Though Miss Berry has long since passed away, students, alumni of all ages and friends of Berry College still flock to that same mountain in masses to honor the legacy of their beloved schools.
More than 8,000 people celebrated Mountain Day on Saturday on the school’s mountain campus. After convocation at Frost Chapel followed by the traditional picnic, the crowd mingled, embraced old friends and made new ones. Though everyone might not have exactly known everyone else, no one was a stranger.
Irene Shivers, of Maryville, Tenn., said both her daughters, Caitlin and Savannah, are current students. Mountain Day, she said, is a tradition that is truly unique.
“My husband and I were talking about where we went to college, and we don’t have anything like this for the alumni,” she said. “I think it’s really awesome the alumni is so active and comes together, and this provides an opportunity for them to do that. And also, the freshman, my daughter gets to see into the future; it’s just awesome.”
After the picnic, current students lined up in a sea of pink, blue and white for the Grand March. The tradition is that freshmen, sophomore and junior boys wear blue and girls wear pink. Senior girls wear blue and boys wear white. What starts off as pairs walking down and then up the mountain eventually escalates until there are 16 people in each row.
“I think it’s just like a really unique tradition,” said Berry senior Kelly Dickerson. “It kind of sets us apart from other schools. It’s a good way to bring the community together.”
Freshman Charlie Morgan said before the march that he was looking forward to participating in the march for the first time.
“I don’t know too much of what to expect, but so far I really like it,” he said. “There’s food, and everybody’s getting together, and all the parents can come, and that’s fun.”
Senior Kayla Sanner said it may seem strange to those who don’t know the traditions, but that’s what makes it even more special for students and alumni.
“This is one reason why I love Berry, it’s because we have such — they look like odd traditions to people that are not familiar with Berry, but it just makes so much sense to those of us that do go here,” she said. “I think that’s why it’s so fun; it’s almost like a little secret. It is quirky. It just kind of makes Berry what Berry is.”
And it’s that spirit of Berry that keeps alumni coming back to visit the school year after year. Tim Warrick, class of 1971, said once you’ve graduated from Berry, you become part of an enormous family.
“It’s just the legacy of Berry College,” he said. “It’s the family aspect; it’s the camaraderie. It’s such a small school setting that everybody knows everybody, and it really makes no difference if you come from another state. I came down from Indiana with two of my buddies. And it’s just an atmosphere of family and an atmosphere of tradition.”
Clearly, students come and go, but though they change their tassels and leave the school, Berry College never leaves them.
“You know, Berry has changed, but yet, it hasn’t changed,” he said. “I mean the change is in structure, infrastructure, buildings … but it’s never changed. This crowd will be here until the end of time on Mountain Day.”