Alpha Delta’s Lawn Party

While sunny weather plays an important role in the success of any outdoor event, Lawn Party has shown resilience to even the dreariest of days.

While sunny weather plays an important role in the success of any outdoor event, Lawn Party has shown resilience to even the dreariest of days.

Each term, Dartmouth temporarily suspends academic rigor for a quarterly celebration of tradition. During Homecoming, Dartmouth enthusiastically receives alumni from around the world and welcomes a new class to its ranks, as hundreds of freshmen parade around a towering bonfire. Winter Carnival pays homage to Hanover’s harsh but memorable winters with events like the human dog sled race and the construction of a snow sculpture on the Green. And each spring, classes are suspended for a celebration of one of Dartmouth’s most time-honored traditions: sheer debauchery. 

Originally highlighted by an annual prom, Green Key weekend has undergone many transformations and revisions since its inception, but the fundamental bacchanalia of the weekend has remained unchanged. Unlike its counterparts in the fall and winter, Green Key is not a weekend of traditions accompanied by celebration, but rather a celebration of celebration itself. Throughout the years it has seen chariot races, keg tosses, and raunchy singing competitions.

 The advent of spring weather seems to inspire in the student body a thirst for daytime indulgence, and concerts sponsored by both the College and Greek houses make for one of year’s most memorable weekends. Programming Board’s Gold Coast concerts, Theta Delt’s Pig Roast, and Phi Delt’s Block Party all encourage sunlit consumption and revelry. Most will agree that one of the primary attractions of Green Key, and a longstanding staple of the weekend, is Alpha Delta’s Lawn Party. 

Over the past few decades, AD’s Lawn Party has played host to prominent musical acts like Anthrax in 1982 and Blues Traveler in 1988. Annually, on the Saturday of Green Key, hundreds descend upon the lawn of Alpha Delta to enjoy a live musical performance and bask in the sun with friends. While traditions like Hums, chariot races, and Green Key Prom have faded away over time, AD’s Lawn Party has remained a mainstay of the weekend. 

Although the Motown and rock ‘n’ roll bands of old may no longer serenade partygoers over Green Key, the evolution in musical fads has not diminished the energy of live acts at AD’s Lawn Party. This year, ‘90s cover band The Bayside Tigers will headline the event. The New York City-based band frequently plays at venues in the City and is known for arousing a strong nostalgia for the decade. “The band will get the place movin’ and groovin,’” says Alpha Delta social chair Dan Slavin ’15. “People will forget what decade it is.” 

Lawn Party’s opening act for the second year in a row will be student band CHUCK. The group is the only country band on campus and looks to set the mood for the party. “Nice weather, cold beer, t-shirts, and Ray-Bans, man, that’s what embodies CHUCK,” comments guitarist Chase Klein ’14. “We can’t wait to play music that everyone can just sing along to and go crazy to outside.” The band has recently released their first single, “Stella,” which was professionally produced by a contact Klein met while working in Los Angeles. 

In an interview with The Daily Dartmouth in 1985, former Alpha Delta president Paul Korfonta ’86 worried that “if it rains, I don’t know what the hell we’re going to do.” While sunny weather plays an important role in the success of any outdoor event, Lawn Party has shown resilience to even the dreariest of days. When AD alumnus and National Lampoon’s Animal House author Chris Miller ’63 returned to campus for Green Key in 1989, driving rains had turned the AD lawn into a mud bowl. Even hard-partying Miller was dismayed by the poor conditions and was admittedly “a little burned out from trying to keep up with these twenty-year-olds all week.” 

For a moment, it seemed that what Miller had previously described as “the apex of the weekend” was going to be a dud. But before he could complain, a group of “be slimed” brothers hoisted Miller into the air and tossed him into the mud pit. Miller was immediately rejuvenated, and recalls “dancing my ass off, exchanging high fives and whooping like a maniac, and it all comes back, that total party feeling, where time is suspended and you’re in an eternal, fun-filled now. This is it-the thing people join fraternities for-one of those peak bacchanalian moments that know no equal. My sense of closeness and connection with these boogieing mud maniacs could not be greater.” 

Over time, the unrestrained rowdiness of years past has diminished to some extent at the College. The saying, “nobody rages anymore,” has been a long-running theme. “It’s harder to have fun than it was four or five years ago,’’ said Todd Young, an AD ’92, in a Rolling Stone article written during his graduation year. “There are only two or three guys now [who] are really Old AD,” observed Young, referring to the members of the house who continued to practice certain pre-coeducation traditions. According to the article, it was not uncommon for Alpha Delta to supply forty kegs or more for Green Key weekend. In the late eighties, seventy-eight windows were broken in AD over Green Key; Young viewed the destruction of a paltry three windows during his year as a sign that the school was going soft. 

Chris Miller fondly remembers the Green Key of his sophomore year, when Alpha Delta was on probation. He recalls how the week before, “Dean Seymour was feeling charitable and took them off pro. They could have girls for Green Key! And Beer!” As AD has been on probation for the entirety of this spring term, the house finds itself in a similar situation, though without the leniency of a sympathetic Dean or the presence of beer. AD is still allowed to host its annual Lawn Party, and it has obtained an “outdoor events and noise permit from Dartmouth and the Town of Hanover,” says social chair Michael McLaughlin ’13. Because Alpha Delta will not be serving any alcohol, it does not need to register the party with Greek Letter Organizations and Societies, the administrative body that governs Dartmouth’s fraternities and sororities. 

Today, the high spirits and carousing of Lawn Party hold strong. Like Phi Delt’s Block Party and other traditional Green Key festivities, Lawn Party is an opportunity for the Dartmouth community to gather outside and enjoy live music, the company of friends, and, with any luck, gorgeous spring weather. It is one of the many traditions that bring the student body of the College together, and one of the defining features of Green Key Weekend and thus, of social life at Dartmouth. Some would say that it is just another fraternity party on just another beautiful spring weekend. But that’s just as wrong as saying that Dartmouth is just another liberal arts college with aspirations of grandeur. The College and to a lesser extent, Lawn Party, are places to make memories.

–William R.F. Duncan also contributed to this article.