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Campus News

Reclaiming Fountain Day as a UAlbany Tradition

By Greta Petry (April 8, 2005)

From left, Student Association President J.R. Bethea and SA Vice President Darwin Jones invite students to the World's Biggest Pillow Fight on April 17.


From left, Student Association President J.R. Bethea and SA Vice President Darwin Jones invite students to the World's Biggest Pillow Fight on April 17.

This year’s Fountain Day, Sunday, April 17, is about restoring pride in the event and having a fun and safe celebration.

President Kermit L. Hall, who took office in February, has been direct in telling students they bear responsibility for making the celebration one of which they can be proud. He said that while he was still at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, he heard about problems at last year’s Fountain Day through the news. “I cannot believe this is the way you want your University to be,” he told student leaders shortly after taking office. “This is not the President’s deal alone – this is our deal.”

Toward that end, many changes have been implemented in Fountain Day, and Hall has asked faculty and staff to be involved.

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Christine Bouchard, B.A.’73, M.S.’87, has fond memories of Foun­tain Day as a great community event, but admits that in the last few years this event has turned into something different.

“Students, faculty, and staff – all of us – need to reclaim Fountain Day as a fun, stress-relieving event that celebrates the arrival of spring and the coming together of our campus community. This year’s event has been reformatted to incorporate various activities, food, and entertainment into the mix. I really believe the day will be a great one for all of us. I hope all our students give this day a chance … I think they will be pleasantly surprised.”

Joe Patalano, a UAlbany junior who served on the Fountain Day Committee, said it’s going to be a fun-filled day where students, faculty, and staff can come together and celebrate the tradition just as in previous years, except that there is much more to do in 2005. Patalano, 21, a business administration major from Valley Cottage, N.Y., said, “I am excited about the free food, prizes, and events that are scheduled for the day. The pillow fight on Collins Circle to break the world record should bring out a large number of students.”

He added, “Students are just starting to get hyped up about the new Fountain Day. They are, however, not used to the new no-guest policy and registration process that are now in effect. There are a lot of changes and revisions compared to previous years.”

Patalano and other student leaders have been in constant communication with the University administration. They are continuing to promote the event to the rest of the student body.

Student Association President J.R. Bethea, 21, a junior from the Bronx, N.Y., said while students are disappointed with some of the changes, they are excited about others. “There will be prizes; there will be more activity on the podium the whole day. I think people like that. And people are ready to throw down the pillows (to break the Guinness World Record).”

Bethea said that while change is hard to accept, “people are saying, ‘If this is what we have to do, we’d rather have Fountain Day than no day.’ ”

Student Association Vice President Darwin Jones, 20, a junior from Rochester, N.Y., said, “Fountain Day this year will hopefully be a good experience for the entire University community. We’ve all worked really hard to ensure a safe yet fun Fountain Day 2005.” Jones said he expects a good turnout.

The fun begins at noon on Collins Circle with music, rock climbing, and free food.

The turning on of the fountain, between 3 and 4 p.m., will be preceded by the “world’s biggest pillow fight” at 2 p.m. Thirty-two hundred students are needed to break the Guinness World Record.

Among the changes:

  • No guests allowed. Fountain Day 2005 is for current University at Albany students, faculty, and staff. Bouchard said, “Many students are disappointed about the ‘no guest’ policy for this year’s event. This change was a necessary one, how­ever, at least for this year. The black eye that this campus received as a result of last year’s Fountain Day was an eye opener to all of us. Regaining our good reputation is something all of us in the UAlbany community have a stake in; unfortunately, not all guests have the same commitment to our reputation.”

  • Advance registration for students through a link on the MyUAlbany portal. This means signing a pledge to uphold a safe day free of destructive behaviors. The student who correctly guesses the exact time the fountain goes on could win free tuition for next semester or a trip for two.

  • Registration ends at noon Saturday, April 16. Bring your registration ticket to the event.

  • No bags, containers, or bottles.

  • Students check in at Collins Circle and must present a copy of the pledge they signed. They turn this in for a wrist band.

Back in the 1970s, Fountain Day “meant that we had emerged from the Albany winter and now it was spring. Students were sitting around the fountain and on the stairway, and an enormous cheer would go up because it meant the vernal equinox had come to Albany, N.Y.,” said Vincent Reda, B.A. ’74.

Reda said, “One of my good friends, a corporate lawyer and UAlbany alumnus from Manhattan, was in town on a case one time and asked me, ‘Are the fountains on?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Oh, great!’ He was thrilled that the fountain was on. This was a 38-year-old man; he handed me his three-piece suit, then went out and lay alongside the fountain in shorts for two hours like he was in Aruba.”

Reda, who now works for UAlbany’s Division for Outreach, said, “For kids back then, the fountains going on signified that spring had truly reached upstate New York. It was proof that the University’s water pipes wouldn’t freeze. That was cause for celebration.”