Founding Day 2011

Each odd-numbered year the College of Micronesia-FSM celebrates Founding Day by celebrating the cultural diversity of the students at the college. Eight teams representing students from across the nation participated with floats, marching, and dancing celebrations.

Team NuKap, the Nukuoran-Kapingamarengi team prepares. 

Judging was done using a rubric based loosely on a modified Likert scale. For all of the metrics, characteristics were determined to be either:
  • Very strongly evident/met (4 points)
  • Strongly evident/met (3 points)
  • Moderately evident/met (2 points)
  • Weakly evident/met (1 point)
  • Not evident/met (0 points)

Pohnpei national heads up capitol hill

One of the difficulties encountered was that of timing. In theory the floats were to be in position at 0700 in the morning, providing an hour to an hour and half for the teams to make final decorative touches to the floats. This is necessary because many floats included fresh foods such as fruit and fish.

Kosrae headed up route

The schedule was to judge around 0830, hold an invocation at 0900, and then head up Kaselehlie street towards PICS. At 0800, however, not all of the floats were in position, let alone ready. 

Mother and child in float, father pounding traditional taro based dish for his wife

One float was designed around a family unit including a student with a baby and the husband. That group thought the judging would happen at a stopping point on Kaselehlie street and thus planned to load the mother, child, and father at 0900. Stopping the parade in the middle of the circumferential road on a business day, however, was not something the state police would likely favor. Especially as the stop location was to be centerpoint - a single choke point where the main road to Sokehs and Kitti forks down into town or up to PICS. 
Enroute the floats were both moving too fast and were often hard to see into due to long hanging thatch to be able to judge elements internal to the float.

The judges, meanwhile, determined that the embankments at capitol hill would be their best opportunity to observe the marchers marching - which was part of the marching rubric. Thus the float, when judged at 0830, was not complete. This appeared to be true for other floats. Resolving the issue of  having the floats ready for judging will remain a challenge for 2013. 

This open-topped style of float was easier to see into

Teams in 2013 will have to understand that all elements of the float must be in place at 0830 for purposes of judging. Delaying the parade start to permit more set-up time is not a viable option. The day gets hot fast in the tropics, and at least one student felt faint by the time the procession arrived at the PICS track and field. Delaying the start would put the parade back later into the day. Both the sun and pavement would be hotter, and issues with dehydration and overheating would increase for the marchers. Stopping en route in order to judge is also not feasible.

Float judging included the following elements:
  1. Theme: How well the float fits the theme of the parade.
  2. Originality: Creativeness and originality of the float.
  3. Craftsmanship: Attention to detail and design, fit and finish of the float.
  4. Materials: Effective use of local materials
  5. Difficulty: Difficulty of construction, level of effort
The plan to stop for water at centerpoint and possible judging would have led to serious traffic congestion at this critical junction along with potential safety issues

With four points possible per metric, the floats generated up to 20 points. Judging the theme was deemed to be made difficult by the broad and somewhat vague theme, Culture Unites Learning Through Unity, Respect, and Ethnicity. Some judges wanted to see learning evidenced by the floats, directly educational elements. This judge was unclear how a float was to reflect respect per se. 

Irene on the Pohnpei national team flashes a smile.

Although one float carried many flags, the floats ultimately each celebrated only a single culture, not a unity of cultures. Nor should the floats celebrate unity. The college celebrates unity the other 364 days of the year in classes, study groups, and activities. Founding day is the one day the college truly celebrates and places a focus on diversity, not unity.

Inside the float culture was on display as LA squeezes sakau for the Pohnpei national team king, but this was all but invisible to the judging team or any other observer due to the low thatched roof. Again, an open topped design, while at risk of rain, would have been a more optimal choice.

Mid-parade judging at capitol hill included the following five elements:
  1. Movement: Items or people that move; whether dancers, objects on a float, or marchers; are well used and coordinated
  2. Color: Good and appropriate use of color on float and marchers
  3. Costuming: Includes display of traditional cultural attire
  4. Team spirit: Group members show spirit and liveliness, enthusiasm, stamina, and energy
  5. Friendship gesture: As culturally appropriate, group members make eye contact, smile, engage those watching the parade
Dancing on the National campus float

Observing from capitol hill was not ideal, but then no location was likely to be ideal. At 0950 in the morning traffic remains heavy. Closing main street is not an option. The best the police can do is to push the northbound traffic over onto the east side of the road. That makes observing from the east side difficult at best. Yet an east side position is best as this puts the sun behind the judges.

