You asked, we answered: Why were people carrying a giant boat around last weekend?

(Marc Rod • The Student Life)

Stray wanderers on Halloweekend found themselves spectators to a grand sight as a 25-foot long, 8-foot wide and 10-foot tall boat sailed its way across the 7Cs. It was a final crusade for a merry, sailor-dressed band seasoned in distant voyages. 

The spectacle, viewed by many through a video posted on the Meme Queens of the 5Cs Facebook page, was this year’s iteration of an annual Pomona-Pitzer cross-country tradition celebrating the end of the SCIAC championship. 

PPXC athlete and “chief engineer” of the last two years’ operations Ian Emlet PZ ’21 said the boat was constructed in about three hours using around $100 worth of Home Depot materials, rounded out with PPXC race tape and a Sagehen flag.

This year’s voyage saw the 50 to 60 runners and friends, many dressed as sailors or sporting other nautical costumes, shoulder the boat from Pomona College through Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College and Harvey Mudd College campuses before taking it over the Scripps College wall near the Rose Garden, Emlet said, interrupted only briefly by an encounter with Campus Safety officers checking up on the commotion.

Upon hearing that Campus Safety had been contacted a second time, Emlet said, the team decided to avoid any further commotion and dismantled the boat, recycling its pieces in a bin behind the Honnold-Mudd Library.

The video posted to Meme Queens attracted the attention of several PPXC alumni, Sheridan Grant PO ’15 among them. Grant provided insight on the history of the tradition, which dates back to at least 2007.

“It’s a bit of the chicken or the egg problem, whether the boat or the viking costumes came first,” Grant recounted. “It’s basically a team costume, where everyone gets those little plastic viking helmets, which you can get for 10 bucks from wherever the Montclair Mall is, or on Amazon. Some people go out to thrift stores so you can go shirtless with a fake fur vest and viking helmet.”

In addition to a wider variety of costumes, the modern tradition appears to have taken on greater structure and refinement than in prior generations. Grant recalled piecing together boats using whatever materials the team’s upperclassmen could gather throughout the semester, adorning it with recycled pieces and an old PPXC jersey for a mast.

“For … the whole fall semester, the team basically collects recycled or used or trashed materials. We would often get them out of dumpsters,” Grant said. “We never spent a lot of money, but … you’d go buy some duct tape and maybe some strong pieces of wood, what have you.”

Grant said he was “happy to see that other 5Cers were taking delight in the ridiculousness of the costume” and presumed that “construction has probably gotten better,” a sentiment Emlet agreed with. 

“I think it’s one of those traditions that is just weird enough to be consistently fun,” Emlet said. “Every year it sparks attention and it’s like, why would you do that? That’s really weird. But it’s at the liminal standpoint of being just weird enough where people still want to do it and people aren’t too afraid to do it.”

Grant saw the tradition as a particularly special bonding opportunity because of its timing following SCIAC championships, which serve as the end of the season for most of the team’s runners.

“I think that it’s kind of a nice way to say to everyone, even if your season is ending after SCIAC and some of the rest of us are going on to run at regionals and nationals and continue training, that everyone is still part of the team … no matter what the result was at SCIAC, win or lose,” Grant said. 

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This article was last updated Nov. 8 at 12:15 AM.

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