GSA claims traditions stone at candlelight vigil

Annie Bartholomew/ Sun Star Reporter
March 26, 2013

The Traditions Stone is unveiled at the reenactment of the 1957 candlelight vigil at Constitution Park on Friday, Mar. 22, 2013. Students participated in the gathering which retold the story of the prohibition on campus and the student protest that followed. Annie Bartholomew/Sun Star

The Traditions Stone is unveiled at the reenactment of the 1957 candlelight vigil at Constitution Park on Friday, Mar. 22, 2013. Students participated in the gathering which retold the story of the prohibition on campus and the student protest that followed. Annie Bartholomew/Sun Star

Last Friday night frats brothers and interested parties took to Constitution Park to duke it out over the 400-pound Traditions Stone.

Event organizers planned to reenact the 1957 candlelight vigil and introduce new students to the history behind one of UAF’s liveliest traditions. “We want to show students that they can be empowered and make change on their campus and hopefully they can take that and enact that in other ways,” said Student Activities Office Assistant Director Cody Rogers, who supervised the event.

Before 8 p.m. over 50 people had amassed with three dolly hand trucks, eager to take the stone. Journalism student and event organizer Ashleigh Strange wore a “Jose Cuervo” top hat and black coat, greeting newcomers through a megaphone.

“I’m super interested to see what will happen tonight because it’s one of the first times we’ve seen the stone not really being possessed, just out there for people to see and experience on the golden anniversary,” said Alpha Phi Omega member Jesse Manchester before the ceremony.

By 8:10 p.m. Traditions Board members and SAO employees were handing out candles in beer bottles to set the mood of the vigil.

“This is our part. We got it from who had it and they gave it to us and we said we were going to do this,” said Fisheries student and SAO assistant Allie Bateman. “There’s like five different groups here right now and we’re hoping more show up.”

When the ceremony finally began, Strange told a humorous rendition of the story of the Traditions Stone beginning with the 1956 alcohol ban on campus. At UAF, 46 percent of students petitioned to end the alcohol ban that would last for 16 years at UAF.  Disenfranchised students planned a vigil for tradition, secretly crafting the infamous headstone which reads “Here Lies Tradition 1957.” Students met in Constitution Park to protest the alcohol prohibition by throwing a funeral for “tradition”  and throwing their empty alcohol bottles into a grave of a hole the ground. The Traditions Stone served as a headstone for the grave until President Patty directed that the stone be removed. Before the stone could be destroyed, it was stolen by students and continues to be stolen, or traded for alcohol to this day.

Using a kazoo, Strange led the group in a chorus of the original song students performed at the 1957 vigil to the hymn “Rock of Ages.”

“Prohibition – Woe is me!
Old traditions gone you see.

Engineers and Miners too
Weep for their forbidden brew.

Since the law has been laid down,
Coke shall now our sorrows drown.
 In the span of four short years,
Many things have brought us tears.

When we used to brew our own,
Old Main Dorm was just like home.
Now this place has lost its jazz.
It is just like Alcatraz.

From now on the Gulch is dry;
Memories here beneath us lie”

The ceremony took a turn for the unexpected when Strange announced that the stone would be leaving with a predetermined group and was fair game once it left campus.

“I want to say thank you all for coming. We’ve lit these candles and are here to remind ourselves that we’re more than just students,” Strange said. “We’re people, and we’re people who are here to have a good time, and also study. And also we have proud traditions.”

After a drumroll from audience members, Strange announced that the recipient of the Traditions Stone would be the UAF Gay Straight Alliance club.

Student Christian Burns-Shafer broke the silence by saying, “How can you disagree with that?”

“If you do you’re intolerant,” said student Amanda Harper from the back of the crowd, receiving laughter from the crowd.

Though some groups were disappointed there was no brawl for the stone, others were excited to see the organization leave with it.

“I’m a huge supporter so I’m actually really happy that this group gets the Traditions Stone for now. We’ll see how long it lasts,” said Elizabeth Galles, who took part in the ceremony.

GSA Co-President Brandy Flores, learned that morning that her organization would be taking the Traditions Stone. Its next appearance is expected at Spring Fest celebrations.

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