By Erin Woo
Camping out in front of Green Library for two weeks in a tent nicknamed “Mars-a-Lagunita”? Submerging at least one body part in water, again for two weeks? Spending the night in a tree in White Plaza? Willingly eating ghost peppers and mealworms?
These stunts might sound like the consequences of an unlucky game of “odds are,” but for Dahkota Brown ’20, Alex Goodman ’20, Marek Harris ’20 and Hayden Payne ’19, they are just a part of Tree Week: the annual audition process to become the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB) mascot, the Stanford Tree.
From Feb. 12 to 24, the candidates — affectionately nicknamed “sprouts” by the Band — perform a series of public stunts to showcase their personalities and their dedication to becoming the 2018 Tree.
Tree Week kicked off, as it does annually, with debut stunts in which the prospective Trees introduce themselves to the Band. Each candidate bases their campaign around a single theme, though some have interpreted “campaign” more literally than others.
“I’ll be performing my stunts as Donald J. Stump,” said Brown, a current tuba player in the Band hoping to be the first Native American student chosen as the Tree. Brown staged his debut stunt on Feb. 12 as if it were a campaign speech, complete with students impersonating White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and a Secret Service bodyguard.
Goodman, another current tuba player, covered himself in orange and white body paint and wheeled out in a recycling bin filled with water and water balloons to start his week as “Treemo,” a “Finding Nemo”-adjacent theme chosen because of Goodman’s Band nickname, “Sharkbait.”
Harris, who plays tenor in the Band, decided to theme his Tree Week stunts around the Winter Olympics. For his initial activity, he stripped off several layers of Stanford-branded clothing before being doused in substances, including flour and mayonnaise, intended to represent snow.
Payne, the only “sprout” not currently in the Band, is running as Jane Stanford. In her debut in front of the Band Shak, she pretended to give birth to a doll version of Leland Stanford, Jr. and a stuffed Tree, using ketchup as fake blood.
Throughout the Tree Week period, the candidates must abide by four rules.
“One: don’t get anyone arrested,” wrote 2017-2018 tree Anaxi Mars ’18 in an email calling for students to run for the Tree. “This means no nudity. Two: Don’t light yourself or anyone else on fire. Three: Don’t do anything that can/should put you in the hospital. Four: Don’t end Band. It’s the Tree’s job to end Band and you’re not the f**king Tree yet. Anything else goes. Have fun.”
On Feb. 13, the first day of stunts, Payne stationed herself at the roundabout near the Clock Tower, colloquially dubbed the “Circle of Death,” to wish passersby a happy “Galentine’s Day” while holding signs about intersectional feminism.
Brown held an event to “fertilize the Tree,” in which he invited fellow students to cover him in cow manure.
“My theme for the week is Donald J. Stump, and we witness his total s**tstorms on Twitter every day, and that was one of the inspirations for this,” said Brown.
Harris themed his own stunt around the current Winter Olympics. In order to create his Olympic costume, he stood by White Plaza and invited students to hit him with water balloons full of paint. That night, Harris slept in a tree in front of Tresidder “to prepare for the cold weather of Pyeongchang.”
Goodman had his hair cut in the style of the Stanford Tree as he read from the script of “Finding Nemo” to a crowd of onlookers in Meyer Green.
The first week of stunts ended with the wedding ceremony of both Goodman and Brown. The wedding was performed by LSJUMB manager Anna Whittell, who was ordained online for the occasion.
Their “cake tasting,” which occurred earlier in the week, featured a “cake” made of chewed gum, uncooked pasta and hot sauce, made by Mars and Sam Weyen ’18, the Tree during the 2016-2017 school year.