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Reviving a Beloved Tradition: Downys/Redheads To Compete Year Round

Generations of Peck alumni will proudly report that they are either Downy or Redhead, two school clubs that have been rivals for more than 70 years, resulting in a deep and lasting sense of school spirit. Many years ago, the annual Downy vs. Redhead competition spanned the entire school year and took place both on and off the athletic fields. Since the latter part of the 20th century, however, the tradition was eventually distilled into a single action-packed day of school spirit known as the Downy/Redhead Field Day. This year, we restore a beloved timeless tradition and reinstate the yearlong Downy/Redhead festivities.
Friendly competition has a long history at The Peck School. Prior to the Downy/Redhead era, year-long athletic, academic, and “deportment” competitions took place between the two main school clubs. Then, during the 1951-52 school year, the two main school clubs were christened Downy and Redhead, following a school-wide competition to name them. The names were based on two species of local woodpecker and seemed appropriate, as the student newspaper at the time was known as The Woodpecker

The Peck School culture and curriculum blends Timely Transformation with Timeless Tradition, so this year, school leaders have decided to revive the beloved year-long competition, while preserving the beloved Downy/Redhead Field Day in May. Members of the Peck faculty made the announcement last Friday at a special Reach Across student event that brings together all grade levels.
 
In a typical Reach Across, students divide into groups that consist of alternating grade levels and work on small fun projects as a team. In this case, unbeknownst to the students, the groupings were based entirely on the student’s designation of Downy or Redhead. The task at hand was to converse with each other and investigate commonalities.
 
After 10 minutes of curious conversation, staff and faculty ushered the entire student body into the new Peck Commons, where half the students were seated to one side of the multipurpose room and the rest on the other. To their excitement and surprise, they discovered that their entire half of the room consisted of their fellow Downy or Redhead teammates.
 
Upper School faculty member Stewart Wilkinson, who is serving as one of several faculty advisors to the new year-long contest, revealed that the competition between the Downys and Redheads had actually already begun two weeks prior when they arrived for the new school year.
 
Faculty and staff members were in possession of “Downy/Redhead Job Well Done Tickets” and they had been awarding them secretly to students who exhibited exemplary behavior and noticeable consideration of others during the past two weeks. Throughout the year, Wilkinson revealed, those tickets would continue to flow – although no longer in secret.
 
The assembly then took on the form of a pep rally, with Downy and Redhead volunteers from each grade level vying for points in a Peck-themed quiz game. Throughout the assembly, the energy, enthusiasm, and spirited competition between the Downy and Redhead groups built to a crescendo and the event ended with the current tally between the two groups and a glimpse of upcoming opportunities to even the score.
 
Two male and two female students in Grade 8 may now apply to be Downy/Redhead Team Captains – a new leadership position at Peck – and they will work with faculty members to keep the competition spirited and full of positive energy. Upcoming events include another Downy/Redhead Quiz Bowl, a door-decorating contest, the end-of-year Downy/Redhead Field Day, and additional surprises to be announced.
 
The winning team at the Downy/Redhead Field Events in May will receive the Field Day Trophy, but the day’s scores will also be added into the overall year-long tally which will result in the winning team receiving the coveted, newly inaugurated “Woodpecker Cup.”
 
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