By Grace Stratford
Driving down North Mooreland Rd. at 7:40 in the morning, I begin to hear the faint murmur of whistles and screaming. It is a whistle morning. Pulling into the loop road, I begin to see junior girls running up and down the sidewalks, whistles in mouths and signs in hand. Brunch season is upon Collegiate.
Some of the traditions surrounding Brunch are new, yet a few date back to the very first Brunch. One of the most exciting traditions is the Senior-Fleur pairing. This relationship was started by Catherine Flippen, headmistress of the girls school from 1943 to 1970, in an attempt to create a closer bond between the senior and junior girls. She wanted the juniors have role models that they had interacted with. These pairings are picked out of a hat to assure randomness. Once the senior has picked, she has to figure out a theme that she wants to use for her fleur.
After the theme is decided, whether by the entire senior class or just by the individual pairings, the Senior-Fleur reveal is next. Currently, the reveal happens the morning after the seniors have picked their fleur. The seniors wait somewhere in the school while the juniors conduct a scavenger hunt to figure out who their seniors are. Amy Leibowitz (‘88), current Middle School Latin teacher and Model UN advisor, remembers when she was a senior and recalled, “We woke up our fleurs in the middle of the night to surprise them and reveal our identities (I hope their parents knew in advance!) and we celebrated together on Fleur Morning.” Many seniors wish that the reveal still happened at night, but that was eventually changed in the 1990’s, due to safety concerns, to the current reveal on Fleur morning.
The Senior-Fleur bucket theme has changed over time too. When Missy Herod, Associate Director of Student Life, attended Collegiate in the 1970s, “The seniors picked a theme for the whole class.” Once the theme was decided, seniors created a bucket for their fleur and, “the stuff you got in your buckets at the beginning of the year, all had to do with the theme, parties throughout the year had that same theme, and the senior skit on May Day was about that theme.” Although May Day, a festival marking the beginning of spring, is no longer a celebrated Collegiate tradition, it used to be such an anticipated day to the juniors and seniors girls. Herod said, “We ended the year with May Day, where underclassmen entertained the seniors. Ninth grade did a Maypole, juniors did a formal dance for their seniors and then presented them with a basket of flowers.”
The Senior-Fleur relationship used to be a more intense, year-long collaboration. The pairs would go to the State Fair, movies, have Halloween parties, and participate in community service together. There was a Senior-Fleur sleepover at school, where everyone stayed up all night and watched movies and ate junk food. Now, the seniors and juniors have separate sleepovers the night before Brunch and stay up all night. The fleurs also used to announce where their senior was going to college. Herod said, “When a senior finally decided which college she was going to, her fleur made an elaborate congratulation sign for her senior’s locker, and that’s when everybody else found where the senior was going to college.” All of these little traditions slowly changed over time and led to new traditions, such as “Brunching” senior cars.
The most common question regarding Brunch, among Collegiate boys and people outside of the Collegiate community, is if there is food at Brunch. Herod remembers that “everyone had box lunches from Sally Belle’s at our Brunch.” Although we don’t have an actual brunch meal at school anymore, the 5th-12th having separate Brunch breakfasts at a different house for each grade level. Sometimes these breakfasts take place in a house that the girls can walk to school from. This creates closer bonds between the grade levels, especially between the junior and senior class, and allows the anticipation and curiosity about the actual Brunch performance to build during breakfast.
Although traditions over time have been tweaked and changed, the main idea of Brunch remains the same: to create a closer bond between the girls in the Middle and Upper Schools and to create an entertaining performance.
Currently, the juniors’ Brunch preparations start in the spring of sophomore year. The grade gets together and decides on a theme, and from there, everyone chooses a committee to be a part of. From there, the committee heads work during the summer on the script, dances, and a fake theme. Once the script is perfected, auditions are held at the start of the new school year in the fall. Many practices are held for the dances throughout the beginning of the school year. Towards October, practices are held regularly through the week in Oates Theater to start preparing for the actual performance.
About eight years ago, Collegiate switched fall semester exams from January to December, therefore shifting Brunch to November, on the day before Thanksgiving, instead of right before Winter Break. The night of the dress rehearsal, which is before the Brunch, alumni girls from previous years come to watch and prepare the juniors for the screaming they will hear the next day. Parents and siblings also come to see the performance. After the dress rehearsal, all the junior girls go to someone’s house and have a grade-wide sleepover (no one actually sleeps). Preparation starts at around 4 a.m., when the trips to Starbucks begin, and everyone heads to school around 6 a.m. Then it is time for the show, and the excitement is carried throughout the duration of Brunch. Afterwards, the seniors and fleurs stay for a slideshow, and finally everyone heads home to catch up on their sleep.
All photos by Grace Stratford.