Gymkana performs and sets good example at 19th annual Maryland Day
By Abby Mergenmeier
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Thousands of people participated in Saturday's Maryland Day events, but over the course of the University of Maryland's 19-year-long tradition, one event always stands out from the rest: the Gymkana performance.
An estimated 75,000 people from around the state came out to Maryland Day, which is a one-day open house to the university's College Park campus. Student organizations and university departments organize and put on 400 family-friendly events, according to the Maryland Day website.
Camilla Arias, a sophomore environmental science and policy major at UMD, said that this was her third year visiting Maryland Day. She attended as a freshman last year, and came once before with her parents, who live close to campus. "Neither of them went to college, and I think we're so close to Maryland that they always instilled in me that, you know, 'You're going to college.' It was never really a question because they definitely wanted me to go since they didn't," Arias said. "I think this was just a way to get me introduced to college and what that can be like and the fun that would happen here."
College Park community members and University of Maryland students came out to watch the Gymkana performance at Maryland Day on Saturday, April 29, 2017 in College Park. (Abby Mergenmeier)
Gymkana, a gymnastics and acrobatic organization at UMD, drew hundreds of people to their 30-minute performance that took place on LaPlata Beach, a turf field next to the university's School of Public Health. Arias said that she and some friends came out to the all-student gymnastics performance to support her roommate, who is in the troupe.
A diverse crowd of hundreds of people trickled towards LaPlata Beach to watch the performance. The nearly 90-degree weather made the turf field hot, forcing spectators to find refuge under the shade and groupings of trees around the field.
Sarah Beale, 11, came with her mom to watch the high-flying act. She said that this was the second year she has been to Maryland Day, and also the second year she's watched Gymkana's Maryland Day performance. Beale said that she competed in a public speaking contest earlier in the day on the UMD campus, and she and her mother decided to enjoy some of the day's events before returning to accept awards. "I really like [Gymkana] because it's really cool," Beale said. "I like that they do crazy tricks that are unbelievable." She said that one day, she would like to attend the University of Maryland and join the Gymkana troupe.
Founded in 1946, Gymkana is the oldest student club on campus. Gymkana has performed in many different venues, including Madison Square Garden, and even on the television show, America's Got Talent.
Members of Gymkana perform by balancing wooden chairs into different formations and then doing handstands on top of the chairs. This was one of the acts during Gymkana's Maryland Day performance on Saturday, April 29, 2017 in College Park. (Abby Mergenmeier)
With over 60 members, Gymkana includes several different acts in each of their performances. Some of the acts include a tumbling exercise where the athletes leap and flip over a growing tour of their fellow teammates; a comedic performance on a trampoline; and an act where athletes balance and perform handstands atop precariously placed wooden chairs.
Gymkana not only promotes the sport of gymnastics and a healthy lifestyle, it also inspires others to be drug-free.
"They're a cool organization because they're completely substance and alcohol-free," Arias said. "I guess in college it's really hard to find places that are like that and everyone here is really really dedicated to that."