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A-DAY: Students get messy, paint ‘A’

Jake Lacey/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Mexican-American studies freshman Elizabeth Lynne paints 'A' mountain Saturday morning with other freshmen rushing into fraternities and sororities. On Tucson’s A-Day, the 'A' is painted red, white and blue for the war in Iraq.
By Anthony D. Ávila
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, September 19, 2005
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Freshmen who trekked up “A” Mountain this weekend participated in an annual tradition: they came, they painted, they went back to bed.

In less than two hours about 200 freshmen splashed and rolled just enough paint to give the “A” on “A” Mountain a fresh coat of blue Saturday morning.

Garrett Munro, Blue Key president, said there were more volunteers this year than the other two times he has participated, but that increase can make organization more difficult.

“There was a better turnout than last year,” said Munro, a business management senior. “But that makes it harder for us to manage.”

Amanda Druce, an undeclared freshman, said she grew up hearing about UA traditions like A-day from her parents, who are UA alumni from New Jersey.

“Now I get to see everything they’ve been talking about,” said Druce, who attended the event with members of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority.

Druce said she was pleased with how the event went, but it was difficult to get work done with limited resources and an abundance of people.

“I did my part, but there weren’t enough paintbrushes for everybody,” Druce said. “But people shared.”

Saturday marked the 81st A-day, a UA tradition organized by the Blue Key National Honor Fraternity, since 1915. Jim Drnek, Blue Key adviser who has participated in 17 A-days, said it was the “biggest and the best” that he had seen.

The mostly first-year group of UA students gathered at the Old Main fountain at 8 a.m., where Blue Key organizers treated them to a brief history of how former-football player John “Button” Salmon inspired the UA fight song “Bear Down, Arizona.”

Following a group chorus of the song, the caravan of three buses departed at 8:30 a.m. and headed toward the mountain.

The “A” is painted with three stripes of blue, white and red, but students were only there to apply a blue coat to the top stripe.

The order of the colors the students painted was correct, even though that wasn’t always the case, said Andy Sanchez, superintendent for the southwest district for the Tucson Department of Parks and Recreation.

When the “A” was first painted with red, white and blue in 2003 rather than the historical whitewash it previously received, it was not in compliance with the official order of United States colors, Sanchez said.

However, the mistake was corrected when the city repainted over an illegal coating of the “A,” he said.

Students — who mostly came from a sorority, fraternity or the Freshman Class Council — were in good spirits, even though the early event brought them out of bed on a weekend morning.

Abby Spachman, a Pi Beta Phi pre-business freshman, said she didn’t like waking up early but had fun taking part in UA history.

“It was a lot of fun and we got really dirty,” Spachman said. “Waking up early was the worst part, but once you were out there it was really fun.”

Charles Wollin, a theatre arts freshman and council member, painted heartily even without the use of his left hand, which had a sprained finger.

Was there a possibility his handicap could have stopped him from A-day?

“No way,” said Wollin, whose right hand was completely covered in blue paint. “I thought about it this morning, but this is tradition and I really wanted to participate.”

Sanchez said before the event he hoped students see A-day as an opportunity to help out and demonstrate a good work ethic.

In the past students would think of the event as “a bit of a party” and there was sometimes a concern with their professionalism, Sanchez said.

“I don’t want them to create a bigger mess because that’s not very cost effective,” Sanchez said. “But we want to give them an opportunity since it is a tradition.”

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