Utica College celebrated another Squirrel Day on Friday, Sept. 13 with activities for students behind the Strebel Student Center.
The college hosts Squirrel Day annually because four years ago a squirrel, dubbed “Sparky,” chewed on electrical lines and caused a power outage across campus. The campus lost power in all the academic buildings and the athletic center for roughly four hours. Classes were canceled for the rest of the day.
Without classes to attend and with no power in the dorms and other buildings, students gathered on the quad to play lawn games–and a new tradition was born.
The college commemorates Squirrel Day each year by providing activities on the quad. Darrell Jones, a graduate assistant for college engagement, said Squirrel Day encourages students to interact and participate on campus.
“I think it’s a way for students to wind down after the first couple weeks of classes,” Jones said. “It is a good way for people to get involved and know each other, especially for the first-year students who may not know as many people as they want.”
Senior Nicole Colette said the event scores high on awareness and popularity among students.
“Squirrel Day is honestly one of the better events that we have going on, especially since they brought the petting zoo, and I think that’s going to bring in a lot of people,” Colette said.
The annual event is not spontaneous like it was the year of the power outage. It requires work to plan and provide activities for students. Scott Nonemaker, executive director for student living and college engagement, worked with the staff, which included Area Coordinator Jason Francey, to make this year’s event another success.
“Squirrel Day planning started mid-summer,” Francey said. “I decided this year to try and completely revamp it as much as possible, because I know in the past there have been a lot of takeaways and giveaways. I wanted to add a sense of fun and adventure to it.”
Francey was inspired to bring a zip-line to this year’s activities, and said the students will enjoy the connection to the honorary “Sparky.”
“The idea of the zip line came up because the squirrel cut the power line,” he said. “I thought it was a cute little tie in, going down the zip-line.”
To connect with the animal theme of Squirrel Day, the college added a petting zoo to the event.
“We know it’s been a big seller in the past,” Nonemaker said. “It’s always full of students and we know they enjoy it.”
The petting zoo included farm animals such as a turkey, cow, bull calf, ducks, chickens, goats and sheep. Students also had a chance to milk one of the dairy goats.
“I just really wanted a good day at the beginning of the year for the students to put their stuff down and come have some fun after the first couple weeks of classes,” Nonemaker said.
Besides these events, UC made Squirrel Day a tradition to honor the memory of “Sparky,” complete with a memorial tribute.
“There’s a memorial card we put out for Sparky the Squirrel,” Nonemaker said. “One of our area coordinators, Matt, does a little memorial which the president sometimes speaks at or someone will read a poem and then turn it into a fun day.”