The Randolph-Macon Academy community threw a campus-wide celebration on Saturday, April 29th, and it was a terrific result. Over 300 members of the Front Royal community and alumni, in addition to more than 300 students, employees, and family members, came to “The Hill” to enjoy a day full of fun, food, and festivities.
“This was an opportunity for the R-MA community to connect to the Warren County community,” explained Director of Public Relations Celeste Brooks. “We wanted to open our campus to allow our neighbors to learn about R-MA. At the same time, making this a free event was a way we could thank the local community for their support, throughout our history.” The most obvious example of that support was the “Great Fire of 1927,” in which the main building on campus burned to the ground, displacing all of the students and the faculty who lived on campus. The people of Front Royal opened their homes, allowing the school to continue for the year.
The day itself was reflective of R-MA’s history—early on, things didn’t go according to plan. The Academy’s indebtedness grew in the early 20th century, along with the typhoid fever epidemic that further increased its debt—not exactly the auspicious beginning the founders had expected. For the Founder’s Weekend Community Celebration on Saturday, there was not one, but three unexpected torrential downpours, along with thunder and lightning between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m., causing organizers to make last-minute adjustments to the day’s plans. However, by 11 am, when the Celebration was about to start, the sun was back out and a wonderful day was ready to shine.
The day started off with The Yellow Jacket 5K, organized by Adventure Enablers, with R-MA’s Josh Ilnicki taking first place. Just after the celebration officially opened came the much-anticipated teddy bear drop by the R-MA Flight Department. The Academy’s Cessna 172 came in low, barely over the tree tops, surprising the cheering group of spectators. As the plane soared over Riddick Field, the passengers dropped 125 teddy bears onto the field, to the delight of those gathered.
The rest of the campus activities kept students, employees, and guests alike busy all day. The cornhole tournament attracted over 50 people, with divisions for both teams and singles. Children and teenagers enjoyed the petting zoo, carnival games, obstacle course, and Zero Shock Stunt Jump, just to name a few. The food trucks, provided by The Apple House and Mama Lucie’s Kitchen, were slammed all day. Mama Lucie’s ran out of French fries after two hours! Guests happily grabbed their food and sat down in front of the R-MA talent show in the tent known as “The Hive” to witness the musical and artistic talent of R-MA students, while not far away at the face-painting tent, other R-MA students were using their talents to create elaborate designs on happy young faces. The community vendor fair saw a steady stream of people during the early hours of the celebration, as did the historical display located in Stan Fulton Hall. The shuttle buses and the hay ride attended to people all day without a break.
After shows by Blue Ridge Wildlife Center and Steve Foster’s Amazing Grace, the day was capped with potentially the longest ice cream Sunday the Shenandoah Valley has ever seen, provided and sponsored by C & C Frozen Treats. The words “Memories on a spoon” are written on the side the C & C truck, and owner William Huck surely dealt out a fantastic memory. The sundae measured 12.5 meters (just over 41 feet) of vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream and sprinkles, and each one-third of the 41 feet had either chocolate, strawberry, or butterscotch syrup. Once the sundae was completed, everybody yelled out in unison, “125 years!”, and dug into the delicious ice cream of C & C Frozen Treats.
“The day could not have been such a success without everyone involved,” said R-MA President Brigadier General David Wesley, USAF, Retired. “The grounds, maintenance, and housekeeping crews, led by Don Williams, were incredible in their effort and diligent in their execution. The countless number of volunteers from the R-MA faculty, staff, and student body made sure the day went on with no problems and maximum efficiency. I am very proud of how our folks pulled together to make this happen. However, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the 125th Founder’s Weekend Committee, led by R-MA Public Relations Director Celeste Brooks. Their tireless effort and sacrifice made the day a possibility and a success.”
The weekend concluded with the 125th Anniversary Community Chapel Service, in which several R-MA students received the sacrament of baptism and/or confirmation. There were approximately 100 people in attendance for this event. The grand finale was the R-MA Spring Concert, featuring the band, chorus, and handbells.
R-MA’s administration expressed a special thanks to the many sponsors who made the weekend possible, including the Presenting Sponsors Exclusively Faces Cosmetic Surgery and Medispa, the R-MA Alumni Association, Shenandoah Foot & Ankle Center, and Valley Health. The Event Sponsors were Aba Cole, C & C Frozen Treats, Fork’d Food Truck, Blue Ridge Hot Air Balloon, Lester and Mowery’s Pharmacy, and Wells Fargo. Media Sponsors included 92.5 WINC FM and The River 95.3 FM. Additional sponsors can be viewed on the R-MA website at rma.edu/125th-anniversary-sponsors.