Berea College Mountain Day

Mountain Day is an annual event organized by Berea College during every fall semester.  On Mountain Day, all classes are dismissed and the labor is cancelled, except for essential labor such as Food Service, Hospital, Boone Tavern, and Public Safety.  Mountain Day celebrates the nature and the environment surrounding us, especially exploring the Appalachian culture and the mountain people of the region.   Mountain Day celebration serves as an example of Berea’s mission “to serve the mountains of Appalachia and to preserve the area’s heritage.”


The first Mountain Day was held in 1875; yet, the event was first mentioned in the 1907 edition of the College Catalog as an ‘excursion.’  There are no records of the official ‘statement of purpose’ of the Mountain Day; however, it is believed that the nature of Mountain Day was to:

  1. provide an opportunity for alumni to visit the campus and their former teachers and friends,
  2. to provide sanctioned social excursion for students,
  3. to enjoy the Fall color and other natural wonders in immediate vicinity, and
  4. to provide a campus holiday free of classes and non-essential labor (in an e-mail to Shannon Wilson from John Cook).

Mountain Day was traditionally celebrated on the third Monday of the fall term.  If the weather conditions on the designated date were not satisfactory for the celebration of the event, then the event would be cancelled and postponed to the same day of the next week.  If the weather did not improve by the next week, then the event would be omitted for the school year.  Every year a booklet was published that announced the date of Mountain Day and which listed all of the activities, rules and the schedule of performances.  The booklet encouraged professors to not schedule examinations or tests on the day before or after Mountain Day, in order to provide students equal opportunity to enjoy their day off exploring nature, the Appalachian Mountains and local culture.

Throughout the twentieth century there were various changes and additions to the celebration of Mountain Day.  In the early years of celebrating Mountain Day, students would dress up and hike up the mountain.  Eventually, the dress code became less formal and more casual.  Originally students had to sign up by Tuesday before Mountain Day at the Alumni Building in order to participate in the celebrations.  There were wagon trucks that transported the students to the Indian Fort Mountain, and the transportation fee consisted of five cents for women and fifteen cents for men.  The students had excursions to the Pinnacles with their departments, and the college’s administration highly discouraged “wandering alone” or in a group of less than twenty people.  Additionally, female students and male students were expected to hike in separate groups, and if any male student wished to accompany a young woman of another department, then he had to ask for permission from the Department Deans.  It is possible that these restrictions led to the decline in the popularity of Mountain Day; at one point, participation fell to forty to forty-five percent.  In response, the College organized a group of leaders, each of whom were willing to lead a minimum of thirty students through the wilds of Indian Fort Mountain, in order to increase the participation level of the students to at least ninety per cent.

For several years, starting a few years before the Second World War, Berea had three Mountain Days on consecutive weekends because of large student enrollment.  Approximately 1700 students were divided into groups, called the foundation group, the upper division college group, and the lower division college group.  There were contests amongst various groups or organizations of the college.  There were teams of eight students, who represented their particular organization, such as the college’s County Dancers as well as all the athletic teams, who competed for a 300 dollar prize.  The team that had the fastest time climbing up the mountain received the prize.  Students of the “Get Moving Berea College Program” also participated in this contest, but they were simply awarded bonus points.

On Mountain Day, the College chimes played either “She’ll be comin’ round the Mountain” or “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” at six o’clock in the morning to kick off the holiday.


Berea College usually celebrates Mountain Day on a Wednesday in October.  The celebration of Mountain Day involves hiking up the Indian Fort Mountain, which is located within the seven thousand acres of College’s forest territory.  Students are encouraged to hike up to the East Pinnacle before the sunrise, in order to greet the sunrise atop the mountain.  In recent years, it has been a tradition for several college organizations or clubs, such as the Berea College Choir and the Country Dancers to sing or perform dances respectively upon the rise of the Sun. Mountain Day activities and contests are organized and coordinated by the Department of Campus Activities or Campus Life.  Most of the Berea College’s dance, music and choir groups perform at the Mountain Day event.  Moreover, there are shuttle vans, as well as a hay ride, that transport students to the Indian Fort Mountain, running every half hour beginning eight in the morning until four in the afternoon. Many students choose to go camping the night before Mountain Day and camp out either at the West or at the East Pinnacle.

