The Pinwheel Day That Almost Wasn’t

Though Michael Weber’s first Pinwheel Day at Haverford was marred by the disappearance of the pinwheels from Founders Green early in the morning, the campus community rallied to still celebrate the springtime tradition.

Even before I decided to come to Haverford, I had heard of Pinwheel Day. The annual tradition, in which the campus community awakens to find Founders Green decorated with spinning, plastic pinwheels on the first warm day of the year, marks an unofficial start to spring and always seemed to me to be a well-deserved day of rest on a campus where everyone is always working hard.  So this semester, my first spring at Haverford, I started every morning by opening the shades of my room in Barclay Hall, which overlooks Founders Green, wistfully hoping for the sight of some twirling pinwheels to greet my morning gaze.

The forecast for April 18 was looking good; temperatures would hit 80 degrees, so it seemed like a perfect day for pinwheels. When I woke up today and walked out into the balmy weather, sporting shorts and a t-shirt, I was slightly disappointed to see nary a trace of a pinwheel on Founders Green. I thought I would have to wait even longer for the fabled day to come.

By noon, however, I emerged from inside Magill Library to see a small collection of shiny pinwheels sticking out of the grass near Founders Hall, and a healthy number of students sunning themselves in the grass with blankets, frisbees, and smiles. Perhaps, I mused, Pinwheel Day was happening after all?

We were confused, and rumors started to circulate. Were the secretive organizers of Pinwheel Day indecisive? Were they waiting for next week, the last week of classes before finals? Did, perhaps, someone have the audacity to steal all of the hundreds of pinwheels across Founders Green? Did Bryn Mawr or Swarthmore have something to do with it?

As more and more students came to the green to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather, many took out their phones to read an email from Dean of the College Martha Denney. She sent a note from the mysterious Pinwheel Day organizers that announced that, in fact, the decorations they had lavished on the green in the wee hours of Monday morning had disappeared by sunrise, taken by unknown people for an unknown reason. The “Society for the Preservation of Pinwheels,” as the student organizers signed their email, invited the campus to celebrate anyway. “[D]o not let Pinwheel Day be clouded over by this unfortunate event,” they wrote. “The community spirit is what kept this tradition going for years and Pinwheel Day is not going anywhere.”

Even before Dean Denney had pressed “send,” though, Haverford students had already taken steps to ensure that their Pinwheel Day, with pinwheels or without, would not be wasted. Two boxes of leftover pinwheels were brought to Green to be shared, and Callie Perrone ’15 and Robin Chernow ’15, two current Haverford House fellows, purchased additional low-cost spinners at local stores Five Below and Mapes Hardware and dispensed them to students to help fill up the Green.

“This is a huge deal,” said Daniel Sax ’18. “Pinwheel Day this year was made by Haverford. It wasn’t some anonymous group… I think Pinwheel Day is stronger than ever.”

Members of the senior class, while working hard to complete their theses, seemed to especially relish in their last Pinwheel Day before graduation, regardless of the number of pinwheels in the grass.

“Seniors aren’t devastated,” said Ben Hart ’16. “I think the conflict brought us together. We all bonded together to make it work, to make it happen.”

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The reality felt today across all of Founders Green was that it was too nice of a day to resist walking barefoot and sunbathing in the grass. For days, students had been eyeing the coming 80-degree weather as an opportunity to unwind, and that wasn’t going to be stopped by a misdeed done before sunrise.

“I knew that Pinwheel Day was coming today, mostly because of the weather,” said Harrison Schell ’16. “So despite the fact that it was a little disappointing waking up and not seeing pinwheels out here in the morning… it still turned into a nice day that I really enjoyed, and the spirit of Pinwheel Day is still here.”

The future of Pinwheel Day is not in danger. In fact, later this week, Haverford might get yet another chance to see pinwheels in front of Founders. In the Society for the Preservation of Pinwheels’ email, organizers announced that this Saturday, April 23, “there may be a special appearance of ice cream and new pinwheels,” during a food truck event in support of the AIDS Service Network.

Even if plastic signs of spring can be plucked from the ground, the spirit of Pinwheel Day cannot be stolen from the Haverford community. As Nicky Rhodes ’19 put it: “I think next year Pinwheel Day will come back with a vengeance.”


-Michael Weber ’19

Photos by Patrick Montero, Caleb Eckert ’17, and Rebecca Raber