University students passing through the Diag last night were treated to impromptu dance performances, free T-shirts and ample school spirit at the University’s inaugural Maize Day celebration.

Maize Day 2012 was organized by LSA senior Jessie Baker and Kinesiology senior Ben Cronin to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of various student organizations across campus. Baker said she was inspired to organize the event after attending similar celebrations at other universities, and was surprised the University didn’t already host an event honoring students’ achievements.

“We were talking about how there’s an absence of celebration for everything we do,” Baker said. “There’s a lot of spirit but no celebration.”

Cronin said he felt it was important for the graduating class to show underclassmen how much the seniors had enjoyed their time at the University, noting that he wanted his class to “go out with a bang.”

Maize Day featured a capella and dance performances, as well as speeches by student leaders on campus and appearances by varsity athletes. Student groups ranging from the LSA Student Government to the University’s Quidditch Team set up information booths that attendees could visit while enjoying the evening’s festivities.

After a flash mob performance lured spectators in and a signed men’s basketball poster was given away to the most spirited attendee, LSA senior DeAndree Watson, the Central Student Government president, gave the first speech of the night. In his address, he reflected on the importance of celebrating the University community.

“We talk about how great Michigan is, but we never stop as a community to reflect on what we do,” Watson said. “Having a forum to celebrate students is a great thing, and I hope it’s a tradition that carries on.”

Amid all of the maize-clad attendees, four daring Wolverines decided to showcase their school spirit in banana costumes, drawing a significant amount of attention.

“As graduating seniors, it’s important to show our spirit,” Avery Robinson, LSA senior and banana enthusiast, said. “And we’re so ‘a-peeling.’”

Tandem bike in tow, Taylor Lewan, the Michigan football team’s left tackle, took to the stage to announce the many accolades of the University’s varsity sports teams, highlighting the football team’s Sugar Bowl victory.

“I don’t know if you guys were there or not, but I was,” Lewan told the applauding crowd. “I’m a Sugar Bowl champion, and that’s awesome.”

Nick Willis, 2008 Olympic silver medalist in the 1500 meter run and University alum, also made a special appearance at the event and spoke about the University’s continued excellence.

“When I was here, there was only one Mexican restaurant,” Willis joked. “But what hasn’t changed here is the reputation of excellence.”

As a native New Zealander, Willis noted that he will always be proud of being a University alum.

“I’m from another country over there on the other side of the world, but I’m still a Wolverine,” Willis said.

Other campus leaders gave speeches espousing the many accomplishments of the University’s multicultural affairs, Greek Life system, performance arts community and Engineering program. The marching band also made an appearance to lead the crowd in “The Victors.”

At the end the evening, Director of Athletic Counseling Greg Harden spoke about the bond he’s made with the University and its students over the years.

“I love Michigan,” Harden said. “I love what it stands for. I love the fact that it had a profound impact on my life.”

Harden encouraged students to attend as many sporting events, beyond just men’s football, basketball and hockey games, as possible during their collegiate years.

“I need you to experience Michigan and get out of your comfort zone,” he said. “You need to make sure you don’t waste your time … I need you to live life to the fullest.”

As the night came to its conclusion, Baker said the evening’s events exceeded her expectations.

“I would have loved to see more people,” Baker said as the crowd dispersed. “But that comes with more time.”

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