Dining Services provides lunch at the forest grounds.  Throughout the afternoon students and guests get to enjoy various snacks and treats, some of the most popular treats of which are kettle corn, cotton candy and drinks such as Ale-8.  Students get to enjoy Bluegrass music, watch dance performances, make bracelets, tie-dye T-shirts, etc.  In addition, there are various activities and contests in which students can challenge themselves and participate.  For instance, there are contests called “Pioneer games” which include activities such as log chopping, log tossing and crosscut saw competition, all of which uniquely represent the Appalachian culture.  Students can also test their skills in archery and participate in charity walkathons or scavenger hunt contests organized by some of the college organizations.  Mountain Day participants who hike up to the East Pinnacle and to the Eagles Nest challenge themselves by passing through the narrow passage between two rocks on the trail leading to the top called the “Fat Man’s Misery,” or the Devil’s Slide.

On the eve of the Mountain Day, there is a street dance on Main Street in front of the Boone Tavern Hotel. The street dance is organized and conducted by the Berea College Country Dancers and the Bluegrass Music Ensemble. The celebration has previously been sponsored by the Mountain Day Planning Committee, Sodexho Food Service, Campus Activities Board, Intramurals, the Agricultural Union, the Saddle Club, the Forestry Department, the Music Department and Campus life.


During the 1977 Mountain Day celebration, the sixth President of Berea College – Willis Weatherford Jr. – and the College Dean – William Ramsay – were “kidnapped” by a group of Berea College students. Some students were dressed as Native American Indians, and they asked for a ransom of sixty-three dollars. Then, students donated the ransom money to the United Community Fund of Madison County.

Previously, Mountain Day has been referred to as the “back to the land” movement, or as the “Rocktober Fest.” In 1912, Mountain Day was celebrated separately between two schools: the Foundation School and the College. In the mid-1940s, the College had even celebrated Mountain Day during the spring semester, as a Spring Mountain Day. Though it is hard to believe now, in the 1950s, one of the activity contests was tobacco spitting!


Berea College Alumnus. 57:3 Nov-Dec 1986, p.14

Held for ransom. Eyewitness. Oct. 20, 1977.

“Climbing out of the classroom.” in Lexington Herald, Oct. 21, 2004.

Smith, Louis. Holiday Announcement. Berea College: Berea, Kentucky. October 6, 1964.

“Mountain Day festivities planned for Wednesday.” Berea Citizen, Oct 1, 1981.

“Coming Up The Mountain When They Come.” Lexington Herald, Oct 8, 1981.

“‘Trail of Years’: Berea College celebrates 130th MD” by Bill Robinson, Oct. 25, 2005.

The Wallpaper: weekly publication of the Berea College Student Association, Berea, KY, Sat. Oct 10, 1953.

Chapman, Dan. “Mountain Day 1982: Good, clean, (wet) fun.” The Pinnacle. Berea, Kentucky: Berea College. October 29, 1982.

“Sun Shines on Berea for Mountain Day Fun.” Lexington Herald. October 9, 1980.

“Spring Mountain Day Comes Saturday.” Berea Citizen. April 21, 1949.

“Mountain Day.” Berea Citizen. October 8, 1914.

“Mountain Day: Climbing Indian Fort Mountains has become a tradition—and you can kiss your girl, too.” The Courier Journal. October 9, 1955.

Come Spend a Year with the St. John’s Bible

St. John's Bible Display September 24, 2014

Our display of the St. John’s Bible at the library is almost ready to go.

As you walk into Hutchins Library, you may have noticed work on a new display. There is a new wooden display case as you walk in. Banners are up now. The library is preparing to display Volume 6, “Gospels and Acts” of the Heritage Edition of the St. John’s Bible.

What is the St. John’s Bible?

