Five nights, sleeping outside in tents and competing in random competitions in the middle of a cold Pennsylvania November… punishment?? Nope, it’s something we call tenting. Tenting is honestly my favorite Juniata tradition, even though it results in zero to four hours of sleep for a week. The purpose for tenting is to determine the order that groups of students can buy tickets to Madrigal. Madrigal is a winter themed formal dinner and dance where the students are served dinner by the faculty. One of the traditions at Madrigal dinner is to sing Christmas carols as a student body, with most of the attention going to the singing of the “12 days of Christmas”. The 10 tables that are the closest to the stage and musical performing group are the tables that get to stand on their chairs and belt the “FIVE GOLDEN RINGS” line of the song. These are the most coveted tables at the dinner. Now, what’s the big deal of being able to do this? It doesn’t sound like that big of a thing. To quote my one friend who decided to try tenting this year and competed to get a Five Golden Rings table, after the dinner he said, “For three years I thought tenting was stupid and pointless, just to be rewarded with a table that gets to sing one line in a Christmas song. But the week of tenting and going to the Madrigal dinner and singing with everyone has been the most fun I’ve ever had at college.” During the dinner, the musical group that was performing said they had visited hundreds of schools and audiences around the nation, and they had never seen a school that loved each other and loved their school, as much as we did.
There are limited tables at the Madrigal dinner and each table is only allowed to seat six or eight students. Therefore, tenting was developed as the traditional way to determine which students got to buy their tickets first and thus, choose their table first. After all the groups that tented buy their tickets and choose their table, then the remaining tickets can be sold to the rest of the student body. But once the tenting groups get their tickets, there are not very many tables left for the rest of the students to buy.
Tenting takes place either one or two weeks before Thanksgiving break and starts with an air horn. And it can sound at any point on Sunday or Monday of that week and once it does, it is a race to see who can set up their tent the fastest. The first group to set up their tent completely is head tent, and they get to plan all the activities for the entire week and keep track of the order of all the tents. This year there were 30 tents competing. The fun part of tenting is that it takes place from 5pm until 8am, every day of the week. Every day there was a major competition, like a dance competition, scavenger hunt, rap battle, baking competition, cardboard box race, etc. On top of this major competition, there are also lots of little competitions mixed throughout, like stuffing marshmallows in your mouth, paper airplane races, or water balloon toss. But because they can happen at any time, we would be woken up from our tents in the 28 degree weather at 4am to do limbo in the cold, or make a house of cards in 30 minutes. There were over 50 challenges we competed in this week of tenting. It’s an exhausting week, but honestly so much fun to compete against other students with a group of your friends. While going to class the week of tenting, I find myself distracted, thinking about what we’re going to do for tenting that night. Every year I’ve done tenting, I’ve always come out having grown close to a lot of people in other groups, because we all share one thing in common… we all survived tenting week.