Alumni remember Earthstock, Regatta and spring concerts

Students sail a Viking themed vessel in the Roth Regatta in 1988. (T. YING/THE STATESMAN)

Students sail a Viking themed vessel in the Roth Regatta in 1988. (T. YING/THE STATESMAN)

Spring in Stony Brook is a time when students flock to the Staller Steps and professors hold classes outside. It is also the time of many campus traditions such as Roth Regatta, Strawberry Fest and Brookfest.

Many students find these events to be memorable, and even after graduating remember the spring season fondly. Joanne Cameron, a graduate of the class of 1987, is one of those alumni.

“What I do remember is the feeling of the first gorgeous day when I just wanted to sit outside,” Cameron said. “I would sit on concrete steps, that I believe are no longer there, by the Air Space Science [Earth and Space Sciences] building.”

Alumnus and political reporter for Bloomberg News Jonathan D. Salant, a graduate of the class of 1976, shared a similar sentiment: “Two things I remember most—it was not as cold anymore so it was a more pleasant walk, and the mud would come out.”

Salant is referring to the massive amounts of mud caused both by construction and the spring season during the late 1960s and ‘70s. Mudville, as it was then called, was a popular name for the campus during this time. According to the latest edition of “Seawolves Country: Hallmarks, Landmarks and Traditions,” there were “makeshift plank bridges” erected to help get people across campus.

Cameron recalled a man who would walk and sing on campus in the mornings during her sophomore year. At that time, she lived in Ammann in Mendelsohn Quad, in a dorm overlooking the rear lawn.

“When the weather was absolutely gorgeous in the morning, I would wake to the beautiful voice of this man who would walk on campus singing, ‘Oh what a beautiful morning…Oh what a beautiful day…’” Cameron said. “The singing man was walking a dog—I guess he used to come from off campus.”

There were a multitude of campus events held years ago, some of which could not be held today. One was the Stony Brook Marijuana Festival, held in April 1975. According to the April 21, 1975 issue of The Statesman, around 400 students packed into Roth Quad and spent the spring afternoon smoking free pot, drinking beer, playing catch with dogs in the pond and dancing.

Several musical acts performed, including David Peel, a singer known for his lyrics about marijuana. Campus police made no arrests, according to The Statesman, because they felt no crimes were being committed. The National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) was also on hand with petitions to decriminalize the smoking of pot.

The Statesman reported in 1976 of a second annual Marijuana Fest in upcoming events; however, after that mention, there was no further coverage or mention of the event.

The Marijuana Fest was a part of Tabler Springfest, another annual event. This event took place over a two-day period and included massive amounts of alcohol consumption. In its April 23, 1975 issue, The Statesman headlined the event as “Annual Tabler Springfest an Inebriated Success.” On April 18, 1980, The Statesman printed an ad for the event, which boasted that 125 kegs of beer had been consumed at Tabler Oktoberfest and that the current goal was “to go through 150 kegs of: Molson, Heineken, and Michelob Light.”

The 1960s and ‘70s also saw many concerts on the Stony Brook campus. Rockin’ the Brook, as “Seawolves Country: Hallmarks, Landmarks and Traditions” calls it, was a time period when some of the biggest names in rock and roll—such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Grateful Dead—performed at SBU.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Jefferson Airplane was one of the many groups that performed at Stony Brook. Not only did they perform at SBU in 1970, they had performed at a major end of year event. “In 1970, the big end of year event was Carnival,” Prof. Norman Prusslin, the director of the media minor in the Department of Theatre Arts, said.

“Carnival was so unique and singular at the time,” Prusslin, a member of the Stony Brook faculty for more than 40 years, said. “[There was] a large outdoor concert around 1970 featuring a big band at the time—Jefferson Airplane. 10 or 15,000 people came to that.” The concert was free and outdoors.

The April 29, 1970 issue of The Statesman ran an advertisement for the SAB Carnival. The carnival lasted from Friday, May 1 until Sunday, May 3, and included games, food and alcohol in addition to the Jefferson Airplane concert.

In recent years, end-of-year concerts have started to once again grow popularity. “The spring concert concept is something trying to build tradition,” Prusslin said. “The intent over the last couple of years was to plan for a big end of year concert.” The three most recent end of the year concerts featured Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae; Wiz Khalifa; and Ludacris and Grouplove, respectively.

The end-of-year spring concert is not the only event that is building tradition. “Dancing with the SBU Stars—that was a fun event,” John Leddy, Director of Athletic Bands, said. Prusslin also agreed that Dancing with the SBU Stars, a program put on by the Stony Brook University Ballroom Dance Team along with faculty and staff, and SB Idol are events that have become spring traditions on campus.

“Earthstock and Roth Regatta are the two fun things that happen in spring,” Leddy said.

The Roth Pond Regatta, held this year on April 26, began in 1988 and was inspired by a Mountain Dew commercial, according to “Seawolves Country: Hallmarks, Landmarks and Traditions.”

The event was very small at its beginning, with only 10 boats. It has grown since then; in 2004, there were 57 boats registered in the competition, as reported by The Statesman in its June 7, 2004 edition.

Leddy summed up spring at Stony Brook in a single phrase. “Hanging on the Staller Steps—what gets better than that?”

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