When I moved to Ashland, I arrived full of experiences and memories of growing up in the big city and working at large institutions of higher education. Yet, here I was, open-minded and open-hearted, in the smallest town I’d ever lived (by far) and employed at the smallest college for which I’d ever worked (by farther). That transition was riddled with opportunities to learn and love the kind of customs that go with small-town living and working.
One of my favorites: the Everybody Party.
Every September, in celebration of the arrival of a new class of bright-eyed students, Northland College hosts this gathering on the grassy mall under the old, watchful eye of Wheeler Hall. Our newest community members march across the Fenenga Bridge led by a ceremonial drummer, key members of the campus family address the students, and we celebrate with a communal meal and entertainment.
The Everybody Party is one of the purest examples of the kind of hospitality and kinship that exists so naturally here, that draws people to the area, and that often inspires them to stay.
There is something heartwarming and exciting about deliberately celebrating the addition of a new class of students, not just to our campus but to our city, our bay, our region. They bring a renewed energy that only comes from fresh eyes discovering this special place in which we live. They are hungry – not just for an education, but for meaningful experiences. They are hopeful and it is contagious.
Like the thousands of Northland College alumni who have tread these grounds before them, this class will leave its mark on the institution and the community … but will also take with them, no matter how near or far they roam after earning their degrees, lessons, and values imparted upon them by all of us.
Therein lies the true magic of Ashland being home to this college; therein lies our privileged ability to influence the world around us.
We are set to welcome one of the largest incoming classes in recent years: more than two-hundred first year and transfer students! They’ll come from all over the country — and even several places internationally. Some are the first members of their families to attend college, and others come from long lines of Northland lineage. They are scholars, activists, artists, athletes, and volunteers. And soon they’ll be here, learning from us and giving us the opportunity to learn from them.
It’s more than worth it to come down to campus on the afternoon of Friday, September 6. The procession begins at 4 o’clock sharp with the first beat of the Irish drum. All are welcome at no cost. The purpose is simply to assemble as a community. So, by all means, join us. After all, when we say “everybody,” we mean it.