Groundhog was moved onto the UD campus this year. While the field across from Madonna Hall initially seemed to lack the excitement of the woods, the commitment of the Facilities staff to make up for this disadvantage proved successful once again.
From the stage to the bonfires, it was clear that nothing was spared in the effort to replicate the Groundhog Park of tradition. The Facilities staff even brought new trees to the area, attaching them to the lampposts to recreate the environment of the forest as much as possible. And the inclusion of a good local beer did not hurt either.
The result was another success and possibly the beginnings of some new traditions.
In the end, the dedication of the Facilities staff and everyone else involved in the planning and setup made for another great Groundhog. As one of the greatest UD traditions, the success of Groundhog is hugely important for students and faculty alike, although it’s easy to forget about the people behind the scenes making it all happen.
So the next time you see a Facilities golf cart pass by, do not be shy about thanking the driver. A little gratitude can go a long way to repay the department for going above and beyond the call of duty each year in the effort to make such a random holiday as Groundhog Day one of the best nights of the semester.