Founders' Day

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Themes

FOUNDERS' DAY 2014: Thetford Academy celebrated its 195th birthday with the 71st Founders' Day on Friday, Feb. 7. The 2014 theme was "Classic Board Games."

Sub-themes chosen by the classes are:

Seniors - Clue
Juniors - Candy Land
Sophomores - Monopoly
Freshman - Scrabble
Eighth grade - Operation
Seventh grade - Life

Click here for dozens of photos of the 2014 Founders' Day Celebration.

Competitions

Classes participate in a variety of competitions.

They create elaborate cakes, floats, costumes, centerpieces, skits, songs, murals, banners, and snow sculptures.

They play tug-of-war, have wheelbarrow races, sack races, shopping cart races, volleyball games, run obstacle courses, and play TA History trivia.

They celebrate with hot chocolate and cookies, and an all-school banquet.

2014 Winners

Seniors vs. Juniors - Seniors

Sophomores vs. Freshmen - Freshmen

8th grade vs. 7th grade - 8th grade

History of Founder's Day

Founders' Day is the annual celebration of the school's birthday, held each year in February. Part winter carnival, part arts festival, the day-long event includes class competitions in games and creative contests, an all-school banquet, and traditional ceremonies. The Student Council chooses a theme each year, and each class works on a related "sub-theme" in its preparation of murals, costumes, decorated sled "floats," snow sculpture, centerpieces, banners, songs, and narrative presentations.

This account, part of the report on the school's "culture and identity" submitted to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, was based on reflections from a teaching intern after her first experience of Founders' Day:

"Thetford Academy ... seems to be very good at honoring and respecting its longstanding traditions while simultaneously accepting and encouraging new people and ideas. No other school in the Upper Valley has anything like Founders' Day, TA's oldest traditional holiday. Parts of Founders' Day are delightfully hokey, like Fourth of July in a small town in Vermont. There are the anthems, "Fair Thetford" and "Thetford We Revere Thee". There are the cakes -- on parade as advertised! -- the songs and speeches, the funny hats, costumes and murals all on the year's theme. Outdoors there are the "float" races and snow sculptures, sack races, tug of war, and the snow piling contest; indoors, crab soccer and volley ball, a scavenger hunt and trivial pursuit.

Fun, yes. But while the students play, their teachers and support staff work hard to transform the school's gymnasium into a festive banquet hall -- setting places for nearly 400 people. How many students across the country, in public or private schools, can say they sat down to break bread with all of their school -- their teachers, their fellow students in every grade, the administrators, the custodians?

We believe in the power of symbol and gesture. We suspect that this simple act, the entire school sharing a meal as one community, has a powerful, if subtle effect upon TA students -- not least of all, because they know they are taking part in something that has roots in time. For the same reason, we suspect that whether or not the students pay close attention at first, over the years they are moved and heartened by the simple candle lighting ceremony. Each colored taper is lit by a class representative as a symbol of an old-fashioned virtue -- responsibility, commitment, faith. Then the light from all the candles is gathered by the senior class president who passes it on to the junior class president.

When we asked many teachers if they believed this school was different, everyone we spoke with agreed, and most pointed to two factors: TA's smaller classes, and its sense of community. We hear a lot of talk these days about "creating a sense of community", whether in school, church, or the workplace. Talk is cheap, and unfortunately even sincere efforts often fall short, shading into boosterism and forced, false consensus. It's rare and special to come across an organic community -- one with a real sense of shared history and of its tolerated differences."

(Report of Thetford Academy to NEASC, October 1998; VII. The Culture/Identity of the School, pp. #30-231)