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Grinnell traditions I miss (but shouldn’t): The 3 a.m. bakery run

Continuing an occasional series of reflections on Grinnell traditions. See the short introduction to traditions and Grinnell traditions in an earlier essay.

For my first decade or so at Grinnell, students had a tradition of walking downtown to Danish Maid bakery at about 4am, right when the donuts and other baked goods were coming out of the oven, to get the freshest possible donuts. There was even an official bakery run during orientation week. Although I never participated in the bakery runs [1], I generally liked the concept of them. They were a silly tradition that did not involve alcohol and were not too harmful [2], and they helped connect students with downtown [3].

However, that tradition is now long gone. First, some Tutorial professors discouraged their tutees from staying up (or waking up) to do the bakery run during orientation? Why? Ideally, one should go to bed and get up the same time each day [4], and they worried that bakery run discouraged students from developing good habits. Then, it disappeared from orientation, presumably for similar reasons [5]. Two or three years ago, Danish Maid closed [6].

Do students still stay up until 3am? Yes. In fact, some student groups now run 3am pancake breaks during week fourteen and finals week. I’ve objected to them, on the same grounds that others objected to the bakery runs: We should not be offering incentives for students to disrupt their sleep habits, particularly during a time when their brains need to be working especially well. I believe the response I got was We are not encouraging them to stay up. We are acknowledging that they do.

Do we have events that get students downtown? I think we’ve tried a variety, but I don’t recall any particularly successful ones. It may be that the donut runs were developed by students for students, and those kinds of traditions are generally more successful than activities designed by non-students. Perhaps my student readers will take that as a challenge: Develop a new tradition that does not involve alcohol and that gets students to see what’s downtown. And no, scavenger hunts don’t count.

Followup: This tradition was fairly old. David Feldman ’71 writes I don’t remember mass runs [7] to Danish Maid but it was common for those of us on Central Student Time to make 4:00 a.m. visits.

[1] Upon reading this essay, middle son informed me that I did take him at some point.

[2] More on that later.

[3] Yes, you would think that our students would find it natural to regularly go to downtown Grinnell. Unfortunately, for some percentage, that’s not the case.

[4] Yes, student readers, that includes weekend nights.

[5] Around that time, there was also a significant revamp of orientation, so it may just have disappeared as part of the revamp.

[6] No, I don’t think they closed because the bakery runs stopped. I don’t even think that was a contributing factor.

[7] When I wrote runs I meant trips; it’s a colloquialism that some folks use.

Version 1.0.3 of 2017-01-27.