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Fueled by coffee, soda and pizza, students create a dragon behind Rand Hall

The long history of Dragon Day at Cornell includes at least 106 very long nights.

In a pre-spring break tradition that dates back to 1901, first-year architecture students worked all day Thursday, March 15, and all night into Friday morning to complete the 2007 dragon for its coming-out parade and destruction by fire. The creature took shape behind Rand Hall and in Rand's shop as day turned into night and 25 to 30 first-years, some fueled by coffee, soda and pizza, were fighting the cold and sleep deprivation during construction.

"We kind of slept, as needed," Kimberly Chew '11 said early Friday morning, after three hours sleep the night before -- "and the night before, and the night before, and the night before," she said.

Thursday night's work included welding six steel A-frames that would support most of the dragon's body from midsection to tail, and lashing bamboo sections with rope to the frames.

Other students and shop assistants worked on the heaviest and tallest section, a towering bamboo structure fitted with hinges so the dragon's wings would stay clear of trees along the parade route. It was nearly complete Friday morning and waiting to be lifted onto a stripped Volkswagen microbus chassis consisting of frame, tires, a steering wheel, one seat and a hand brake.

The rest of the structure would be hand-carried, as in most Dragon Days past; designers planned for this by using hollow bamboo as a primary material.

"We got it from Miami; they brought it on a big truck," said Daniel Quesada Lombo '11, one of the project leaders. "We thought that the bamboo would be really light to carry, but this is so big, four inches [inside diameter] instead of three."

During the construction, precise (or close-enough) measurements were often required, but there was room for estimations, such as "the neck isn't that long -- it's not like a brontosaurus."

Architects, after all, pride themselves on not being engineers.

Exactly how the traditional Dragon Day rivalry between Architecture, Art and Planning and the College of Engineering would play out was still a mystery as of midmorning Friday; the students and workers at Rand hadn't heard of any plans for a competing structure -- most years, it's a phoenix -- meeting the dragon along its route. Another traditional ancillary project, a colorful dragon mural, filled the windows of Rand Hall's first-year architecture studio overlooking the Arts Quad.

Across the road from Rand Hall Friday morning, a small group of second-year architecture students were preparing their own surprise addition to the revelry. Brian E. Beeners, AAP shop manager and adviser to Dragon Day for 19 years, calls them "the burlap masters."

"I'm really proud of these guys. They're the core group of guys who built last year's dragon. They've made something that almost rivals the dragon," Beeners said.

Jamie Pelletier '10 said, "We just went wild. We didn't get enough of it last year."

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