In 1998, Saint John’s Abbey and University commissioned renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson to produce a handwritten, hand-illuminated Bible. This is an effort that has not been done in almost 500 years. However, it is not just the divine word or a work of art. It is also a work that dares to ask some very modern questions:

  • What if the Bible clearly depicts Adam and Eve, the first humans, as East African?
  • What if the views of Earth from space are borrowed from NASA’s Hubble Telescope?
  • What if the great religions of the world, in addition to Christianity, are referenced wherever possible?

Come explore the answers to those questions and more as you view and spend time with the St. John’s Bible at Hutchins Library.

The Event Details:

The event opens with a public showing at campus convocation on Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 3:00pm in Phelps-Stokes Chapel. The convocation features Tim Ternes speaking on “More Work Than We Knew, More Joy Than We Imagined.” He will describe the 13 year process of creating the first Biblical manuscript commissioned in more than 500 years. After September 25, the display will continue at Hutchins Library until May 15, 2015.

In addition to the display, the library and the college will host a variety of programs related to the St. John’s Bible throughout the campus and the community. Check out the activities calendar for details. Also, Hutchins Library Special Collections and Archives will feature an exhibit of other rare manuscripts, early printed Bibles, and sacred texts from the college’s collection.

An Event Open To All:

The Bible is a work with fans and detractors. Some see it as the Word of God. Others may see it as a great work of literature and storytelling. Others yet may see it as words often misused and misrepresented, a work partly responsible for historic challenges including slavery, conflict and war, and enabling human exploitation of the planet and other people. Whatever your view, this is an exhibit for all, religious and non-religious. Join us and come see what the St. John’s Bible has to say to you.

The convocation on September 25, 2014 is free and open to the public.

The display at Hutchins Library can be viewed during the library’s regular hours.

“A Year with the St. John’s Bible” at Berea College is made possible through a partnership between Hutchins Library and the Campus Christian Center. with support from the Art, General Studies, History, and Religion programs.

Sources for additional information:

Chapman’s The Helmet Project on display at library and other campus locations

You may have noticed a set of paintings to the right side of the reference desk when you visit the library. They are the work of Berea alumnus Gary Chapman, ’84, and the paintings are part of a campus-wide exhibit. The exhibit features 12 paintings from The HELMET Project that are placed strategically in six buildings around campus: Danforth Industrial Arts, Draper Building, Frost Building, Hutchins Library, Lincoln Hall, and Seabury Center. The exhibition is the first time these paintings have been exhibited outside of a gallery. In addition, you can visit the Doris Ulmann Galleries in the Roger-Traylor Art Building and view photos of the paintings in other unexpected places.

The exhibit runs from August 24th to September 26.

If you would like to learn more, the library has copies of the artist statement and other materials you can take. In addition, you can watch the video below where the artist speaks of his work.  You can also visit his official website at this link:

The HELMET Project from High 5 Productions on Vimeo.

Need some reading ideas? Here are some recent award winners

Are you looking for some ideas of what to read this summer? Here are some links and information on recent literary award winners. Lists often feature both the final winners and other nominees, so there are plenty of choices for reading.

  • Would you like to read some horror? Want some chills and thrills? The Bram Stoker Awards for 2013 have been announced by the Horror Writers Association.
  • How about some mystery? You can check out the Mystery Writers of America’s 2014 winners list of the Edgar Awards.
  • Maybe you like your mysteries a bit more cozy? In the tradition of Agatha Christie, the Agatha Awards list for 2013 is available. Unlike the Edgars, the Agathas are very specific in their criteria for an award. Agathas go to books that “contain no explicit sex” and “contain no excessive gore or gratuitous violence.” If you wanted a hard boiled mystery, for example, you would want to see the Edgars list.
  • June is LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transexual) Pride Month. If you would like to read some LGBT literature, the Lambda Literary Awards for 2014 list is out from the Lambda Literary Foundation. Among the honorees is Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home.
  • Looking for science fiction and fantasy? The Nebulas for 2013 are out. The Nebulas are voted on by active members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you find a title you like, you can check BANC (the library catalog) to see if we have it. If you need help finding a book or using BANC, you are welcome to visit the reference desk or contact us.

Lunch at the Library: Square Dancing in the Kentucky Foothills

News from Special Collections and Archives. Posting by Harry Rice, Sound Archivist:

When: Thursday, June 26, 2014.

