Students, beach balls fill UAlbany fountain

They were all drawn by the power of the fountain.
Students toss beach balls into the fountain Sunday at the University at Albany during the college’s annual Fountain Day celebration.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Students toss beach balls into the fountain Sunday at the University at Albany during the college’s annual Fountain Day celebration.

They were all drawn by the power of the fountain.

More than 5,600 students, many in swimsuits, splashed around at the University at Albany’s uptown campus Sunday as part of its annual rite of spring, Fountain Day.

“Everyone is going nuts here,” said junior Mike Doherty of Schenectady.

At about 2:30 p.m., students were allowed to go into the fountain near the University Art Museum. They stampeded toward the fountain and bounced multicolored beach balls off each other.

“The best part is when everyone comes pouring out,” said freshman Ashley Johnson of Long Island, who described the water as freezing.

At about 3 p.m., the fountain’s jets were turned on and water sprayed 30 feet into the air. The cheering that accompanied the start of the fountains was deafening.

“The water’s nice and cool,” said

Carisa Beckford, a freshman from Queens, adding that she liked the whole atmosphere, with the music and having her friends around her.

Interim University President George Philip said the event’s purpose is really to unite the campus at springtime and at the advent of final exam season.

“The idea is to bring the campus together — faculty, staff and students,” he said.

There were also free hot dogs, sodas and T-shirts. Other activities included a Dance Dance Revolution contest, balloon toss, massages and a fencing demonstration, according to university spokesman Catherine Herman.

Former students Fred Brewington and Peter Galasso, who were vice president and president of the student assembly at the time, started the tradition in 1978.

“Who doesn’t know about Fountain Day? It’s like the biggest event of the year,” said freshman Josh Peragine of Canajoharie.

In 2005, university officials moved Fountain Day from Thursday to Sunday afternoon so it would not disrupt classes. The previous year, 16 students required medical treatment from either drinking too much or suffering bruises and cuts from falling or being thrown around in the fountain.

Students are now required to register for the event. Security guards restrict the number of people that can go into the fountain at one time and require people to use separate entrance and exit stairs.

Meghan Ohen, a sophomore from Long Island, said people were getting pushed and shoved in line and she wished security personnel had gotten a better handle on it.

University spokesman Karl Luntta confirmed that some students suffered minor cuts because of crowd-control issues. There was a first aid tent set up to tend to the injured. He said a few students were detained by university police for disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, but there were no major problems.

“By and large, it was an orderly and terrific event. Everyone had fun. It’s one of our favorite traditions at the university,” Luntta said.

Junior Leon Ferri of Schenectady decided to get dressed up for the event by wearing a suit jacket, tie and vest. “I’m all business — even on Fountain Day,” he said.

Ferri was wearing a pair of sneakers for maximum traction. He said he enjoyed the camaraderie of the event and “the fact that all the students are getting together and doing something.”

Junior Torin Nielsen of Albany said “awesome is the only word for this.”

“I’m soaked, but it’s awesome,” he said.

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