If you ask University of Maine alumni, “What is something unique to UMaine?” chances are, their answer will be Maine Day.
The first “Maine Day” — a day set aside for “spring clean-up” of the campus — was observed in 1935. Arthur Hauck, the president of UMaine from 1934-1958, brought many positive changes to campus, the celebration of Maine Day being one of them.
Historically, Maine Day is set on the Wednesday of the last week of classes of the spring semester. This year’s Maine Day falls on Wednesday, May 3. With the exception of classes and laboratories, which meet twice or once a week, all classes will be canceled on Wednesday. Students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged to give back to the campus community through volunteering.
“It’s supposed to be an opportunity for students to do beneficial things around the community,” third-year student Tyler O’Keefe said.
For students who live on campus, the day will start with music; loud music outside their windows coming from volunteers for the Maine Day Band. At 8:30 a.m., UMaine’s tradition societies, the Senior Skulls, All Maine Women, Sophomore Eagles and Sophomore Owls, will lead a parade along with the members of student organizations, residence halls, greek life, faculty, administrators and staff. It will begin at the Emera Astronomy Center and travel throughout campus, down to York Hall. International students will join the parade with their countries’ flags and there will also be a float competition. This year, trophies and prizes will be awarded to the best campus department and best student organization.
The parade will be followed by service projects throughout the morning. The majority of the projects will involve raking, weeding, trash clean-up, sweeping and more.
“The goal is to clean-up our campus, get it ready for commencement, and put our best foot forward for people who come here,” Lisa Morin, the Coordinator of the Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism, said. “It is very unique to UMaine. No other university in the University of Maine system campuses celebrates Maine Day, and we think they should.”
It is Morin’s seventh year of planning for Maine Day. The Bodwell Center starts planning for this event in January.
“With our increased enrollment, we are always looking for more ways to engage students. We look for more and more people who are able and willing to participate. We are always looking for more projects right around campus,” Morin said. Since she first started working at the university, the Maine Day project expanded to downtown Orono, the Wilson Center and other nearby locations.
“We branched it out a little bit since I got here in an effort to offer more opportunities to students. But we still try to make it campus focused,” Morin said.
One of the most anticipated projects on Maine Day is the Hungry 100K Maine Day Meal Pack-Out. Put on by the UMaine Honors College, this is a large-scale collaborative event that aims to fight Maine’s hunger problem.
Over 200,000 Mainers are food insecure. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (USDA), in 2016, Maine ranked the ninth in the nation and first in New England for food insecurity. One in four children in Maine are food insecure, meaning they do not have a reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
“It is a problem that could easily be solved,” Samuel Borer, a student organizer of the meal pack-out, said. “We have the food, it just goes wrong with the ways our system is set up, such as disposal and pricing of food. This makes food a privilege not an entitlement; it’s been really eye opening for me to walk through the process of planning this event. ”
He led the organizational part of this project along with fellow honors students and Alpha Tau Omega brothers Brady Davis and Jack Brown. Associate Dean of the Honors College Melissa Ladenheim provided support and guidance to help meet the project’s goal of raising $25,000.
From 8 a.m. until noon on Maine Day, volunteers will be at the Memorial Gym, packing nutritious, easy-to-prepare meals such as oatmeal. It costs 25 cents to prepare and package a single meal. With the raised money, the volunteers will be able to make 100,000 meals ready to be distributed throughout the state.
The Honors College has been participating in the meal pack-out events on Welcome Weekend for several years. UMaine has also done meal pack-outs on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service for the last two years. Between 20,000 and 40,000 meals have been packed on those days. UMaine’s last meal pack-out nearly tied with Harvard University in the largest number of meals packed by a university in New England. After learning that, Ladenheim jokingly suggested surpassing Harvard in the Maine Day meal pack-out. Davis — and Brown took on the challenge, with Borer raising the initial goal of 50,000 meals to 100,000.
“This is going to be the record breaking meal pack-out, not only in terms of most meals packed in history of UMaine but also in the history of the State,” Borer said. “It will propel us above Harvard as the number one meal-packing university. How great would it be to be able say: ‘I was there when we’ve packed 100,000 meals in a single day.’ When you’re there it is such a collaborative environment. You know you’re doing something beneficial that is going back to our communities.”
There are over 140 volunteers who signed-up for the Maine Day pack-out. Volunteers are still needed and if you would like to be a part of this project, please visit the Facebook page for more information.
This meal pack-out is made possible through the efforts of the Honors College, the Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism, the Good Shepherd Food Bank, End Hunger New England, the New England regional office for Outreach, Inc. and many more organizations and anonymous donors.
The annual Earth Day (April 22) Naked Bike Ride was postponed to Maine Day due to weather conditions. For the last 31 years, UMaine students have demonstrated their appreciation for nature by liberating their bodies, painting themselves green and riding bikes along the mall. Please visit the Facebook page for more information. At 11:30 a.m., Maine Bound Adventure Center will be hosting a Maine Day Adventure Race at the New Balance Student Recreation Center. If you like obstacles that require running, biking, canoeing, wall climbing and more, visit the Facebook page here.
At noon, a free barbecue will be held in the steam plant parking lot to provide food for the Maine Day volunteers. In the afternoon, student teams will compete for the “ooze ball championship” — volleyball played in the mud — hosted by Alpha Delta and University Singers. There will also be a battle of the local bands, as well as other philanthropic put on by student groups.
“It’s amazing. It’s one of there reasons why so many people love Maine Day. You get to roll up your sleeves and do something productive in the morning, and later have a carnival like atmosphere to celebrate,” Morin said. “And where else more picturesque can you be than by the banks of the Stillwater River.”