Three people dressed as pirates pose
Patrick Shanahan The 'Software Pirates' win the group costume contest: (l-r) Chris Christensen, Savannah Relos, and Zora Blitz

A&S staff appreciated with pirate-themed picnic

The normally staid plaster casts in Klarman Hall’s Groos Family Atrium were draped in fishing nets on June 7, while a skeleton in manacles grinned from the lectern. A pirate skull and cross bones banner leered down from the second floor at the people gathered for the annual College of Arts & Sciences staff appreciation picnic, while “What do you do with a drunken sailor?” blasted from the loudspeakers.

Tables covered with antique-style maps of the world marched down one side of the room, laden with containers of taco fixings and pirate-themed desserts, including iced cookies in the shape of cutlasses and skulls, provided by Serendipity Caterers. The food labels featured pictures of sailing ships in the clutches of sea monsters and pirate-hatted skulls. On small tables normally filled with computers and schoolwork, Jolly Rancher candies weighed down a guide to “Pirate-Speak” and choosing a pirate name.

Numerous staff members dressed up for the occasion, some with cutlasses and swords, others with parrots perched on their shoulders (though the one on Vladimir Micic’s shoulder was actually his daughter’s toy flamingo, so he helpfully labeled it “parrot”). They were able to immortalize their costumes at a photo booth that featured a throne fit for a (pirate) king.

The registration desk held a pirate’s chest filled with booty: (chocolate) gold doubloons, free for the taking. Attendees could also take eye patches along with their raffle tickets and were each given $4 in Zeus Cash to redeem at the Temple of Zeus and a pirate-themed trivia contest to enter. A paper-mache parrot presided over registration, won at the end of the event by one surprised attendee.

The organizing committee had to pull that parrot out of a hat, metaphorically speaking, when smoke from fires in Canada caused hazardous air quality and the entire event had to be moved inside with only a few hours’ notice. As Dean Ray Jayawardhana said in his welcome remarks, “Nature intervened and we had to adapt. The organizing committee did an amazing job.”

He thanked the committee by name: Zora Blitz, Chris Capalongo, Hannah Cohn-Manik, Donna Lynch Cunningham, Paula Epps-Cepero, Michelle Stepanok, Melissa Totman, Rob Van Brunt and Tara Wilder.

The dean also offered his appreciation to the entire College staff. “You are what makes this place run and what makes the College the exciting and vibrant place it is,” he said. “I’m lucky to be embedded among such a dedicated, proud and spirited group of people.”

Person receiving a prize
Patrick Shanahan Brett Preston, Jr., Anthropology staff member, receives a prize

That spirit resounded through the atrium during the costume contest, which was judged based on the noise level of the cheers for each contestant. Tracy Gavich, dressed as a pirate, served as M.C. at the picnic; her pirate accent and banter entertained the crowd as she exhorted them to join her buccaneers.

The costume contest results were: Sharon VanDeMark and Cass Jenis tied for “most authentic”; the “Software Pirates,” Chris Christensen, Zora Blitz and Savannah Relos, won best group; Vlad Micic won funniest, and Mary Beth Martini-Lyons won most original.

The crowd also cheered for the staff marking their anniversaries at Cornell, ranging from the ten-years all the way up to forty-five years of service. “These are people who put their love and energy into Arts and Sciences and we appreciate them,” said Associate Dean for Administration Warren Petrofsky, who read out the names.

Cupcakes on a table, adorned with pirate flags
Patrick Shanahan A fleet of cupcakes sails into Klarman Hall’s Groos Family Atrium, flying the skull and crossbones

That appreciation was conveyed through the raffle prizes given out to 43 people (plus seven that went to the costume winners), most in gold boxes shaped like gold bullion. The prizes, funded by the College, were all gift cards for Downtown Ithaca.

“The gift cards help support local businesses,” said Wilder. “So many businesses suffered during Covid, we’re trying to give back to the community.”

The event closed with fitting words from Gavich for staff to carry with them until the 2024 picnic: “May the winds be always in your favor as you sail across the ocean.”

Linda B. Glaser is news and media relations manager for the College of Arts & Sciences.

More News from A&S

Three people dressed as pirates pose
Patrick Shanahan The 'Software Pirates' win the group costume contest: (l-r) Chris Christensen, Savannah Relos, and Zora Blitz