ORONO, Maine — Around this time of year, college students take part in end of the semester traditions. At least, that’s the plan.
While COVID-19 guidelines remained in place in Orono Wednesday, UMaine students participated in Maine Day.
“We need that right now. People have been through a very difficult year,” President Joan Ferrini-Mundy said.
“There’s a sense of pride, there’s a sense of connection to the alma mater, there’s a sense of community,” Vice President of Student Life Robert Dana added.
Like all Maine Days, the morning was a time of service. Students volunteered and helped spruce up the campus, downtown Orono and nearby Old Town.
After the work came the fun.
“It feels really exciting,” Christina Harrick said. “I’m so glad we have such a great day for this.”
Harrick experienced her first Maine Day on Wednesday. The graduate student now works at the Center for Student Involvement on campus and spent her day setting up lawn games on the campus mall.
To the delight of many, food was available at barbeques in the afternoon, and food trucks parked on campus in the evening.
During the afternoon, juniors Madison Smith and Holly Arend set up a table near the barbeque like they do every year on Maine Day, representing the Figure Skating Club.
“Today, we’re handing out popsicles, getting into the spirit of Maine Day, getting out, seeing everybody,” Smith said.
“I’m super excited, I’ve heard about this for years,” Arend added. She transferred to Maine last year, so this was her introduction to the annual celebration.
While it was her first, it was some Black Bears’ last.
“Honestly, it hasn’t settled in yet,” senior Anna Schumann said.
Schumann, Sara Drummond, and Emma Jourdain said they couldn’t have made it through the last year of COVID, or the last three years in college without each other and without their cross country and track teammates.
Maine Day also served as an unofficial graduation day for some seniors. Smaller commencement ceremonies will be held this week, but Wednesday was a good time to take some classic graduation photos and give these students some normalcy.
“I’m glad we could do something like today, taking pictures all morning, we’re walking tomorrow, so I’m glad we had some sort of conclusion unlike last year’s seniors,” Jourdain added.
A new wrinkle to this Maine Day is one that folks hope never returns: a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic. The four-hour window was open for any student, staff member, or member of the public. Dana said 1,600 doses were available and the clinic was run by UMaine nursing students and faculty.
Traditions are important and many were brought back to Orono after last year’s COVID cancellation. While Black Bears young and old were happy Wednesday, everyone is hoping next year will just feel like the ‘old days.’