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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Fairgrounds shirtless and shambly

Of all the off-campus houses, 1220 6th Ave. is certainly the easiest to recognize. There is a “Fairgrounds” street sign planted directly in front of the house that is hard to miss. It’s a fitting moniker: as the regular home of the swimming and diving and water polo teams and all their social events, the house brims with lively games and cheery people on most weekend nights. Throughout the week, the house shelters Kristina De La Torre, Will Elsas, Dylan Gray, James Kent and Joe Lytle (all ’14).

Fairgrounds, known as Aqua House in previous years, remains cluttered with the remnants of many a lively festival, as well as an overstuffed teddy bear named Charlie. Lytle summed the house up in one word: “shambly.” This is no exaggeration. Sofas and recliners surrounded a haphazard array of beer cans and red solo cups on a stained plastic table.

However, the state of cleanliness does not interfere with continuing Fairgrounds’ biggest tradition: parties.

“No matter what, even without cleaning, we still party,” Lytle said. “It’s really chill, and [it’s] open doors for all students.”

Members of Fairgrounds rise to the occasion. Photo by Parker Von Nostrand.
Members of Fairgrounds rise to the occasion.
Photo by Parker Von Nostrand.

Tradition, history and character are key ingredients for what keeps Fairgrounds a key destination for the weekend Grinnellian.

“History’s all around us: there are records, plaques and all sorts of ‘borrowed’ things,” Gray said.

A St. John’s University sign obtained from a recent meet sits like a war trophy in the living room, just one of many items that give the house a strong antique feel.

There’s also the tradition of being shirtless, which is not out of the ordinary for swimmers.

“When a Mad Dog takes his shirt off, everyone takes their shirt off,” Lytle said.

Many Fairgrounds traditions honor the team and encourage bonding between teammates.

“There are always shots of Wild Turkey 101,” Elsas said, explaining its reference to the men’s water polo mascot, the Wild Turkeys.

Beyond the commonly known games of Flip Cup and Beer Pong, there are Fairgrounds favorites such as Slapping the Wine Bag and Drinking from the Bucket.

“The game of Drinking from the Bucket led to us all having bucket-related nicknames,” said frequent houseguest Sara Hannemann ’14. “For example, I was Buckleberry Finn.”

Combined with its proximity to campus—Fairgrounds sits directly across the street from Main Hall—it’s no surprise that Fairgrounds’ parties are a force to be reckoned with.

“We hosted Red Light, Green Light this year, and both of the big NSO parties,” De La Torre said. “We’ll also likely host Disco, and possibly the post-semester cap off party.”

Living off campus at Fairgrounds offers more than just parties and games for the swimmers. It allows the team to bond outside of the pool and a chance to live in a family atmosphere.

“It’s great to live with teammates,” Kent said. “It’s nice to pass down the house to the next group of swimmers.”

In keeping with the tradition of passing down the house from one generation to the next, those who live at Fairgrounds are often referred to as “Groundskeepers” since they are the ones currently taking care of the house.

Lytle also pointed out that rather than having to trudge through the cold and mud to get to the party, “the party comes to us!”

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