BY ANNE MATTE
Did you know that Drake’s yearbook was once called The Quax? The 1907 edition of The Quax proclaimed that “the quarter mile cinder track at our famous stadium is rapidly being finished, and we will then have the greatest field for athletic events in the West.”
While The Quax is long gone, there are plenty of traditions that have remained through the years.
The Drake Relays have been a custom at Drake longer than the bulldog has been the official mascot. Even before the first official event was organized by John Griffith in 1910, the State Inter-Collegiate Athletic Contest was held on campus, starting in 1898.
Although it has been over a century since the Relays started, the traditions surrounding them have kept the power to bring the Drake community together. Recent traditions include the Beautiful Bulldog Contest, The Grand Blue Mile, Indoor Pole Vaulting and Street Painting.
Street Painting is undoubtedly the most well-known and prolific relay tradition. Street Painting actually began as an unofficial opening to the Relays sometime in the 1970s. The first printed record of Street Painting was in the 1980 Relays edition of the Times- Delphic. The Chemistry Club won best-painted square.
There is now an offshoot of street painting downtown that started in 2011, currently headed by Nicole Dohm of the Service Learning Ambassadors. The money raised from registration for Downtown Street Painting goes to fund the Service Learning Department, where Dohm works.
Dohm said that she’s only been running Downtown Street Painting for a year but she’s already drawn to the tradition at Drake and downtown.
“Every year I like the theme squares because the president and his wife always signed them in the past,” said Dohm, “Sometimes the bulldog would sign it with the paw print.”
Last year, about 40 groups participated in Downtown Street Painting, raising $9,000, with $2,000 going to expenses. Dohm is hoping to raise more money this year because she’s decided not to shut down the street to cut down on event costs. The sidewalks getting painted on April 27 are between 3rd and 4th streets on Court Avenue.
Street painting is nothing without its exciting history however, as Keren Fiorenza recalls.
“There was always the streakers,” said Fiorenza, who attended the Relays from 1995 to 1999. “It was like a thing of infamy … so people are painting, and then all of a sudden everybody starts yelling, and you turn around and there is, of course, some idiot, both girls and boys, streaking.”
Fortunately—or unfortunately — streaking is less common now in Street Painting, but the power of the tradition is still what brings people together.
“I’m all about traditions. Don’t ever let traditions fall by the wayside,” said Gloria Lawless, the administrative assistant for student involvement and leadership. “I don’t want you to miss one piece of Relays. I think you should go no matter if you have a few minutes, or if you have all day.”
Lawless runs the Student Life Center in the Olmsted Center, and every year when Relays start, her office starts the countdown clock that marks the time until Relays kick off. The clock used to be counting down to the end of the semester, but since that was too stressful for many students, Lawless is glad it’s being used for something exciting. Lawless follows her own advice and goes to many Relays events, including the Beautiful Bulldog Contest and Street Painting.
The traditions surrounding Relays have stayed true to that connecting spirit. Relays and its traditions have the power to bring all sorts of people together for the season, from current students like Dohm, to alumni like Fiorenza and staff like Lawless.
As for Lawless, her favorite part of Relays traditions “is just to see students having a wonderful, wonderful time. And yes, (students) would love it if you had some paint on you.