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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
If such a thing ever can be said of any event, then the 1976 Adams House Raft Race was over before it began.
Certainly this was true for Kirkland House, whose three kamikaze crafts--loaded with smoke bombs, four cases of dry ice and rotten fruit--never made it to the starting line. Their plans to capture the "senseless violence" award went down in smoke and bubbles from the dry ice crates.
Indeed, the toughest challenge for crews--and the highlight for spectators--seemed to be getting the rafts to float before the start. There was no dearth of contestants for the "first to sink tastefully" award.
Rape and Pillage
The Strauss Rape and Pillage Society, sporting red Ve Ri Crass shirts, found the hard way that its boat could not support 15 drunk students and one not-so-reluctant proctor. However, after being tossed into the icy water a few times, and battling a dog who had made off with an oar, the crew members still tried to clamber aboard the remains of their vessel. The Rapists eventually snared the "Ronald Reagan" award for leaning furthest to the right.
South House, which always provides a good laugh, did it again when its plywood and oil drum craft simply folded up, sandwiching several hardy souls in the middle.
First round contestants also had to battle a barrage of giant balloons from a slingshot of surgical tubing set up by the Glee Club.
The race finally got under way in watered-down form. "We just started. To hell with it!" Marc Yanofsky '77, race director and Adams House Committee chairman, remarked after being frustrated in his attempts to get the remaining boats behind the starting line.
While the crews doused each other with buckets of water and flashed moons (among other things), the Collegium Musicum raft slipped across the finish line--chirping in three-part harmony--to gain the dubious distinction of being first to finish.
At the post-race awards ceremony, Mather House received the Jimmy Carter "with least direction" award in abstentia. They were still floundering around on the river by the Weeks Bridge, after a balloon battle with the fast-finishing Currier crew.
The "most-polluted crew member" distinction went to a Mower resident who could not recall his name. His raft, the "Detente," had sunk after 20 feet and he had spent the rest of the race consuming an entire bottle of Scotch.
He had fulfilled the goal of the race, whose bicentennial theme was "entropy"--the tendency to disorder. Yanofsky elaborated on this after the race, saying that "there was absolutely no point to the race except to have a good time."
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