Four years later and the “Here’s to the Night” song by Eve 6 that played at our high school graduations once again seems all too familiar. Life moves fast. College races by. Drake Relays passes even quicker. But while that g-word (graduation) and that j-word (job) are outlawed terms (as forbidden as Voldemort) in my apartment, we’re all looking forward to that r-word: Relays! The economy, senior capstones, and the frightful-yet-plausible notion of moving back in with our parents can’t deter the smiles that six-letter word puts on our faces.
Street painting. A packed stadium. Festivities. School spirit. A Beautiful Bulldog contest. Drake Relays transforms our tiny campus — and the bars around it — into an Iowan utopia. Seeing Olympic hurdler and Des Moines native Lolo Jones compete is just mere confirmation of the fact.
2008: THE SOLE OF DRAKE
My freshman year Mother Nature spited us — we were excited about painting the street and all sorts of crazy shenanigans — then it rained. Street painting was moved. When I painted the street later that week, the weather was reasonable, but the crowd was minimal. I’m surprised a tumbleweed didn’t blow across the street like it does in those old Western movies. But this is Iowa — maybe I just didn’t see it — neither did the seven or 10 others crouching down, leaving their semi-permanent mark on Drake’s campus. The races were fun, the festivities were memorable, and we were all introduced to what would become our favorite word in the world (well, that and free — but you get my point).
2009: RUNNING STRONG A CENTURY LONG
Then the construction happened. They tore up the painted street. Goodbye freshmen year artwork. Goodbye beautiful view outside my Jewett window. It was a travesty. It was a Relays graveyard. But you freshmen and sophomores didn’t have to see that. That wonderful painted street you walk so jubilantly on, to and from class, pointing out to whoever visits — yeah, it used to be sunken into the ground, falling apart.
On the bright side, 2009 was going to be a good year. With construction season (mostly) over, we welcomed friends, family and alumni onto campus for the 100th Relays. It was exciting. The weather was better. And when street painting rolled around, Mother Nature was kind — music, paint and laughter filled the street with everyone. That kid who never spoke in your FYS was a chatterbox, covered in paint. That girl who was always in your hallway, fighting with her boyfriend on the phone — at three in the morning — covered in paint, sans phone. One of my friends even hugged a security guard. Yeah — I wouldn’t suggest that one. But I would suggest going downtown to check out the Court Ave festivities. Lucky Boys Confusion put on a solid performance in 2009 and I enjoyed it, despite not being able to legally drink at the downtown bars.
2010: HISTORY TO YOU, TRADITION TO US
Junior year of Relays was a blast as well. Hellogoodbye played at Court Ave and although I was hit in the face by the shoes of more crowd surfers than I can count, I still remember the feeling of shock and awe I felt when the members of the band jumped into the crowd — even though I nearly fell. This past year Drake also partnered with the Court Ave District and Des Moines to create a downtown street painting event for nonstudents. Initially I had mixed feelings about this — maybe they were copycats trying to steal our tradition, or haters trying to make street painting (meant to be crazy) organized (how dare they) — but now I just smile, happy that Des Moines likes Drake enough to adopt one of our beloved traditions. Take that, other schools! After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery.
2011: COME FOR THE RACES, STAY FOR THE ________.
As the end of my senior year approaches (if you’re reading this you should hire me), I can only imagine what this year’s Relays will hold. I bet even the Drake Squirrel and Beautiful Bulldog contestants aren’t even in on the details. But one thing’s for sure, no matter what happens we’ll never forget the exciting nights and fast days of Relays. We’re all going to miss it.
But then again, we can always come back — take an extra year, go to grad school, finish pharmacy school — let’s just hope most of us can graduate after we deal with the aftermath of the fun that will be Relays 2011.