Mountain Day is one of Colby-Sawyer College’s most celebrated traditions, from the speculation surrounding the date and the disappearance of condiments in the dining hall to the anticipation from students hoping that classes will be canceled and the excitement that bursts when the bell atop Colgate Hall rings at 10:05 on the chosen morning. Then comes the rush of putting on all of the necessary gear, the loading of buses, the climb up, the group picture and, finally, the lunch awaiting at the bottom of the mountain. Very few people know when the day might actually be; this small number includes the dining hall General Manager Amy O’Brien and Catering Manager Jason Dacier.
O’Brien, Dacier and the dining hall’s chef receive a heads-up a few days before the event is set to take place. The lead-up to the actual day involves a lot of preparation according to O’Brien. “I book a U-Haul and I give them the dates that I’m aware of that it might be, and if it’s cancelled, then I have to change the dates to the following upcoming date,” she said. “I order propane tanks and grills. The food has to be ordered usually a week prior from the first date. Depending on obviously frozen foods.”
The food preparation is done in advance as well. “Usually the chef will come up with a menu, and then he’ll do his ordering as need be prior to the events,” said O’Brien. “Then we prep. Really, I mean, everything is really prepped … before the date.”
Although there are a lot of moving parts involved, Dacier said the prep is “pretty dialed in” thanks to the dining hall catering it for years.
The menu that is served is “pretty standard,” according to Dacier, because “what the student body wants basically is the dogs and burgers.” The Mountain Day meal consists of 500 to 600 hamburgers and buns and 200 hotdogs and buns. For dessert, trays of cookies are available to decorate specifically to one’s own taste. Plenty of water, paper goods, cups, napkins and utensils are also provided for the students, faculty and staff.
Once the crowd starts to thin out, the breakdown and transporting of items back to campus begins, which has become an automatic process over the years thanks to the number of people around to help. According to O’Brien, around 90% of the dining hall staff goes to Mt. Kearsarge on Mountain Day. Only a few staff members stay back to prepare for the evening shift.
At the end of the day, Dacier says, “It’s a meal for the student body and the staff. We do that every day anyway — it’s just loading and the logistics of taking it away and delivering it.” Additionally, in comparison to other events the dining hall caters, such as the barbeques on the quad, Dacier said, “it’s on par. It’s a different energy because it’s not on campus. That’s the biggest difference — it’s just not on campus. We do enough cookouts, you know just rolling it up and down from [the dining hall] and leaving it [on the quad], it’s very different from transporting it.”
O’Brien and Dacier feel no pressure in keeping the date a secret from students. “It’s like the only time of the year that I’ll lie to students,” Dacier said. “It’s kind of comical sometimes.” He said that the staff turn it into a game. O’Brien, who joined the college in March, enjoyed her first Mountain Day this year along with the rest of the campus.