UM celebration takes the cake

Maryland Day has thousands of visitors, hundreds of events and a 50,000-slice dessert

April 30, 2006|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV,SUN REPORTER

COLLEGE PARK -- It's never too early to get a head start on college.

Take 3-year-old Richardo Foster of Laurel, who spent yesterday at the University of Maryland's annual Maryland Day celebration.

"It's very important because it lets [children] know there are other opportunities after primary school and high school," said Richardo's mother, Shondra Foster.

Foster also brought her other children, Tiahna, 16, and Trevor, 10.

"My daughter wants to go to art school when she graduates," Foster said. "She's over there talking to an artist right now."

Gretchen Metzelaars, director of Stamp Student Union and campus programs, said Maryland Day was started eight years ago by university President C.D. "Dan" Mote Jr. as a way to welcome Marylanders to the university.

"The connection to the community is important to the university," Metzelaars said.

More than 5,000 university employees and students volunteered to work at booths, explain university programs and serve as college ambassadors to the 80,000 people school officials expected to attend.

The campus was divided into six sections -- Terp Town Center, Arts Alley, Ag Day Avenue, Biz and Society Hill, Sports and Rec Row, and Science and Tech Way. The university's Web site listed 392 scheduled events, and thousands of visitors made the most of the sunny day going from one attraction to another.

Members of the university's four national championship sports teams -- women's basketball, men's soccer, women's field hockey and competitive cheer team -- signed autographs at the Comcast Center.

The university's football team took to the field for the annual Red-White game at Byrd Stadium.

`There's lots of little highlights, depending on what you like," Metzelaars said. "There are lots of possibilities."

Wendy Loughlin, assistant director of the university's orientation program, said her two daughters, Maggie, 9, and Kate, 6, loved the Insect Petting Zoo located in the Plant Sciences Building.

"It's disgusting, but it's cool," Loughlin said. "There are centipedes and tarantulas."

Dipal Desai, a 21-year-old junior landscape architect major, comes to Maryland Day each year and said the event gets bigger and better.

"It's kind of like a big college field day," she said.

Desai said she enjoys attending the university because of its many offerings -- academic and social.

"It's definitely diverse here," she said. "There are a lot of activities."

Desai said she spent most of the "beautiful day" walking up and down the mall with friends.

One of the highlights of the day was the serving of what school officials believed to be the world's largest strawberry shortcake. The 6 million-calorie cake measured 16 feet by 24 feet and produced more than 50,000 slices.

At any given moment during the festivities, hundreds of people could be found gathered in Hornbake Plaza, waiting for a piece of the three-layer cake, which was served in celebration of the university's 150th birthday.

"It's delicious," said Valerie McPhatter, Richardo's grandmother. "I didn't expect it to be this tasty."

Richardo, who was seated in a stroller, also said he liked the cake.

"I didn't eat it all," admitted Richardo, who had a smile spread across his crumb-covered face.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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