BY AJ THIEDE
Many universities across the country hold annual traditions that date back decades.
Indiana University has the Little 500 Bike Race, Purdue University has the Purdue Grand Prix and Drake University, of course, has the Drake Relays. With grand traditions such as these catching the public’s eye, they often take the spotlight away from smaller traditions or activities. However, for the students at these universities, these smaller traditions often create even bigger excitement than the main event. At the Drake Relays, one of those traditions is street painting.
This year Jessica DiDominick and Hannah Chesley serve as the 2016 Relays co-chairs for the Student Activities Board (SAB). Their roles include planning the various events on campus for students, including street painting.
“For street painting, our responsibilities are to provide applications for people to paint a square, approve square designs, work with security and maintenance to coordinate different aspects of the event and to also prepare the street,” Chesley said.
Preparation is no easy task. DiDominick and Chesley have to contact individuals to be safety patrol to oversee the event, pick the day and approve square designs, as well as paint the street white. The white wash covers up the paint from the previous year.
Vice President of Student Activities and President of SAB, Erin Griffin, explained that the white washing process takes place a week before the actual street painting event. After that, she and other SAB members pick the squares that will go on the street.
“Organizations receive the theme, guidelines and a packet to help them create the square,” Griffin said. “It is up to the organizations to determine the design and colors of the square. How a square is chosen is based on how well the square resembles our theme while also showcasing the organization. We only have about 56 squares to get out, so it is normally a challenge to pick the designs.”
Leah Thompson, a Drake student and member of the Alpha Phi sorority, is looking forward to street painting this year.
“It is always an exciting moment when we get to design what will potentially be painted on our square,” Thompson said. “There are a number of organizations here on campus that get don’t get chosen, so I have my fingers crossed our design passes and we can paint it.”
Current Student Body President, Kevin Maisto, has experienced street painting since he was a first-year. He sees the big impact the event has on students at Drake and how the final result adds to the campus atmosphere.
“I think that street painting is without a doubt the one event that we really feel gives the sense of the Drake community,” Maisto said. “We know the longevity of this program, we know the history of this activity and we see the value of it.”
At the end of the day, the 56 different squares, which represent 56 different organizations, paint a larger picture of the Drake community.
“The best thing about it is that it’s a one-day activity… but you see the physical remnant of that day and the memories you have from it all year long,” Maisto said. “The whole process of the 56 student organizations who get a square on the painted street and having them come together is amazing. You see that they all revolve around this common theme, but yet you physically see how different each one is, too.”
After each organization has worked hard bringing their designs to the large, cement canvas, there is a paint fight. It’s one of those aspects of the event that creates memories for all who participate in it.
“There’s a reason that when first-year students come in, one of the things they are most excited about is street painting,” Maisto said. “Even four years later, seniors are excited about their last street painting because they know that it’s one of those big memorable Drake moments that really defines the Drake experience.”
For a university with such a rich history and a diverse amount of organizations representing it, it’s no wonder that street painting illustrates the Drake community. For the alumni who make their way back to the campus during the Drake Relays, it is like taking a trip down memory lane — literally. This is one tradition that will continue to run along side the Relays for years to come.
Check out our gallery of photos from this year’s street painting here.