Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wet Down

One of the more curious Senior Week traditions, which is no longer practiced, is Wet Down, which began sometime before 1885.  As with all traditions, it morphed and changed over time.  At one point Wet Down appears to have been the conclusion to Sing-out (a community concert), but later it took on a life of its own and became a stand-alone activity. For many years it served as the kickoff for Senior Week.

Wet Down began with a parade of the classes through campus to the President’s house. Along the way cheers were given to each of the College buildings on the route and to the houses of dignitaries (such as the Dean) and/or for each of the classes.  At the President’s house, the President would give a brief speech and the procession would continue on, culminating at the Senior Class Tree where a ritual keg of lemonade—possibly of the hard variety—was consumed.  As part of this ritual, participants would splash some of their lemonade on the tree (thus the term “wet down”).

By 1901 the tradition also involved the transfer of the senior fence from the seniors to the juniors as well as the transfer of power from the outgoing Palaeopitus officers to the incoming officers.

Sometime in the early 1900s the tradition of the three lower classes running the gauntlet was added.  This involved the seniors lining up in two rows across the Green, or sometimes down College Street, and the other three classes would have to run between the rows while the seniors beat them with belts and paddles.  New Hampshire State law now prohibits this sort of behavior as a form of hazing.

Later, Wet Down came to be the occasion when sports awards were given out.

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