Kosrae king and queen evince unity in a queen whose parents are from two different islands and ethnicities

Some of the judges, in order to gain a view over vehicles and people, moved to the second floor balcony of a building. This was a good observing position, although slightly removed from the road. Although undoubtedly more work than the result would be worth, this judge wished for a judges stand on the capitol hill side.

Pohnpei national team arrives at the east end of the field with the marchers noting that they were thirsty

Depending on what the organizers want, the movement criteria could be expanded to include alignment of marchers and even spacing of the individual marchers. Some teams marched in formation, synchronizing even their foot falls. Other teams wandered up main street without any formation.
PingMok carries their queen onto the field in an actual canoe. Not a replica, a full-fledged tree trunk hulled canoe.

Once the teams reached the track and field, the teams were stalled at the east side of the field. This happens in part apparently because the grand stand does not do the welcoming to the field prayer and introduction of guests until the marchers reach the field. There was a good twenty minutes or more during which the marchers were standing in the sun on the east side of the field. There is no water there for them, nor any shade. This was where at least one marcher became faint and others scrambled to have friends obtain water from stands back at PICS.

Pohnpei national campus team performs the most traditional of the Pohnpeian dances, if not the only original traditional dance form pre-western contact

This transition from the marching to the field could be improved upon.

ChuuChok with a wonderfully entertaining dance

The marchers could simply directly march onto the field. Props that have to be unloaded from vehicles might have to follow the marchers, but the goal would be to get the marchers to their tents as quickly as possible. The grandstand could begin their preliminaries as the head end of the parade approaches the field, with the MC then narrating the arrival of the teams. Getting the timing right might be difficult, but a radio or cell phone call could be made to the grandstand to begin once the head of the march passes centerpoint.

Kosraean women on stage and in synch

One excellent choice this year was the decision to forgo the "entry dance." In past odd years the teams marched in across the stage. Originally this was used as a thirty second opportunity to introduce the team. The teams, however, often chose to do a brief dance display. This wound up greatly lengthening the entry process. Omission of the stage crossing this year was a good idea.

Dance judging criteria


  1. Variety: Dance exhibits a variety of dance positions and movements as appropriate to the dance form
  2. Difficulty: Difficulty and continuity of the movement combinations
  3. Timing: Dance movements are synchronized, coordinated, coherent, dancers are on the beat
  4. Posture, position: Dancers posture and positions are aligned, smooth transitions between movement and postures, postures are uniform where appropriate
  5. Attire: CostumesCulturally, traditionally authentic, add to performance
  1. Projection: Vocalizations include good projection, can be clearly heard
  2. Participation: Where the vocalization is a song/chant sung/chanted by all the dancers, everyone is singing/chanting
  1. Team spirit: Dancers show confidence, stamina, energy, stage presence, the dance is impressive and entertaining
Yap students deliver an incredible performance. Note the swish of the skirts on the woman - every skirt is being twirled counter-clockwise in perfect synchronization.

Some teams put the bulk of their effort into the dancing. Others put a stronger effort into their float and the display of the culture via their float. The present judging format combine the total points from the float judging and the dance judging. The odd result is that a team that has a middling float and a middling dance performance can take first place, while an outstanding float or phenomenal dance performance goes unrewarded.
Characteristically colorful attire sets off Yapese stick dancing 

The college stresses that everyone is a winner, but the students every single odd year understand that there is only one winner. The college should walk the walk and not just talk the talk of everyone is a winner. At the very least there should be separate winners for the parade (float and marching) and the dance segments.

One judge suggested even more awards. Building from the rubric one can have best float, best presentation during the procession (essentially the winner of the capitol hill judging segment), best choreography, best dance costumes (adjusted to reflect the traditional, cultural nature implicit in costuming), best team spirit, and, if one wishes, best of the festival.

The original plan appeared to be that half of the dances would occur prior to lunch. This was not possible and the dances were split three in the morning, five in the afternoon. The attempt to hold lunch to thirty minutes was also not an attainable goal. Discussion among the judges included the option of simply running the dances continuously and not taking a formal lunch break. Some teams would eat after dancing, others near the end of the dance schedule could eat prior to dancing.

