Founding Day 2017

Founding Day 2017 was conceived as a combined sports and culture day, a first for the college. The theme was "Celebrating Unity Through Sports and Culture." This year Founding Day fell on a Saturday, which placed Rahn en Tiahk on Friday. This moved Founding Day to Thursday 30 March, and meant that floats would have to be assembled by students on Wednesday evening.

Assembly on the Kosrae Student Organization float would continue until 3:00 A.M. on Thursday morning, at which time the float was moved to Spanish Wall ball field. All floats arrived in the night except NuKap which pulled in after 8:00 A.M. As NuKap was the last group in the parade, sequencing their float was not the problem it might have been had they been in the middle of the parade order.

Although the float would go to capture first place, the float as judged was not complete. The fafa pounder (above) and the Kosraean soup server (in back) were not yet in place when judging occurred. Fafa has to be freshly prepared and cannot be stored overnight, hence someone woke up very early - or did not go to sleep - to get this in place prior to the 9:00 A.M. start.

Kosraean sakau on the tail of the Kosrae float

A judge noted that even if the float appeared to be complete, the costumed riders were not in place until the actual start. This is not something that can necessarily be sped up or made more efficient. The costumes are complex and some require the use of fresh plants. The judge recommended that the judging be done along the route, once the parade is moving.

9:07 on the route

Judging while moving was attempted in the past, but the judges felt the floats went by too fast to be properly judged. And the judges could not see into the interiors of the floats, so the Pohnpeians pounding sakau was hard to see one year, and a mother and actual baby child being tended to traditionally inside a float hut was effectively invisible another year. Thus the shift to judging in the field at Spanish Wall. That said, perhaps there would be a location up route past Pwunso where the floats might be free to slow sufficiently for judges to get a reasonable look at the float in motion.

A judge also noted that the current rubric is in need of revising. The rubric rates costumes using the term "traditional," but some groups chose to wear matching t-shirts - hardly an ancient Micronesian tradition. The judge suggested dropping "traditional" from this section of the rubric and judging the costumes on their own merits. I did note that if the costumes were to be judged for colorfulness, only one state would win that category every year. And there is the color constraint - the groups are organized by color. The marching order:

1 PingMwok: black
2 Pohnpei national: blue
3 Yap: red
4 Chuuk: white
5 Pohnpei campus: purple
6 Kosrae: green
7 NuKap: brown

I let the judge know that they should go ahead and make appropriate revisions to the rubric while the event is still fresh in their mind.

NuKap had bid to be black at a meeting PingMwok missed, and NuKap was awarded black. When PingMwok learned of this, they pushed back, noting that they had already purchased black shirts. Although the committee had awarded black to NuKap, at the next meeting NuKap was told to use brown.

An after action follow-up determined that the colors originally partially derive from Pohnpei Liberation Day Games:

Madohlehnihmw: red
Kitti: white
U: blue
Nett: purple
Sokehs: yellow
Pingelap: brown
Mwoakilloa: orange
Kolonia town including Kapinga and Nukuoro: black

Thus NuKap has traditionally been black. PingMwok would be orange or brown, but not black. This was probably a style choice preference, but this does not align with the color traditions in the community nor at the college.

Pohnpei campus opted to show off their programs and the capabilities of their programs, including a roaring engine and giant speakers. They plan to come back next year with larger speakers and a zumba troupe. This is an interesting development on a day celebrating the non-academic side of the student body, their cultures and sports competitions. I do not know to what extent, if any, this focus on programs sidelines the desire of Pohnpei campus students to express their culture. The campus did not field a dancing group.

The nurses marched last in the parade order followed by the ambulance, an arrangement that worked well. This is the tail passing the tennis courts at 9:30 A.M. The day was very cooperative, cloudy all day without rain, which greatly reduced the heat. This would be the first Founding Day when I would come home without a sunburn. And I used no sun block.

Maui's hook was well recognized this Founding Day

The parade launched at 9:00 as scheduled, and by 9:46 the groups were entering the field. Entry this year was the simplified entry used two years ago. No entering performance, just a straight march into designated areas for the anthem and welcoming remarks.

By 10:14 the 100 meter female runner were setting up their blocks.

By 10:20 the first track event was under way. The track sequence was two 100 meter female heats, two 100 meter male heats, two 200 meter female heats, two 200 meter male heats, 100 meter final, 200 meter final, 4x100 coed single final.

Throughout the track and field events the director of student life was criss-crossing the field. Although radios were in use, there seemed to be some details that required physical transport.

When a female 100 meter runner had...

... her ankle give out under her...

... and went down...

... hard, the nurses ran up the field to assist the runner. Having the nurses there in uniform was an important safety net for the students and a real world training experience for the nurses.

The tents at this point are arrayed in diagonal line offset from center on the southwest side of the field, permitting a view from the grandstand. The complication noted by a media person was that many of the invited special guests left by noon, staying only long enough to view a few races. Some stayed for lunch, and then left. By the time the cultural aspect of the day began, many of the special guests had left. The suggestion was made to put the cultural dances first, and then the sports, with the thought that the dances were more likely to retain the invited guests, or to retain them longer. Too, the invited guests had likely hoped to see cultural dancing. Track and field is more often seen on Pohnpei than traditional dancing.

