By Jessica Etemadi
The hot sun beats down on the courtyard, the familiar summer smell of barbeque floating along with the breeze as hundreds of students mill around outside the Syre Student Center. Frisbees fly through the air and juggling clubs are thrown. A live band strums their instruments on the grass, where groups of friends are sprawled out, munching on burgers and ice cream. Laughter erupts as people wearing inflatable sumo suits fall to the ground and struggle to get back up again.
It is Orca Day at Whatcom Community College, and spirits are high as spring quarter comes to a close.
“It’s a big celebration,” said Josh Turpen, leader of the Student Activities Committee, which organizes and plans the entire event.
Orca Day was started in the late 1990’s, by students involved in the Student Activities committee. They “thought it was a fun way to bring students, faculty, and staff together to celebrate the year,” said Trish Onion, in an e-mail.
Former president Harold Heiner, who was a huge supporter of student enjoyment and success, really liked the idea of Orca Day, and fully encouraged breaking for a few hours. Classes used to be cancelled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but “they decided not to cancel classes last year,” said Turpen. However, many students choose to take the day off, or at least enjoy a long lunch break.
“I thought it was fun,” said Taylor Meyer, a Whatcom student who attended the event last year. “It was a good way to get your mind off finals,” he noted.
However, some students choose not to take part in Orca Day.
“I think I passed by, but didn’t participate,” said Irina Chesheva, a student at Whatcom. Students might have important classes to attend or the activities may not appeal to them.
Nonetheless, Orca Day is “one of our big events that draws community members,” said Nate Vandermay, student chair of Programming & Diversity.
“We had some families come and hang out there,” Vandermay said. Last year, children from the CDC played on the inflatable toys and brought an extra playful atmosphere to the event. Unfortunately, with the impending closure of the CDC, this participation probably will not continue.
In 2008, the President’s Cabinet requested that Orca Day include “academic competitions and displays of student art work, rather than just athletic competitions with the inflatable games,” said Onion.
In addition, the planning students wanted the event to “focus on building a sense of campus community by bringing students, faculty, and staff together with a variety of activities,” Onion commented.
Thus, a number of faculty and student clubs designed different competitions and activities that were academically focused, including a geography competition, Sudoku challenge, Business Club College Bowl competition, and “Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes (about disabilities awareness) by the Teachers of Tomorrow,” Onion said.
However, the event is “more of a celebratory thing than an academic thing,” Turpen said.
This year Orca Day will take place on Wednesday, June 9, and will begin around 10 a.m. Food will be served starting around 11 a.m., and will include burgers, veggie burgers, chips, ice cream, and drinks.
“We hand out tons of food, somewhere in the ballpark of 1,100 burgers this year,” Vandermay said.
“We’ll do tie-dye again this year, which was a huge hit,” said Vandermay. There will also be inflatable games, Guitar Hero, cotton candy, and live music by The Crafty Bastards.
“We really try to make it like a carnival,” Vandermay said.
The committee spends about 10 to 15 percent of the ASWCC Services and Activities budget for Orca Day. The event is completely free for students.