The lunches were catered and turned out to be variable in terms of contents. The bulk of the lunches were excellent, but there were some batches that were not up to par in terms of the quality and quantity of food. Feeding such a large number of people is a complex undertaking at best, this may not be easily resolvable.

One of the judges had dietary restrictions, this is something that could be worked out between the judges and the organizers in advance to ensure that those serving the function are in turn appropriately served. There is no fault here, just a need to improve communication. Maybe there needs to be someone in charge of liaison, logistics, and protocol.

NuKap did an very complete and educational presentation on the preparation of taro pounded with coconut milk.

The judges felt strongly that there should be an enforced time limit on the dances. This judge felt that all but one dance was of an appropriate length. At least three judges thought a 15 minute maximum was appropriate.

One team did an excellent demonstration of the preparation of uhm-baked, pounded taro with coconut milk. This was by far the single most educational presentation of the dance segment. The rubric unfortunately, was focused on dance arts. This team gave a great presentation, but in terms of scoring there was little that could be scored. This judge remains uncertain how to remedy this particular difficulty. As an ethnobotany instructor, the choice the team made was an excellent and educational choice. Should there be an alternative rubric of equal points for a purely cultural arts presentation? What would such a rubric look like? Founding Day should be flexible enough to encourage this sort of creativity in presentation while remaining within the prescribed time limit.

PingMok dancing

The judges expressed the view that they felt more comfortable judging the floats than judging the dancing. One option would be to judge only the floats. Some teams however, as noted above, put almost all of their energy into their dance preparations. Such a team might never have any chance to be a winner. As suggested above, separate awards really must be given for the float and dance segments. That said, the judges also felt that a separate team of judges with some sort of expertise in Pacific island dance forms should be judging the dances. There are dance instructors on island, these instructors would make a natural pool of judging talent to tap on odd year Founding Days.

Sapwafik built on the strength of an educational float with a tightly choreographed dance

The dance rubric could use further development. One judge felt that stage entrance and exit were important, that could be a metric on the rubric. There is a good deal of difference between a group that sort of mills about and wanders onto stage, and those that perform their way up onto and then, later, off of the stage.

Pohnpei campus anchors the dancing with a blended dance

Some of the suggestions and recommendations in brief:

  • Floats must be complete and ready to judge at 0830 with all elements in place
  • Marching should be judged from capitol hill area with a spot for judges preselected
  • Marching members of the teams should proceed directly to their tents upon field arrival
  • Water should already be available in the tents upon team arrival
  • Dances should roll off continuously with no formal lunch break, judges can eat and judge 
  • Contracted lunches have to meet some sort of standard for quantity and quality
  • There should be a logistics/liaison/protocol officer appointed to handle issues such as potential food restrictions and the need for special lunches for invited VIP guests and judges
  • Float/marching and dancing should be two separate awards
  • Dances should be time limited to something like 15 minutes maximum and that limit should be enforced
  • A separate panel of dance judges should judge the dancing
  • A rubric should be developed that is equivalent to the dancing rubric but handles non-dance cultural presentations
This narrative and the recommendations should be taken as solely the personal opinion of the author. The author owes a debt of gratitude to the organizers for inviting him to judge and for their support, to his colleagues on the judging panel, and most of to the students for their hard work, effort, and incredible displays of their cultural heritage. All errors, mistakes, and misstatements are solely the fault of the author.


Rank Team Float Rank Team Dance Rank Team Combined
1 Sapwafik 193 1 Yap 171 1 Yap 339
2 Pohnpei campus 191 2 PingMok 144.5 2 Sapwafik 326.5
3 NuKap 188 3 ChuuChok 137.5 3 Pohnpei campus 318
4 Kosrae 179 4 Sapwafik 133.5 4 PingMok 314.5
5 Pohnpei national 177.5 5 Pohnpei campus 127 5 Pohnpei national 298.5
6 PingMok 170 6 Pohnpei national 121 6 NuKap 297.5
7 Yap 168 7 Kosrae 113.5 7 Kosrae 292.5
8 ChuuChok 153.5 8 NuKap 109.5 8 ChuuChok 291

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