12:06 P.M. and the Kosrae runner on the third leg of the 4x100 is a pinch runner. The original runner had placed into both the 100 and 200 meter finals, and simply could not then run her leg of the 4x100. Sharisey, above, was slated to dance and did so. Because she had just run, she did not want to eat. And with the dancing coming up, she opted not to eat until after the dance. Fortunately there was more than sufficient food, so when she finally sought food and water, both were still available. This is a real credit to the food subcommittee. Their decision to double the water to 2000 bottles was also prescient. This was the first year I can remember that we still had good water supplies at the end of the event. And the choice of 1000 lunches meant there was food for those who chose to eat after performing.

At 12:13 the tents were moved. This operation went rather smoothly and quickly.

The tents in their afternoon arrangement. By this point the grandstand had been emptying out, but then one cannot expect an invited guest to spend the whole day at the field. One suggestion that came in was to explore actually holding the event in the evening. Marching up in the late afternoon, dinner at the field, dancing under the lights. If sports were included, this would put sporting events in the cooler part of the day, rather than under the noon day sun. This year the skies were cloudy and, as far as I know, no one overheated or became dehydrated.

Dancing prep takes time even if a group comes prepared and ready. There are simply final touches and details that have to be attended too.

From the track to the dance floor. Sport and culture.

The groups were told to field a single dance or performance, not both. For PingMwok this meant choosing which island would get to represent the group on the dance stage. The Mwoakillese on stage at 12:39 P.M.

Kosrae ready in the wings.

The group with the most complex costumes and preparation did take the longest in the transition to the dance performance. They may have been, as I was, caught off-guard by the relative brevity of the Mwoakillese dance and perhaps more so by the Pohnpei national dance performance that followed. Pohnpei national fielded less than a dozen dancers, men only, in a rather abbreviated dance that appeared to be, at times, intentionally humorous. This left the Yapese, at 1:02 P.M, still preparing as their time to dance came up. Lunch had just been served, and their dances are not best done on a full stomach.

By 1:16 P.M. the Yapese were in their stage exit dance routine.

Chuuk would field the largest dance group. Their queen Matilda took the corner position front right.

There was no group representing Pohnpei campus. In the past Pohnpei national has often opted to perform dance forms that appear to date from whaling times, line and marching dances. Pohnpei campus has often been on the lead in terms of performing the traditional dance forms of pre-contact Pohnpei. Those dances were missing from Founding Day this year.

Kosrae on stage, the penultimate group and the final performance. This too a short dance. One observer noted that there seemed to be fewer Chuukese and Kosraean students in the tent area than in the past. As a result, the rivalry and cheer-countercheering of the past was less evident.

I am not certain if fewer students were on the field than in past years, that would take head counts that were not done. I suspect that there were slightly fewer students and that a mix of factors is underneath this. For the students from other islands the core of their student groups is often the resident students. For one state, on the order of half of the resident students from that state have been dismissed from the residence hall due to policy violations.

Another factor might be that the abbreviated dances with smaller dance troupe sizes attract fewer friends and family. Friends come to see friends, when a traditionally large group such as Pohnpei national downsizes, the student friends of the dancers likely downsize in numbers as well.

NuKap fielded only seven women and an announcer, opting not to dance. They spoke of their traditional palm leaf weaving skills. A small group such as this will pull fewer friends, family, and community members. As an indication of the brevity of the dances, the above photo is at 1:37 P.M., less than an hour after the Mwoakillese started dancing. I cannot recall a year when the dances were completed in less than a couple of hours, and I do not necessarily mean the brevity to be a good sign. I have seen a shortening of student presentations in my ethnobotany course as traditional knowledge slowly erodes.

Kosrae King and Queen: Paliknoa Kun Tosie and Jayaceleen Jovania Joston

The awards ceremony included all of the awards for the sporting events leading up to Founding Day. Basketball, volleyball, softball, table tennis, and the track events. The float awards were also announced.

At 1:55 P.M. the final award, first place float, went to Kosrae. Acting president Simion awarded the king and queen for Kosrae team. MCs Sebastion and Pearl on the left.

Kosrae took first place in the float competition.

One of the two masters of ceremony. Pearl did a phenomenal job as co-MC and  capably carried on a family tradition of mastering ceremonies.

The Kosraean float arrived at the field loaded with Kosraean soup - a favorite here on Pohnpei - and fafa - a rare delicacy. Drivers in passing cars expressed an interest in the soup and fafa. Being business majors, the students spotted an entrepreneurial opportunity and provided a supply to meet the demand at a popular price point. Thus some of the Kosraean students remained up at the float selling soup and fafa. Neither the soup nor fafa was going to be edible by days end, this avoiding wasting sought after foods.

With two jobs and classes needing attention, the victorious president announced that she was stepping down to attend to these other areas of her life.

All of the teams received the support of their communities. Some groups had materials brought in from distant home islands. This interaction between the students and the community is not readily visible on the Founding Day, but is a key aspect behind the scenes. Founding Day connects the students to their communities, and a win is a victory for a larger extended community. All of the teams owe a debt of gratitude to parents and their communities for their support year-after-year. Cultural Founding Day would not be possible without the help and assistance of the communities of Micronesia.

I know that all of the teams would want to thank their sponsors, including those in the business community who also provided support to the student groups and in some instances donated float vehicles and other support materials. These business sponsors do not gain any marketing benefit from their generosity, the floats are strictly traditional in decor.

Overall, Founding Day appeared to go off smoothly, especially given that the college was tackling a new format. The one recommendation that sticks out in my mind is to consider flipping the dancing and track events for the benefit of the invited guests who might not have a full day to spend with the college.


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