Time: 11:45am to 1:00pm

Location: Library Room 106

Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship scholar Susan Spalding will share what she has learned from her work documenting mid-1900s square dancing and clogging/flatfooting traditions in Berea and surrounding areas during that were distinct from the college’s traditional music and dance programs.

The picture that has emerged from her study in the Archives and interviews with local individuals is one of a thriving complex of community and home based dance activity that among other things included area dancers performing at Renfro Valley in the 1940s, children’s square dance teams in the 1950s, and street dances at the Berea Home-Coming during the 1950s and 1960s. Intermixed with these accounts are stories from Berea and other communities such as Estill County, about parades, music on the porch, family gatherings, honky-tonks, and long horseback rides over the mountain for a square dance.

Susan was a member of the Berea College Department of Physical Education and Health for fifteen years, and directed Dance Programs and Country Dancers.  She has been dancing in the Appalachian region for almost three decades, and has served as a consultant for the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife and the Kentucky Folklife Festival. She co-edited the book Communities in Motion: Dance, Tradition and Community, edited the dance entries for the Encyclopedia of Appalachia, and co-produced two Appalshop video documentaries on old-time dance. Her book Appalachian Dance: Creativity and Continuity in Six Communities is forthcoming from University of Illinois Press.

New Oral History Collections Added to Our Online Catalog

News from the folks at Special Collections and Archives:

Two new oral history collections have been added to our online catalog:
Appalachian Foodways Oral History Collection, SAA 164
This collection consists of audio recordings and typed transcripts of interviews recorded during the summer of 2012 by then Berea College students Katie Bills and Chelsea Bicknell as part of a foodways internship project with Berea faculty member Margaret Dotson. Foodways is the study of the interactions among food, culture, environment, and history. Twenty seven persons were interviewed for the purpose of documenting foodways in Pleasants County, West Virginia and Estill County, Kentucky. Interviewees were mostly in their 70s. A few were 90 years old or older. The interviews provide first-hand accounts of how foodways in two widely separated areas of the Appalachian region have developed and changed over the last 60 to 85 plus years. Specific subject areas described include gardening, farming, preparing food, preserving food, eating habits and preferences, and food related traditions.

Berea College Campus Ministry Oral History Collection, RG 14.14
These interviews trace the development of religious life activities and programs at Berea College especially in relationship to the establishment of the position of Campus Minister and the Campus Christian Center. The memory time span of the interviewees ranges from 1930 through 1988, the time of the then most recent interview. The collection consists of audio recordings and typed transcripts of seven interviews recorded by Berea College Campus Minister Lee Morris. Five were recorded during the summer of 1983. Two additional were recorded in 1987 and 1988 respectively.

We Have Zines!

The next time you are in Hutchins Library, you should stop by the periodicals section (near Circulation) and check out the zines currently residing at the end of our magazine/journal shelving.

What are zines? According to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture:

zines are nonprofessional, anti-commercial, small-circulation magazines produced, published, and distributed by their creators themselves. Composed and formatted on home computers, zines are reproduced on copiers or printers, assembled on kitchen tables, and sold or swapped through the mail or made available at small book or music stores. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 zines circulate in the United States and in other countries throughout the world. With names like Dishwasher, Temp Slave, Pathetic Life, Practical Anarchy, Punk Planet, and Slug & Lettuce, zines have a subject matter that ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous and sometimes the unfathomable. What binds these publications together is the prime directive “do-it-yourself.” Zines advocate that people stop shopping for culture and create their own (Duncombe 489).

To pique your interest, here is a sampling of just a few of the titles currently on display:

zine 4zine 3 zine 2 zine 1Our zines are not cataloged, so you won’t be able to search for them in BANC. Also, they are not a permanent part of our library collection. What does that mean to you? It means you need to come and enjoy them now, while they are here. Give yourself some time to browse the titles and be prepared to be shocked, educated, or entertained (or all three at once!)


Duncombe, Stephen. “Zines.” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Ed. Thomas Riggs. 2nd ed. Vol. 5. Detroit: St. James Press, 2013. 489-490. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.