Drop a penny, eat a cupcake and visit with old friends.
This is the annual Mountain Day celebration, an event which serves as the Berry College homecoming celebration and is held the first weekend of October, just around the corner from Martha Berry’s birthday.
The event used to take place on Berry’s birthday, which is Oct. 7, regardless of what day of the week it was on, former Dean of Academic Services Ameritas and alumni Ouida Dickey said.
The college then decided to dedicate a weekend to the events which include the Grand March, Marthapalooza and Mountain Day Olympics along with other events.
“In my opinion, any tradition that joins friends, barbecue and birthday cake should be upheld,” Julie Trejo, president of the Daughters of Berry told a small crowd gathered at Berry’s grave site on Saturday morning. “That may not have been Martha Berry’s exact sentiment, but I’m sure it was close.”
The short tribute paid to Berry has been a lesser known Mountain Day tradition and has been held every year since the autumn following her death, Dickey said. A choir composed of seniors led by Paul Neal sang two songs and a prayer was led by Assistant Chaplain Erin Moniz.
Moniz shared a story from a past Mountain Day, the 100th one to be exact, where she was showing a visiting chaplain around the Berry College campus. Moniz said she was told by the visiting chaplain how the college staff still talk about the founder like she was still with them.
“In some ways she still is,” Moniz said.
As the group split up they told each other, “See you on the mountain,” before they headed to the Mountain Campus for the annual Grand March. The march is one of the college’s oldest traditions started by Berry herself.
Students line up by class with male students on one side and female on the other. The students wear white, pink and blue depending on their class and marched single file down a hill. Students placed coins equal to their age in a wicker basket which sat on a three legged table at the bottom. The point of the coins is for students to give what they can to the school, Lindsey Taylor, vice president of student affairs and dean of students said.
Around 530 students marched up and down the hill Saturday as former Berry students seated along the hillside watched. The homecoming celebration offered a picnic opportunity as well as a way for alumni to visit with each other under banners organized by graduating year. The Old Mill was turned on Saturday, and ground corn meal was for sale at $5 a bag. The college was also providing shuttled tours to the House of Dreams throughout the day.
At the end of the march, the 530 Berry students all walked down the hill together where they presented their donation to Berry President Steve Briggs who thanked them for the gift.