On the last Friday in February, it snowed all day long in Rindge, New Hampshire. By nightfall, the roads were covered with a sheet of ice. The overnight low? Nine degrees plus wind chill. But, inside the Bubble at Franklin Pierce University, it was a beach party.
The Bubble is Franklin Pierce’s indoor practice facility, officially called the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Activity Center. Jean St. Pierre, who calls himself the “Bubble Guy,” was more than a little proud of the renovations made to the Bubble for this year’s Up All Night event. In just a few short days, St. Pierre and his team constructed a beach volleyball pit, built a two story tall volcano out of chicken wire and tissue paper, and a dressed up a golf cart to look like a fishing boat.
“This is college now, right?” St. Pierre said. “They’re supposed to be stepping it up a notch. You don’t just put some papier-mâché on the side of your car and some soap any more, you know. You actually frame up your car and make it look like a ship going down the road.”
One night a year, as the winter doldrums set in on campus, the Bubble is transformed. A few years ago, Jean took advantage of the high ceilings to install a scale model of Fenway park, complete with a 16-foot tall Green Monster, so that students could challenge each other to an all night Wiffle ball tournament.
“In those days it used to be 8 to 8, all night,” St. Pierre said. “That’s why it’s called Up All Night. But the kids kinda faded out by 2 or 3. I was the only one [staying awake.] I was here saying, it’s time for breakfast, wake up!”
These days, the event ends at 2 am, when some of the students will head to other, less wholesome, parties. Doug Carty is the Director of Campus Recreation.
“For the short hour, two hours, three hours they spend here I think they enjoy themselves,” Carty said. “And it certainly keeps them preoccupied and hopefully reenergizes them a little more as the spring comes in.”
The weather was so bad this year that all classes after 2 pm were canceled. There was a rumor going around that the campus shuttle slid into a car, to avoid sliding into the Admissions office. Either way, students had to find their own way to the Bubble for the event. But, Carty said, canceling Up All Night was never an option.
“I mean we already the sand in the bubble for the beach volleyball. We already had the volcano built,” Carty explained. “So weather be dammed, we’re here.”
This year, Carty’s little slice of sunshine was a regulation sized beach volleyball pit where a basketball court normally resides. Worker brought in a couple tons of sand by the wheelbarrow load and painstakingly layered it until it was more than a foot deep. Carty was worried the sand would be cold, after all it was brought in from across campus, not from Florida or California. But, Seniors Steve Richards and Jared Gardner, recently returned from a semester abroad majoring in beach volleyball at a university in Australia, say the temperature is fine.
“It’s not chilly, it’s a little rocky, but it’s not bad for NH,” Richards said. “You expect it. It’s the granite state, there’s gotta be some stuff in the sand.”
As the competition got underway, teams of four lined up to join in. Senior Rob Harpin’s team was one of the first to give it a try. Harpin says he lives for beach volleyball.
“We have an outdoor court here, too,” Harpin explained. “So we play in the spring and the fall. Which is about a month each time, you know. It doesn’t last very long. So we get out there every day that we can.”
Harpin’s friends were so exited about the chance to play in the middle of winter that they helped set up the Bubble for this year’s festivities. For their efforts, they received matching Up All Night staff t-shirts, bright green with a graphic of a coconut bra and belly button. They accessorized the shirts with matching trucker hats, making them the only beach volleyball team in uniform. Not everyone was impressed.
Sam, Lauren, Nicole, and Saskia entered the tournament with one goal, and one goal only: to beat the guys in trucker hats.
“They win at every intramural volleyball game and they kinda live for it,” the girls explained. And we kinda just want to play and have fun and beat them.”
As the clock wound its way past midnight, the line for the mechanical shark got shorter and shorter. Those taking advantage of the bungee bounce started to get dizzy from all that spinning. And the guys in trucker hats were still lurking on the sidelines of the volleyball pit, waiting for the inevitable.
Eventually, they faced a team led by non other than Recreation Director Doug Carty in the final.
By the time the whole thing was over, the only cheering came from a couple of girls who weren’t even sure who won.
That’s what happens at 1:00 in the morning,” Carty said. “The first thing he says is where’s my t-shirt? I’m like alright, that’s what they get.”
It didn’t seem to matter that the guys who won were already wearing the t-shirts that constitute the prize. The cheering section begged for t-shirts of their own, but Doug Carty was too tired to entertain their pleas.
After all, it was nearly 2 am and he still needed to dismantle that volcano, send away the mechanical shark and laser tag center, and get the Bubble ready for intramural sports to begin again in the morning.